Please avoid using the excuse “my credit union is too small”. Over the years, I have heard this from countless credit unions and often at young professional events. They boxed themselves in with limitations based on their size without considering how open the world was due to their nimbleness.
Technology is expensive, but it’s not unattainably expensive. Nearly a decade ago, when our credit union was less than $200 million in assets, we launched DocuSign. We were the first in our area to do so and to this day, we are still the only financial institution among our local competition that provides electronic signature for new accounts and loans. Imagine how useful this was when the pandemic began. While other financial institutions were trying to close loans through their drive thru windows, our members were already used to electronic signature and business continued to flow.
Marketing can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. On a shoestring budget, with just one person in marketing, our credit union rebranded, built a new website, and launched online account opening. We did this by working hard to find vendors who would work with us on price. We found inexpensive and free graphic design platforms, and utilized social media to drive awareness of our new branding. Again, we were the first financial institution in our area to be on social media and it paid dividends later when we had grown our audience and they were just beginning.
Compliance is tough. I’m not going to disagree with you there, but that shouldn’t stop you from finding ways to help members. Our trade associations, and state leagues provide incredible resources. In addition, the beauty of working in credit union land is that we all share information. Reach out and ask fellow credit unions for advice. Compliance shouldn’t stop you from being creative with lending. Our credit union rolled out ITIN lending to be inclusive and assist underserved, immigrant borrowers in our area over 15 years ago. We utilized best practices from other credit unions, completed risk assessments, and mitigated risk through procedures and policy. To this day, our delinquency in this area has not outpaced any other area of our loan portfolio. However, I still hear credit unions avoiding these loans because of the risk. If you concentrate on risk mitigation and not risk aversion, your credit union can provide creative and powerful lending solutions for your members.
There is so much power in being “small”. Being small allows nimbleness, more direct and honest feedback from members, and fewer layers of administration. I’m not by any means saying large credit unions don’t have direct member contact, but with fewer branches, small credit union executives have the opportunity to physically be around more of their members and hear what is happening in their lobbies. Today, we are considered a mid-size credit union, but when we were smaller, we didn’t let that dictate our innovative drive. We were never the first adopters of innovation, but we were always early adopters. Don’t force yourself into late adoption because of your size. Size isn’t everything.