Credit unions are in the risk business. The whole organization is geared around managing the risks inherent in balance sheet alchemy. This is understandable as credit unions are entrusted with their members’ savings. That’s a huge responsibility and is the primary reason credit unions are subject to intense regulatory scrutiny.
It’s natural then, that credit unions are risk averse. This normally helps keep them safe. However, the rapid emergence of fintech has introduced rapid change. Now, the aversion to risk displayed by credit unions is becoming a risk in itself. As Mark Zuckerberg once said, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”
But we all know that telling credit union boards they need to take more risk is a non-starter. There’s a lot of hype around innovation and risk-taking. It’s well-known that Steve Jobs took on some huge bets at Apple and Pixar. Of course, like any gamble, we tend to hear of the wins rather than the losses. And losses there are aplenty.
Credit unions risk becoming as obsolete as a BlackBerry but can’t afford to bet the farm on a radical transformation. So how do we square the circle?
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