NACUSO LogoThe NACUSO 2010 Annual Conference is nearing its end already. As is frequently the case with solid credit union conferences, we’ve been going non-stop since our arrival on Sunday.  We’ve had Gary Mangiofico from Pepperdine, John Fish from AstraZenca and Michael Taylor from Schelling Point, with more to come tomorrow. Rather than even try to update everyone on the presentations, go check out the Twitter feed from the conference. A few of us have been live blogging when possible and it’ll give you great insight into some of the discussions going down. As a side note, conference organizers should put all of the speakers’ presentations on Slideshare so everyone can get a copy of them.

As is usual with NACUSO, the caliber of people that this conference attracts is amazing. These are hands down, the most innovative and entrepreneurial people in the entire credit union industry. The things that people at the conference have been able to accomplish is amazing. Ongoing Operations of Hagerstown, Maryland, for example, won the 2010 CUSO of the Year award for their outstanding disaster recovery services. They have over 125 credit union clients and 20(ish) credit union owners in the actual CUSO demonstrating what real collaboration can accomplish.

The theme NACUSO has been driving home is collaboration and innovation throughout the whole week. The speakers have really brought home many of the concepts and done a great job talking about the good, and the bad, of collaboration and innovation.

Check out CU Times for for some more coverage from Michelle Samaad and don’t forget to check out the Twitter feed. Make sure to try and make it a point to attend next year. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a crash together for it…

A piece of cake or the whole cake?

Pricing a product always seems to be problematic.  You can’t always price it on the high end and expect to be the luxury good and you can’t always be the “value leader” with the lowest price and expect people to come flocking to you.  Early technologies tend to price themselves at the per unit cost.

For example, in the early days of online storage and backup pricing was almost always centered around usage and still is by some companies.  1GB for X dollars, 10 GB’s for Y dollars.  As the market matures, it drifts to the proverbial “all-you-can-eat” plans which provide unlimited backup so consumers don’t have to worry about quotas of any sort.  I remember when my cell phone plan had 60 minutes and my phone had a reminder beep 10 seconds before another minute ticked by.  Now the cell phone market is rapidly progressing to unlimited plans.

Two observations:

  1. Nearly all utilities (water, gas, electricity, etc) are based on actual usage except broadband internet.  Why is that?  Internet is much cheaper do deliver than power.
  2. Would there be a profitable model in offering an NSF package or Courtesy Pay package in which a member would pay a fixed fee for unlimited NSF’s or overdrafts?  Could this be an additional line of fee income for struggling CU’s that could make their members who use the service happy while at the same time boosting their bottom line?

Face wipes

So maybe I use my wife’s make-up removing face wipes every night.  It is much more convenient than having to wash my face and they work better anyways.  So aside from the fact that I use a feminine product to clean my face, there is an important lesson to be learned here: ethnographic research.

What you say is ethnographic research?  Wikipedia defines ethnography as, “In the biological sciences, this type of study might be called a field study or a case report…”  Basically, it means watching your members, or customers, use your product and making determinations about ways to make it better.  I’ve read reports of a large LCD TV manufacturer follow customers home and watch them try to unpack their unwieldy and awkward widescreen LCD or plasma TV’s.  The result?  Rather than taking a TV out of the box, like you do with nearly every other product, you actually take the box off of the TV.  The TV remains sitting on the bottom part of the box and the end user simply pulls the upper part of the box off.  That proved to be much simpler than trying to lift an 80 pound TV out of a box at waist level.

Back to my face wipes.  They are some variety of alcohol-based wipe so there is a small amount of cleansing fluid in the packaging.  But over the course of time, all of the fluid settles to the bottom of the package and the wipes at the top of the package, the ones you actually use, lose some of their moisture.  The result is a product that doesn’t work as good as it should.  The solution is simple, I turn the package upside-down every few days to let the fluid seep back down and remoisten the wipes at the top.  Simple solution for the end user, but how many people actually do that vs how many switch to another brand?

What kind of gyrations do your members go through to get an envelope out of an ATM that only somebody sitting in a lawn chair can reach?  Have you ever watched any of your members try to log in with your MFA product or fill out a deposit slip?  And I don’t mean casually observe.  I mean time them.  Watch how long it takes someone to find that check box that I want to “deposit” funds or how long it takes them to read the statement, “I’m sorry, you are attempting to access your account from an un-authorized computer…”  Sometimes the best thing you can do for your brand and your members’ experience is to simply sit back and watch.  You might be amazed at what you’ll find out.


Credit unions are lemmings.  Nobody ever wants to be the first one to do something.  Then, slowly, as some credit unions adopt the new technology/process/whatever more CU’s start to follow.  Pretty soon it is a mad rush because nobody wants to be the last.

From Wikipedia:

…groups will reach a cliff overlooking the ocean. They will stop until the urge to press on causes them to jump off the cliff and start swimming, sometimes to exhaustion and death. Lemmings are also often pushed into the sea as more and more lemmings arrive at the shore.

We always talk about being innovative but save for a few exceptions, CU’s don’t like change and don’t want to innovate.

NACUSO and Finovate

Hindsight being 20-20, I wish I could have been in two places at once.  We had a MaPS entourage at NACUSO (4 employees and a board member) and we had a great time.  The conference was in the Wynn and very well put together.  Personally, I get more out of the networking opportunities during the days and nights than I do out of the sessions.  NACUSO’s big thing now is the Center for Collaboration and Innovation.  Maybe I’m just being cynical, but it seems many of the large CU’s say they want collaboration but don’t really support that.  They also say they want innovation, but I’ll bet less than 1% of the attendees of NACUSO knew Finovate was going on.

The products and discussions going on at Finovate is where the true innovation currently is in financial services and I feel like so many credit union folks are completely missing the boat.  The NACUSO conference was awesome and I’ll go back next year as long as it isn’t the same time as Finovate.  We’ve got to find a way to get the people and companies at Finovate to interact with CU people.  That may be at NACUSO or somewhere else, but I think the real opportunities for innovation are happening outside of the CU industry at the moment.  NACUSO, Filene, and many others are trying to change that, but right now it seems many of the future-building conversations are happening at BarCamps, Finovate, or elsewhere.


BarCampBankSeattle Rocks!

Today was the first long day at BarCampBankSeattle and it was pretty amazing.  We’ve got people from all over the blogosphere here sharing and learning.  Jesse Robbins, all the Trabian guys, Brad and Mark from the Garland Group, Tim from Currency Marketing, and Jason from Wesabe just to name a few.  We’ve kicked around an amazing amount of ideas, but I wanted to get down a few that came in our last group conversation of the day.

  1. Here’s a simple incentive plan to make the CU goals align with giving the most back to the members: Assuming you have a well run credit union getting 1% ROA, send 50 basis points to the members in an annual dividend, 25 to staff incentives and 25 to reserves.
  2. Starting a credit union is hard.  Why?  With 8500 credit unions or so we have plenty of expertise to help out.  We need to create an online forum of CU experts to help assist people wanting to start a credit union.  If we could even get just 20 executives from CU’s across the nation from different capacities, we’d have a great resource to help others start CU’s and further the movement.
  3. CU’s can’t get secondary capital to start up, but other CU’s can give them deposits to help them start up.  CU’s could contribute to a startup fund that simply deposits dollars into a new CU.

The ideas are rough, but just wanted to get them out there.  Looking forward to tomorrow but as it is almost 1 AM, I’d probably better call it a night!

UPDATE- How could I forget William and Gene?!?!?


Dell has started making some good progress towards turning the company around and their new IdeaStorm site is awesome.

It just launched on Friday, February 16th, but the content of the site is already taking off. The basic idea behind the site is for current, or potential, Dell customers to submit their ideas on what they want Dell to change/add/remove from their products. All of the content is user generated and visitors to the site can “Promote” ideas and leave comments. This should be a great tool for Dell to use to keep their fingers on the pulse of their customers.

It seems to me that CU’s could make excellent use of technology like this to develop products, fix problems, build branches, etc. Let your members tell you what they want. We work in financial institutions, so our minds are already skewed. We’re not normal customers/members. Give the power over to your member and let them say what they want!

What? Free WiFi?

You heard me. Free WiFi.

But how?

Whisher is how. Whisher is a software technology that people install at home that enables secure sharing of their WiFi. Anyone in the Whisher community can travel about, find other Whisher members and use their WiFi for free. The software does lock down the connection with WEP or WPA and only Whisher member have access to your network.

I mentioned a while back in my post about CU’s and WiFi that credit unions might have an opportunity to blanket their branches or a brave CUSO might try a whole city! Whisher takes some of the basic credit union philosophies and applies them to sharing WiFi! You can even setup small groups who share their WiFi connections. (I’m thinking we’ll give you a 1% discount on your next loan if you share your WiFi with the ABC Credit Union group. Then CU’s can blanket cities with WiFi for free!)

I love the idea and I can’t wait to use it personally and see how the free service does.

What’s important to your members?

I recently attended a regional Raddon conference reviewing our CU’s results. Paired with our recent member survey, some of the results were mind-blowing and very surprising.

Part of Raddon’s member survey is a “Zone of Performance” where the members rate how important a certain factor is in their financial institution and how well we deliver on that factor.

The ranking of the 20 factors initially seemed completely backwards to me. Bill Pay fees were dead last in importance. Interest on Deposits and Online Banking were in the bottom six. Even variety of services, a measure of innovation in my mind, was in the bottom five!! Here I am always preaching about innovation and new products, and our members don’t care!

After digesting the chart for a while, logic took over. Things like friendliness, accuracy and problem resolution where in our top 5, and most of the top 5’s of all the other CU’s. So I did a little quick math in my head. Being budget time, spending money (or not) is on my mind, and looking at the list of 20 factors, most CU’s spend all their budget on things that may not matter all the much to our members. Last place, bill pay fees, cost us an arm and a leg to provide for free!

So how do you spend money on friendliness? Wait longer (and pay for) the correct hire maybe? Accuracy? How often do we ever hear about innovation coming from a core processor? We need to innovate the systems that CU’s use and make them fool-proof so the accuracy is built in! Sometimes CU’s get sidetrack (excited) about spending money on new technologies and we might be missing the whole boat.

When you think about the pain points of your members, think back to the last complaint you might have heard from a friend about their FI, or even one of your members. “Wells Fargo screwed up my checking account!” “WaMu lost my check!” Just look around at My Bank Doesn’t Get It and you’ll see what I mean.

Let’s start spending our money where our members want it. I want mobile banking, instant issue, and kiosks as much as the next guy, do you’re members?