Surveying the Landscape: What's Top-of-Mind for '06?

Here are some hot topics for consideration during your upcoming planning sessions.


"If you don't know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?"
- Alice in Wonderland

Strategic planning is a critical component to the long-term success of your organization. Building a road map that establishes the destination with guidelines and objectives requires a synergy between the executive team and the board based upon a predetermined long-term vision. You can describe the strategic planning process as the board setting the destination - getting to New York City from Los Angeles within this timeframe, within established values and with this amount of budget. It doesn't matter the route or the car you select; that's within staff control. However, strategic initiatives that anticipate both opportunities and challenges while on the road will be measured and the management team will be held accountable for results.

This synergy between the board and the executive team in setting strategic initiatives requires a collaborative planning process that begins with education, clarifies understanding through interactive dialogue and focuses on the ultimate mission and vision for the credit union.

Silver State Schools, Las Vegas, Nevada ($788M), has both an educational session and strategic planning session that provides the board an opportunity to learn more about credit union initiatives before the strategic planning session. It gives both staff and volunteers the time to learn more and ask questions to ascertain background on what issues may be urgent and what are pending on the horizon.

Dave Rhamy, Silver States CEO, commented, "Education is a critical component of our planning session. Understanding the state of the credit union, the state of the financial industry, and what consumers want from their financial providers, prepares us for a highly focused, well-informed discussion that results in an effective plan."

The Process

Every credit union's strategic planning process must be uniquely designed to fit the specific needs of the organization. This being said, there are common components that a successful strategic planning session should incorporate. These include:

The macro analysis:

  • Consumer Trends and Demographic Analysis
  • Financial Institution Industry Trends
  • Credit Union Industry Strategic Trends

The micro analysis for the individual organizational strategy:

  • Vision & Mission: Creating or revisiting this critical component reinforces the ultimate goal of the strategic planning process. While the vision outlines the ideal state the credit union desires to achieve, the mission identifies major goals and performance objectives. Both should reflect the culture of the credit union.

  • Environmental Scan: This is an analysis of the current internal and external environment. Many credit unions often utilize a SWOT model to conduct this scan: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

  • Gap Analysis: By evaluating the difference between your current position and desired position you can develop specific strategies and allocate resources to close the gap.

  • Benchmarking: By reviewing other credit unions' operations, practices and performance, you can identify "best" practices for your credit union.

  • Strategic Issues: Strategic issues are fundamental issues you will need to address to progress toward your desired vision. These issues are identified through the environmental scan, gap analysis and benchmarking.

  • Strategic Programming: This is the bulk of the planning process where SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic and Time/cost bound) or milestones are set. Action plans for reaching the goals are established and tactics specific to the action plans are outlined.

  • Ongoing Evaluation: Periodic evaluation of strategies, action plans and tactics are important to assessing the success of the strategic planning process. This evaluation should include looking at unpredicted events, both internal and external, that impact the achievement of your goals. Adjustments are made to the strategic plan based on changes impacting the credit union's intended course.

LA Financial, Pasadena, CA ($300M), is a great example of using benchmarking in the planning process. They have developed a strategic planning process that identifies industry best practices for key initiatives that they are looking to implement. Guest speakers are included from these credit unions to share their research, implementation and results. "This approach provides the Board and management team an opportunity to learn first hand what works and garner ideas that may apply to LA Financial," stated Barbara Nall, CEO.

Top-of-Mind Discussion Issues

Below are some hot topics for consideration during your 2006 planning sessions:

Environmental Scan & Gap Analysis:

  • American Banker's Association: With Harris Simmons, CEO of Zions Bank in Utah, assuming the chair of the ABA, it might be prudent to discuss the direction they are heading based on Simmons' statement that the #1 goal should be to "rein in those out of control credit unions no matter what charter they operate under."
  • Credit Union Statistics: Review Callahan & Associates data on growth (assets, membership, share, loan, etc.).
  • State of the Credit Union System: Internally among credit unions as well as in comparison with the banking market. Areas to explore include:
    • Financial performance indicators-share growth, lending performance, deposit activity
    • Financial trends-declining membership growth and the changing business model caused by operating expenses outpacing net income and creating an earnings challenge
    • Field of Membership opportunities/issues-The big debate. What do recent regulatory trends tell you? What does it mean to your credit union?
    • Credit union conversions-What's happening and how is it impacting the industry?
    • Credit union mergers-What does this mean to the industry and our credit union?
    • Regulatory advocacy-What are industry advocates looking at, talking about and trying to impact? Where does your credit union stand to gain/lose?

Benchmarking & Strategic Issues:

  • Differentiation: What's yours? In this competitive landscape where product alone doesn't differentiate financial institutions, what is the hallmark on which you can hang your hat? If it's service, which many credit unions claim, how do you know?
  • Branching and alternative delivery channels: Effectively serving members is key to retention and growth and this convenience driven marketplace calls for thinking outside the box. Have you reviewed alternative delivery channels? Are your current branching strategies meeting your members' needs?
  • Consumer needs relative to business services and lending strategies: Where is this on your priority list? If high, are you prepared to compete? What do you know about consumer needs and wants in these areas and do you have the products, processes, staff education and marketing in place to meet them?
  • Emerging markets: New York isn't the only melting pot today. Emerging markets even beyond the Hispanic population are prevalent throughout the United States. Do you want to tap into these markets? If so, how do you educate and equip the staff and deploy strategies for successful community outreach?
  • Technology trends and applications: Technology for the sake of having it is not enough. Where can you implement technology to have the greatest impact on member satisfaction and operational efficiency?
  • Asset Liability Management: With increasing expenses and tight margins, ALM is an ongoing discussion topic.
  • Board governance: How is your board operating in a more complex industry where the liabilities are greater, consumers expect more and financial management is critical? Are your policies strategic and flexible?
  • Succession planning: Your future depends on it. Where do you stand with Board of Directors, volunteer, committee and executive leadership succession planning?
  • Executive/Leadership onboarding: You read about changes in credit union leadership daily. Is your credit union going through or anticipating leadership changes? Have you thought about, discussed and implemented plans for onboarding those leaders so they can have immediate wins and a successful future?

Dynamic, flexible roadmaps must be developed so that staff can respond quickly to opportunities that cannot be anticipated in this dynamic environment. Cohesive, highly educated volunteer and staff teamwork is necessary to create a strategic plan that can serve as a living document that can easily be modified based upon the conditions of the road ahead.

MyDAS, Inc. is a full service consultation firm providing solutions for staff and member education, MySTERY Shopping and other research and survey solutions, and agency marketing services. Serving the industry for over 20 years, find out why the best and the brightest select MyDAS for results. For more information, visit, or call us at 800-291-6117.



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Oct. 17, 2005


  • very pedantic