Developing a Critical Credit Union Asset: The Board

Credit unions continue to undertake changes in the markets and members that they serve.

Credit unions continue to undertake changes in the markets and members that they serve. Many credit unions began as cooperatives serving specific entities, such as corporations or military bases, but have expanded to serve broader market segments that include multiple entities or geographical areas. As the markets themselves change, so do the ways members are being served as product and delivery channel choices evolve.

These changes bring new dynamics to credit unions – dynamics that must be captured by the credit union’s board so that they continue to provide leadership for the organization. Board members are representatives of the membership and must stay in touch with changing member needs in order to be effective. Ensuring that the board evolves along with the credit union is more important than ever given the highly competitive financial services market.

The board development issues that need to be addressed will vary at each credit union but some common themes today include:

  • How do we ensure that our board stays on top of the changes in the financial service market?
  • What skill sets would be helpful additions to our board?
  • How can we build a board that reflects our evolving membership profile?
  • How do we leverage the role of volunteers to stimulate growth in key segments such as youth and small businesses?

To address issues such as these, credit union boards are establishing development plans to ensure that volunteers keep pace with the choices and challenges their credit union is facing. Some credit union boards have established mandatory education programs for volunteers. While at some credit unions this involves only conference attendance, others have included online training programs or even the use of external consultants for leadership training and communication coaching. In addition, some boards now require conference attendees to report back on their learnings so that all benefit from the external exposure.

Beyond education, some credit unions are working to alter the makeup of their board to better match today’s membership. Credit unions have established volunteer committees to provide potential board members exposure to the organization and determine an organizational fit. In addition, the board may become active in recruiting potential new board members. Sometimes this is accomplished by open postings on the credit union’s website. In some cases credit unions are utilizing their internal data and staff knowledge to identify members who might bring additional capabilities to the board.

Regardless of the approach or the changes being undertaken, these actions reflect the increasing importance of the credit union board. These volunteers are representatives of the credit union and can have a measurable impact on the institution’s relationship with members and the community at large. By building a plan for ongoing development, the board can ensure that they are optimizing their value to the credit union.