In a recent episode of The CUInsight Experience Podcast (see above), CUInsight’s co-founder Randy Smith interviewed Allied Solutions’ CEO & President Pete Hilger to hear about his 30+ years working with credit unions and learn how Allied has evolved from a small sales company to a large, successful distribution + technology company. The conversation kept coming back to this one point: Credit unions face a lot more challenges today than they did 40 years ago, and it has become a lot more challenging to remain competitive. Here are four ways Pete said credit unions can continue to grow and compete today:
#1: Make data more meaningful
Credit unions that learn to harness their member data will be better equipped to remain competitive in a sustainable way. When asked what fundamental changes credit unions will need to make to stay relevant, Pete said “How do we make data meaningful?” He went on to say that credit unions have a ton of member data at their disposal; the difference-maker is knowing what to do with the data. The best leveraged member data can answer three questions for your credit union:
1. How can I better serve my members?
2. How can I better understand my members’ needs?
3. How can I proactively deliver solutions to my members – even before they know they need it?
Pete shared that digital transformation has become a primary strategic focus for Allied Solutions over the past couple of years, with technology being the fastest growing area of the business. As such, Pete understands the investment and work needed to evolve into a tech-savvy organization; but he also has experienced the lush fruits of these labors. Credit unions who are struggling to achieve their digital transformation goals can partner with one of the many Fintech partners out to help support your specific needs.
#2: Consider ‘the human factor’ in all leadership decisions
Whether it be direct or indirect, all decisions have an impact on your members and employees, and that should be a leading attribute for any decision. The financial, logistical, or emotional results of a decision on members or employees should all be part of the conversation before a decision is made. Pete said that learning to consider ‘the human factor’ in all of his decisions – whether they be seen as positive or negative – has been a huge asset to him in becoming a strong and trusted leader within his role as CEO at Allied.
A huge element of this is reaching out for input from other leaders whose teams would be impacted. Involving others you trust within your organization to offer advice and support will lead to smarter decisions, while also strengthening your organization’s culture.
When asked about success, Pete responded with this anecdote: “If you are afraid to make hard decisions, you are not being honest and upfront to the people that count on you.”
#3: Invest in culture to build a company of the future
People are the most valuable resources for any company. Investing in a culture that supports and uplifts employees will have a huge impact on a credit union’s ability to evolve and adapt. To do this successfully you’ll need to:
- Establish a strong, engaging work environment
- Create a culture of hearing, listening, and responding to your employees
- Understand all employees’ values and interests – across all departments and locations
Things like compensation, monetary and non-monetary benefits like 401(k) and PTO, community service opportunities, and learning and development resources are all elements that should be considered.
Pete recognizes first-hand the work, time, and costs that go into a cultural transformation. But, he said, he also knows from experience the value and ROI a strong employee culture can offer. Trusting in your people and giving them the opportunity to be successful, will lead to stronger succession plans, thereby allowing them to put their best foot forward in planning for the future success of the organization.
“Success or failure is dripped down from [every] person within the organization,” Pete shared. “And, it takes us all to perform at the highest level, so we can feel good that we did it for the entire organization, not just ourselves.”
#4: Diversify to sustain growth
Do you offer solutions that would provide a huge value to any untapped demographics or markets? Could you be missing out on opportunities to expand beyond your current membership? Pete talked about how Allied’s decision to expand their business was a hard and uncomfortable one for Allied’s leadership, but they knew it was the right decision to stay competitive. Allied continues to look for new business and market opportunities, in a way that strengthens the business, whilst not altering who they are and what they do. The result has been continued growth and enhanced relationships for Allied and their clients.
Credit unions have a lot of challenges and opportunities on the horizon. According to Pete, continuing to “protect your brand, invest in the tools and the partners that you have, keep your head up high, and make sure you are looking around the corner” will enable credit unions to overcome challenges and embrace opportunities head-on. In other words, take advantage of the resources you have – like your employees, technology, partners, and solutions – to continue competing and growing, no matter what comes next.
Listen to the full podcast to hear lessons learned & advice offered by Allied Solutions CEO Pete Hilger