SMART SWOTs for credit unions: How to generate new business opportunities

As John C. Maxwell states in his book, How Successful People Think, “Creativity gives you options; it gives you alternatives; and, more importantly, it gives you opportunities!”

Therefore, begin the brainstorming session to determine what you have done right, what you need to stop, what you need to start, what you need to change, and what you need to add to grow exponentially.  This process begins with a SWOT analysis – identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  Remember: Honesty, creativity, and a focus on what you can do will lead to more opportunities.

Below is a simple SWOT analysis template that includes a number of points credit unions should consider:

  • Strengths
    • People helping people
    • Partnership, not just a credit union
    • The right products, pricing, programs, people, policies, procedures, and processes
    • Differentiation
      • Promote what you “don’t do” that other financial institutions are doing that is not consumer friendly (rather than promote what you “do”)
      • Use the 3 C’s of branding to communicate your message:
        • Clear, Concise, and Compelling
  • Weaknesses
    • The mindset of credit unions doing business as they always have
    •  Not adding value to their programs to differentiate them from other financial institutions
    • A paradigm shift in credit unions transitioning from a SEG charter to a community charter and no longer focusing on SEGs and potential community businesses
    • The complacency mindset (a dangerous place to be):  The mindset of “We are here and they will come” and/or “We are a credit union and we will continue doing business as we always have because…”
    • Lack of established “SMART” goals aligned with credit union goals and action plans for staff as well as business development department
    • No “real” added value in today’s market (everyone offers FREE checking, FREE bill pay, FREE statements, etc. – so they think)
    • Lack of creative marketing/branding/programs to appeal to existing and potential SEGs and/or community business partners
    • Lack of full-time business development personnel to focus 100 percent on SEG and/or community business partners to build relationships and increase penetration of the community and SEGs
    • Lack of credit union philosophy that all employees are responsible for growing the credit union
    • Mindset that credit union is too small to have a full-time business development person or staff
    • Products, pricing, programs, people, policies, procedures, and processes
  • Threats
    • Increased competition from banks
    • Changes in corporate policies and personnel within SEGS and/or community business partners
    • Not changing the complacency mindset (a dangerous place to be):  The mindset of “We are here and they will come” and/or “We are a credit union and we will continue doing business as we always have because…”
    • Membership exclusivity
    • Local versus global:  Perception that credit unions are “Podunk”–meaning they don’t have a national/global presence
    • Using terms such as “join” versus “open your account”
    • Using words such as “you must, you have to, it is required, etc.” in your marketing pieces and website
    • Credit union language barriers:  Example:  “Share account is required.  $5 is required for a share account.” (Note: I think the financial term “share” for credit unions is confusing to consumers.)
  • Opportunities
    • Consumers are fed up with fees assessed by other financial institutions
    • Change in corporate policies and personnel within SEGs and/or community business partners
    • High level of distrust with banks – predatory lending practices
    • Distressed economy resulting in job loss/income loss, thus leading to bankruptcies and the like. Companies looking for partners to offset costs associated with employee benefits
    • “TRUE” differentiation:  Present yourself as an educational partner, offering programs such as a Credit Score Management Program – “Credit unions will partner with your employees to show them how to manage, protect, and raise their credit score so they can get lower interest rates and lower their monthly payments to save hundreds of thousands of dollars during their lifetime.”

With honesty and creativity, a SWOT analysis will open your eyes to all that you are and all that you want to become as a credit union.  The next step will help you prepare for the journey of how to get there. Stay tuned next month as we discuss that next step; Developing SMART Strategies, Action Plans, and Goals to improve strengths; turn weaknesses into strengths; and overcome threats to seize opportunities that will grow your credit union using a “holistic approach” to growth.

Celeste Cook

Celeste Cook

Celeste Cook is founder and President/CEO of cuStrategies, LLC, which provides strategic planning services, consulting services, and training programs to the credit union industry. She is also a keynote ... Web: Details