Posts Tagged ‘BC’

Credit Unions being a Cooperative

July 9, 2010

Recently, the “dot-coop” (or .coop) extension topic was brought up on EverythingCU.com. This question was about whether or not it’s a good idea for credit unions to use this domain extension to signal that they are part of the broader cooperative movement.

This leads to the question: does being a part of the broader cooperative movement still mean anything in today’s credit union world? The reason I like to raise this question is that I had been working with this movement for about eight years before I had ever heard of the Seven Cooperative Principles. I knew that credit unions were member-owned, members had equal voting power, and that they were run as not-for-profit financial institutions. But I didn’t put two and two together to realize that all of these things are principles of the larger Cooperative movement.

So I recently voiced this question in response to the .coop issue, and received a wonderful response from my friend Gene Blishen. Gene is an amazing guy; he walks the talk. He’s the CEO of a successful, small credit union in British Columbia, where he remains true to credit union and cooperative principles while running a productive operation, one which has done some excellent technological innovation based on improving service to the members.

For many credit unions, in the U.S. especially, being a Cooperative has little or no meaning. They are simply trying to be the best financial organization possible, while running under the not-for-profit banner. It’s not that these credit union professionals care any less about their members. They still want to do the best they can for them, and make their lives better. It’s just that they don’t see any significant purpose in the Cooperative movement, or perhaps don’t see how it fits in their workplace. And that’s fine.

Here is Gene’s response on the matter, also posted on his Tinfoiling blog:

I think there is an elephant in the room and it never gets invited to leave.

IF you read the 7 Co-operative principle on which most CUs were founded years ago they were important in the structure and culture of the credit unions. As the financial industry has advanced somehow those principles have been forgotten, neglected or just unknown.

If one makes a decision about anything there are some fundamentals that act when arriving at that decision. Without the knowledge of these principles then the decision gets hijacked by being made outside those principles. If we bring to focus these absolutes that are a given i.e. we need to make money, we need to compete and neglect to discuss and bring forward how we incorporate these values (principles) in our CUs we do an incredible disservice.

Of course we need to make money, I don’t think that is a principle that needed discussion when CUs started. Of course we need to compete, they started because they could compete. But what about democratic owner control? What does that mean in todays CU? Or the education principle? I think we don’t want to discuss those. Why? To be honest because we have failed to bring these to the important level they need to be, we have been too busy making sure we make money and are moving forward in the marketplace.

I look at a CU like a car. You get it into shape. You tune it up. You keep it working well. But is that all? No you then decide where you want to go with it. What destinations are available and when will you get there. You always pay attention to the operation of the vehicle otherwise you won’t get there. Just remember you have seven places to arrive at and the journey can be exciting and very interesting. Remember we do have GPS to get us where we are going these days! 🙂

Here is a related blog post I wrote on the 6th principle of Cooperatives, which is that Cooperatives cooperate with each other: Zucchinis and Credit Unions: Not strange bedfellows

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Gene Blishen: Mobile banking

October 2, 2008

Gene Blishen & coGene Blishen at the Partnership Symposium on Mobile Banking. Note: Gene’s small Mt. Lehman CU is doing amazing things in the mobile banking arena that billion dollar CUs don’t find feasible.

[Brent Dixon recorded this session on video here.]

Small CU in Vancouver area (3000 members), where 62% of all BC CU System assets are within a 15 minute drive.

Saw the internet would kill faxing in 1994.

Decided to integrate technology in house.

MemberNote came out of staff meeting. Text message sent when member uses card.

MemberNote 2: more variables needed for alerts. Turn on/off, balance included. Builds more based on what members say to front line.

Product is self-managed.

The difference between Push and Pull.

[Condition] {poll} +send alert message+ (a batch process)

Push operates differently: Occurs real time. Emergency alerts can be set up. Extensive logs. Housed at CU. Can tweak it internally based on member feedback.

1.) Transaction occurs: 2. Compared to the variables established by member about notification rules: 3. Alert is sent.

TextUs is second product. Built by third-party, along with 2nd largest CU in Alberta.
Can send a query (BAL or ACT) to short code then sends you a message back.

Released iPhone interface on same day iPhone was released in Canada. Same as TextUs, but on the iPhone.

History of checking account is available on iPhone.

Mobile banking is very broad. too new to have complete definition.

Can make transfers via phone, but not via mobile device yet. Believes it is a huge area for development.

Why is it popular?
Member note: Set and forget

TextUs- seeking information at various times for various reasons.

48% of members have POS/ATM card: 1343 members (must have to have MemberNote)

63% of cardbase use MemberNote

60% are active users (alerts within 90 days)

68% have more than 5 transactions per month

Biggest group using MemberNote: 29% 41-55; next is 28% 25-40; 23% are 56+!!!!! Only 11% are 18-24

Gene asks his members in the 56 years old and older group, “Why are you using this?” The answer: “I hardly used piece of plastic, but MemberNote tells us that the transaction is complete.” They feel secure about that!

Working on Version 3 now: Quantum leap in variables that you can receive alerts on. Will release Feb 2009. Still the only CU using Pull technology.

What does mobile banking do?
Another method to touch your members via SMS.
Gives the CU a unique position in marketplace.
Distribute communications.
Combats card fraud.
Makes you aware of current market conditions and trends.

Use it prudently and with common sense.

Create an engaged member. Transact with the engaged member. Educated your members about your products and services.

Next?
Web-based ATMs.
Chip cards and use of the chips “real estate”
Smart phones that allow specific programs, i.e. ATM locator.

Innovation:
bought all staff an iPhone when they came out.
comes from establishing the right culture at the CU. Not one individual, is collaborative.
Failure creates successes.
iSmart: Everything that his core processor isn’t

Q&A with the Shevlinator:
Q: Alerts: more than just a transaction? Deeper meaning?
A: Natural extension of a phone call follow up. Technology allowing them to do what would happen manually. Member OWNS CU. Do they feel that they own it still? This helps make them feel like they own it and influence what is going on there. They know that no one else has this.

Q: Surveys to determine what they want?
A: They have conversations with the member. They ask them. What do you think? Staff are aware that this is a vital area. What do you want with MemberNote? Biggest thing? Payday. secondary: alimony payment goes through.

Q: ROI projections?
A: The board requires a certain amount of money to be made. Gene and staff does the rest. If they can’t make it, will sell it back to members rather than merge.

Q: Security and privacy concerns? This seems to be the opposite.
A: Members become evangelists for you. MEMBERS GET ALERT BEFORE THEY GET RECEIPT. They are proud of this, of their CU.

Q: Location based services?
A: Sent his devs to SF. With iPhone, location is a given.

Notes from Social Banking session at BCBBC

September 25, 2008

BCBBC08Had an amazing time connecting with some great people at BarCampBank BC. Here are my notes from the first session on Day Two, Sunday, on the social nature of the banking relationship. For notes from other sessions, see William Azaroff’s live blog series, which starts here and the Camp’s wiki page, which includes links to some video recordings.

How do you allow front line people time to socialize and do internal networking?
Answer from Gene Blishen: Listen to them, ask what is mundane, routine, that they hate, and figure out how to automate that.

Employer has to create an environment to allow this to happen. Have to be brave, to create this. create systems that empower employees.

Indecison= decision — wastes time and effort.

Internal social network

Have to have people who are excited to be where they are and tell their friends about it
otherwise, same as traditional marketing, which is pushing things out.

How do we change the conversation to be about social media relationship building and not so much ROA, or else how do we measure ROI of social?

Bank willing to lend to an entrepreneur with more social connections

Facebook as collections tool

Head of the comma: REI model — even though most don’t go into wilderness, REI needs to appeal/work for that group because the rest aspire to that.