If you are a credit union decision maker, at some point you may have utilized the services of a CUSO. For that matter, your credit union may have an ownership investment in a CUSO. Lately, however, it seems that some credit unions have lost sight of the importance of CUSOs. Large third-party, for-profit vendors have started to dominate the credit union market space, representing themselves as big-name, technology leaders offering their cutting edge enticing services. At the same time, credit unions have begun to regard CUSOs as simply another vendor vying for the privilege to sell their wares. It’s times like these that call for a reminder of why CUSOs exist.
To be clear, no one should expect a credit union to do business with a CUSO just because it is a CUSO. To be of benefit to the credit union, the CUSO must offer a quality, competitive service at a competitive price that, in turn, helps the credit union compete and add value to its members’ lives. That said, CUSOs, just like credit unions, have a hard time competing against the larger behemoths of the financial services world that have larger scale and deeper pockets, and can afford to buy the business of their customers. But it would behoove credit unions to stop a moment and understand that there is a cost involved whenever anyone attempts to buy their business. Nothing is free. No company, especially a large for profit, publicly traded vendor, gives away anything that it doesn’t expect to gain back.
Consider, too, that while vendors may offer some select attractive services to credit unions, very often those same vendors depend on a diversified business model with only a portion of their resources and efforts focused on (and concerned about) the growth and viability of credit unions. Conversely, in the CUSO world, as the credit unions go, so goes the CUSO. The very survival of the CUSO depends on the success of the credit unions they serve. In essence, the CUSO is “all in”, completely committed to the future of the credit union movement. It is their reason for being. To all of us in the credit union community, this is a commitment to a movement and a philosophy that is worth more than money.
But of more importance, credit unions should consider the immense practical and ideological benefits of utilizing CUSOs. Think beyond the sale. As a practical matter, even large credit unions are generally smaller players in the customer portfolios of large publicly traded vendors. Once the sale is made, the sales representative disappears into the saleosphere, not to be heard from again until contract renewal time. It’s hard to get attention on your issues when you’re among the smaller fish in the pond. Whereas for CUSO’s, their entire business model is based on service to credit unions. You’re important to a CUSO. You’re the reason the CUSO exists – hardly just another customer.. CUSOs epitomize the same cooperative spirit that credit unions are built upon by enabling a group of credit unions to accomplish, together, something that individual credit unions could not accomplish alone. CUSOs foster cooperative reliance within the credit union community. Together we make the whole movement stronger, complete, more independent. CUSOs feed on the experience of their credit union members, resulting in better products and services that are responsive to the specific needs of credit unions. The organic development of innovative technologies helps to ensure the long-term viability of the credit union movement.
So, if you find yourself evaluating your credit union’s vendor relationships and comparing one service provider to another, look beyond the simple price that you pay for those services. Take a deeper look into the service provider’s commitment to not just you and your credit union, but to the entire credit union movement. If you’re looking at a CUSO, you won’t have to dig too deep to find an encouraging answer.