Disruption was in the air this morning at THINK 13. In the first ever Disruption Challenge, two teams faced each other on the question of what kind of change credit unions need: massive or measured.
This has been a recurring theme at THINK 13 – the tension between massive change and measured change. Are credit unions like Dunkin’ Donuts once was – solid but looking for new iterations, appealing menu items and better branding? Or are we like Blockbuster, gleefully stocking our shelves with DVDs and microwave popcorn while Netflix gets ready to swoop in?
Michael Bell, an attorney for law firm Howard & Howard, began the case for massive change. “One hundred and four years ago, our industry began with one massive change,” he said. Since then, the cooperative movement has accommodated many major changes: consumer lending, indirect auto loans, home loans and business lending. Bell himself was part of a court case involving the 2011 purchase of a bank by a credit union. “That’s massive change,” he argued. “How can effective change be measured? It has to be massive.”
Patrick Basler, President of First Financial Credit Union in Chicago, continued: “What if we were faced with an issue that completely changed our industry? What happens if smartphones replace debit cards for payments? If I no longer had debit card income at my credit union, that would be a massive change.” Credit unions need to be more proactive in addressing change, Basler argued, because the nature of business itself has become more volatile.
In rebuttal, Credit Union Journal publisher Frank Diekmann called measured change “the intelligent and pragmatic” form of change. “You don’t have to look far for examples of it,” he said. “All you have to do is look around the room and you’ll see example after example after example. Each one of you is a representative of the benefits of measured change.” How so? Read the headlines: trillions of dollars in assets and millions in member growth – all the result of evolving service and technology while staying true to core values. “The more massive the change we face, the more resonant the idea of a financial co-op,” Diekmann concluded.
Then the feathers flew.
In more than an hour of solid debate, our panels and experts let fly with a range of ideas and opinions about technology, our business model, the member experience and more. THINK Magazine will be covering our debate in greater detail in the weeks to come. But for now, a few thoughts:
- “Credit unions should stop taking an affirmative action approach to younger members. Don’t do unto others what you would do unto yourself. Do unto me what I would like done.” – Dr. Brandi Stankovic, Mitchell, Stankovic & Associates
- “We have a business model that will stand up. As credit unions focus increasing attention on change, the danger is that credit unions could become nice banks.” – Chip Filson, Callahan & Associates
- “There’s an active debate about the importance of branches. One side says branches are dead and it’s all about the multichannel experience with online and mobile. The other side says it’s all about building that relationship. Really, it’s a combination. Multichannel doesn’t take the place of face to face. And it all goes back to the cooperative model.” – Mollie Bell, Filene Research Institute
Team Measured members Jill Nowacki of MAPS Credit Union and Sandra Scott of Patelco Credit Union made a case for organic innovation, pointing out that mobile shared branching (with CO-OP Sprig) and remote deposit capture are two examples of popular, groundbreaking technology that grew out of organic need. The result: successful products with a built-in market.
But Team Massive member Sarah Snell Cooke, publisher and editor-in-chief of Credit Union Times, pointed out, “After 100 years in business, credit unions have a 6 percent share of the market. If we really treated people as member-owners, wouldn’t the market share be greater?” And doesn’t that suggest room for a more massive approach?
In the end, the audience gave the day to Team Massive by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent. But an audience poll taken earlier in the Challenge may have revealed a wider truth: When given an additional option for what kind of change credit unions need, a broad majority of voters chose “a little of both.”