I guess you could say I am in somewhat of a unique position, having worked on the client and supplier side of the financial services industry. And through the years I have met plenty of credit union and bank managers that seemingly don’t know the difference between partners and vendors or who simply treated partners as vendors. From my point of view, a vendor is simply someone with whom you do business. Vendors are order takers. This is not to say that they aren’t important, it’s just that there may not be much additional value to be found in this kind vendor relationship.
Typically a credit union will source an external relationship to leverage unique expertise needed to accomplish a well-defined objective. A partner is one that will take the time needed to understand the vision behind a credit unions goal and offer strategic and tactical input to ensure expectations are met or exceeded. I truly believe that just about every vendor can be transformed into a partner. Trust, collaboration, proactive communication and responsiveness are key qualities that are necessary to build a partner relationship. Certainly both the client and the partner should share these qualities.
Vendors are no doubt treated differently from partners and the relationship dynamic is more transactional, not transformational. Is your credit union looking to evolve to meet ever-changing members needs, or are you simply willing to remain a commodity? A partner can help you evolve quicker and more efficiently, and ideally should be providing some value that can be felt at the member level. Just as a credit union tries to position itself as a financial partner to those it serves, as a means to de-commoditize, vendors and credit unions need to treat business relationships more strategically, as an additional means to drive more innovation in this industry.
Bryan Clagett is a principle driver of Geezeo’s global marketing, brand and outreach efforts. Clagett joins founders Shawn Ward and Peter Glyman in establishing Geezeo as the premier personal financial management provider in the financial services industry. Since 1987, Bryan has held a number of executive positions in the financial services industry. www.geezeo.com