The Ark Vs. The Titanic

A credit union can diversify its board and strengthen its institution by marketing the position correctly.


The credit union industry has changed in recent years, and is changing at an amazing pace. The number of products and services offered, the amount of regulations, the delivery channels used, and the technology demanded looks vastly different than it did five years ago.

To keep up with the changes, a credit union must have an effective board. But the board and its members are changing as well, says Jason Boles, CEO of Fans Created, a consulting and team building firm for credit unions, who spoke at the Maryland & DC Credit Union Association annual conference in Ocean City, MD, this week.

Board members today aren’t necessarily associated with the original sponsor and are newer members of the cooperative financial institution, if at all, Boles says. Focusing more on ROA, they look at the credit union as a business.

“Are we a philosophy that happens to be a business? Or are we a business that happens to have philosophy?” says Boles. Credit unions are the latter, and that outlook is integral to the cooperatives survival, he concludes.

Recruiting board members has been difficult in recent years, mainly because being a board member is a lot of work, with little or no compensation. Credit unions struggle to market the position.

The first step in marketing a board position is knowing who you are trying to attract as a team member. Think about the skills, knowledge, and experience of the candidate, open up the search to a more diverse base.

If board meetings are dull, with only two members showing up, try hiring outside the industry to get fresh perspectives. Not all members need technical expertise. Members can learn as long as they’re passionate, energetic, and willing to participate in the cooperate environment. It doesn’t take a professional to do great things.

“Remember the ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals,” says Boles.

Unlike their older counterparts, team members of today have a short-term focus on self-improvement and individual gain. These members are willing to be dedicated to the cause, giving maybe 60% of their time for a couple years, whereas in the past members were committed, giving 100% for more than 30 years, says Boles. 

Market the position accordingly. Self-fulfillment has been the big reward to volunteering on a credit union board. But members of the board can learn and network with professionals, outside and inside the industry, bolster their resume with leadership experience, and challenge themselves to make a difference in an innovative, quickly changing industry.

“And if all else fails, there’s a free meal at every meeting,” Boles says, jokingly.


June 14, 2012



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