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With over 5,000 credit unions charters, and for the first time exceeding the number of bank charters in the US, our movement has become an industry with combined assets exceeding $1.6 trillion. Add in the fact that credit unions cumulatively employ over 300,000 full-time employees across the country, we are also one of the top 10 employers in the US.

So why are we not utilizing our cumulative/collaborative power as well as we could (and should)? Lots of reasons, I guess. But here are a few thoughts on how we could reverse the non-collaborative trend and really get on track to dominate the US financial services “industry”.

Perspective

With over 5,000 charters and in the neighborhood of 35,000+ branches and distribution points covering every community in the US, why are we not dominating? Because we are all individually (not collaboratively) trying to reinvent the wheel. We are chasing our tails, and the tails of our fellow credit unions, constantly nipping at each others’ heels, when we should be concentrating and focusing our talent, innovation and resources on beating the competition – something we could easily do if we could work together.

I realize that it’s nonsense to think that everyone will collaborate, but if even 20% of all credit unions decided to work together to re-build the best credit union model ever (let’s say 1,000 credit unions organize, plan, combine resources and work together)…think of what that group could accomplish. Think of the resources that group would have. The brain trust. The understanding of a diverse group of credit union and marketplace needs. And ultimately, the ability to satisfy, resolve, and focus on achieving solutions to those needs.

When our focus is solely on our own credit union, we can see our own operations very clearly, but we miss a lot of what is going on outside our own shop. If you are anything like me, when you finally get out, whether it’s a GAC or NACUSO type of event, even some of our focused State League events, you tend to get new ideas and perspectives on what is really happening out there. And I know many of you come back thinking, “If only I could.” Well, together we can!

If we all stop trying to do the same thing separately, think of how many new things we could actually do together.

I love the innovation I see in the movement/industry – what I hate to see is that the so-called fintechs all think they can do it better. That’s nonsense. If we were already doing most of these new things, there would be no need for new (outside) entrants in the marketplace.

Everyone with a little bit of background sees the new opportunities in our marketplace every day. However, many of us are so focused (and rightly so) on running our credit unions that we fail in many cases to see and capitalize on the opportunities.

Let’s keep our resources in the movement by aggregating them and serving ourselves with new products and services, rather than waiting for vendors and our competition to bring new products and services to the marketplace.

Can anyone argue with the success of the CO-OP and PSCU as examples of what credit unions can accomplish by working together, collaborating and aggregating resources, knowledge, talent and experience? These are things that no one credit union could or would ever do on its own.

Are there really not 10-20-30-50 credit union CEOs and senior management teams out there that get this idea of collaboration? More people in these positions need to resolve to be part of something bigger and better than what they have today as a single credit union. Ultimately, what they could build would be bigger and better than what the movement currently has.

The time to act is now! Our time (again) is now! We did it after the 2008-2010 recovery. What is happening today will clearly change the way Americans work, live, and interact with their financial institutions for years to come. The companies and industries that adapt and make consumers lives better, easier, and safer will be the clear winners.

I am counting on the fact that credit unions will still be here, and that we can work together to solve and resolve whatever issues arise.

Folks, we truly have the resources (investable liquidity), the knowledge and skills (300,000 employees and thousands of volunteers to draw on to determine and prioritize needs), the market (hundreds of millions of members), and the distribution infrastructure (physical locations/websites) covering every corner of the US – and who else has our model?

Let’s take the next steps to do what we were created to do – to serve! Together we can do it better, faster, and with less risk than any one of us alone can provide!

Walt Agius is CEO of CU Sol, a truly collaborative CUSO designed to ascertain the credit union marketplace and find, develop, and implement new and alternative solutions to new and old problems we face as a movement/industry.

If you are interested in being part of something bigger, you should take a few moments to learn more about how CU Sol is working to bring credit unions and credit union resources together to meet the ever-changing needs of credit unions and their members.

You can reach me at 505-342-8910 or via the contact form below. I hope to hear from you!