Building the Credit Union of the Future

CUNA Mutual Group’s SVP John Lass – Competitive Challenges and Evolving Technologies Provide Opportunities 

MADISON, Wis. – In order to simply keep up, credit unions need a growing number of channels to connect with their members: branches, a call center, online banking and now mobile platforms. John Lass, CUNA Mutual Group’s senior vice president, Strategy and Business Development, presented the keynote address to attendees of the Online Discovery Conference on Tuesday and posed the idea that credit unions may be at a tipping point.

Lass said, “The credit union system could be in the midst of a ‘strategic inflection point’ due to rapid changes in the competitive landscape, digital technology and customer channel preferences.” A strategic inflection point is a major shift in an industry’s competitive dynamic.

“A strategic inflection point is a period when we have to take a close look at the way we’ve been doing business for so many years,” said Lass.

Lass explained strategic inflection points in more detail using examples from the movie, music and publishing industries. For instance, after Apple launched iTunes in 2003, the music industry rapidly evolved into the digital age and, since then, more than 2,700 record stores have closed.

“iTunes is a vivid example of the music industry caught off guard by the digital movement and as a result, the CD and record industry has been hit with devastating losses.”

There were more examples of strategic inflection points given by Lass – Netflix vs. Blockbuster, Kindle vs. brick-and-mortar bookstores and the rapid decline of Kodak due to the explosion of digital camera sales.

“The key point here is that digital, mobile technologies and channel shifts all played roles in these industry tipping points,” said Lass. “The credit union system now faces the challenges, but also the opportunities of incorporating digital convenience into the cooperative model.”

“Unlike the music industry, the cooperative model provides credit unions with powerful competitive advantages.” Lass continued, “There are some tremendously successful examples of credit unions embracing the ‘do-it-yourself’ banking, and it’s paying off for their institutions and their members.”

Lass is optimistic for the credit union system because it has one very unique quality that sets it apart from other financial institutions. “Our cooperative principals are the difference-maker for credit unions.” Lass continued, “One member, one vote. Credit unions are the only financial institutions offering that kind of individual power and input.”

Lass finished his presentation stating, “The challenge for our industry is to adapt to the new competitive dynamic without sacrificing our powerful core values and attributes.”

Online Discovery is CUNA Mutual Group’s Web-based equivalent of a face-to-face conference without the associated expenses or time away from the office. The free, online event attracted a national and international audience of more than 1,800 credit union and league staff. The conference aims to help credit unions solve problems, face challenges, and address opportunities all from the convenience of their computer.

CUNA Mutual Group insurance, retirement and investment products provide financial security and protection to credit unions and their members worldwide. With more than 75 years of true market commitment, CUNA Mutual Group’s vision is unwavering: To be a trusted business partner who delivers service excellence through customer-focused products and market-driven insight. More information on the company is available on the company’s website at

CUNA Mutual Group is the marketing name for CUNA Mutual Holding Company, a mutual insurance holding company, its subsidiaries and affiliates. Life, accident, health and annuity insurance products are issued by CMFG Life Insurance Company. Property and casualty insurance products are issued by CUMIS Insurance Society, Inc. Each insurer is solely responsible for the financial obligations under the policies and contracts it issues. Corporate headquarters are located in Madison, Wisconsin.

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