Sales, Service, or Success?

June 15, 2020

“Sales, Service, or Success?” by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

“We need to establish a sales culture…We don’t sell, we educate…Our outstanding service will lead to sales.” All are common phrases expressed through credit unions describing the retail delivery of products and services. All are correct, in their own manner. All can be questioned, in their own perspective, too. As credit unions connect the gap between service and sales, one aspect remains constant and undeniable: when the member succeeds, the credit union succeeds.

Perhaps a “Success Culture” provides the necessary balance.

Focusing on success for the member, through sales and service, introduces a trading of value. For the most part, the credit union trades a set of well-priced products and, over time, the member exchanges value through increases in product use and purchases.

Success can certainly come through sales – new loans, additional deposits, insurance purchases, etc. But, too much focus on sales can create a “pushy” experience where members hear a pitch at the smallest hint of opportunity.

Success can undeniably happen through service – fast transactions, technological options, error resolution, etc. But, too much focus on service can make it easy to overlook growth prospects in the quest for an experience that doesn’t feel overly ambitious to the member.

How does a success culture balance the short-term need to serve with the long-term need to grow revenue? It begins with an outlook that ensures members are getting the most from their current set of products; continues with information introduced to illustrate how members can experience more success with the credit union; and, concludes with an attitude of action that guarantees all opportunities for success are fulfilled (i.e., moving the look-to-book ratio forward).

Front line leaders in a success culture need to see every member interaction as an opportunity to extend the long-term nature of a business relationship. This occurs with a twofold commitment: first, to serving the immediate need at hand; and second, to continuously showing members the tangible value they are receiving and how they might receive more. It’s as simple as remembering that the credit union does not succeed until the member succeeds. So, focus on member success. And maintain that each member understands that success, in the near- and long-term, is the goal.

Measuring a success culture is as balanced as its execution. Growth and performance measures might include new members, member retention, new loans, and cross-sales. Service measures such as Net Promoter Score, Member Effort Score, and post-transaction feedback provide insights into relationships where revenues will be achieved gradually over time. Incentives and rewards should be just as balanced, with perhaps 25 percent dependent upon revenue initiatives and 75 percent supported by service-focused measures.

As front line leaders earn trust, members will invite them to participate in more in-depth conversations. This gives front line leaders insights for recommending a path to value, regardless of whether that course includes added revenue right away. Looking out for the member is the focus. This kind of attention allows front line leaders to explain more about value to their members, creating a positive impression that results in the member driving more business to the credit union. The outcome is a win for the credit union, with success seen on the balance sheet and income statement.

As long as the member succeeds first.

© 2019 by Jeff Rendel.  All rights reserved.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional and President of Rising Above Enterprises, works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in sales, service, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners.

Contact:;; 951.340.3770.

Selling to the C-Level: Sharpening the Saw When Times Feel Dull

April 14, 2020

“Sharpening the Saw When Times Feel Dull” by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

It’s been one month since states began declaring “shelter in place” and “stay at home” instructions for all but essential businesses. While we sell to financial institutions (essential businesses); odds are good that if your product or service doesn’t deal with IT security or office sanitation, you’re not doing much prospecting, presenting, follow up, or closing. Do not take it personally. C-Level executives have not had a day off since mid-March and are just now beginning to think a bit longer term. But, for the time being, every day brings a new test and areas of focus are extremely operational.

So, what’s a sales professional to do when a phone call or email might be overlooked or ignored? What’s a sales leader to do when your call goals for the week (and month) are not feasible, if even appropriate. Spend the month sharpening your saw – on the industry, for your institutions, and as an individual.

Sharpen your industry saw. Read, read, and read. Invest one hour each day reading, not scanning, daily industry email news feeds. Learn how institutions are adjusting and operating. Learn about best practices. Learn about the industry outside of your expertise. If your product is focused on loans, learn about deposits. If your service addresses deposits, discover more about loans. The more you prepare to position yourself as an expert in the industry, the more value you will create as a resource for future business discussions and decisions.

Sharpen your institutional saw. Take your client list and invest one hour in better understanding each client’s operations and results. Visit their websites and mobile apps. Read how operations have changed and how they continue to serve members. Read of new products. Download financial reports from their regulatory agencies but understand that quarter by quarter results will be vastly different. Get a sense of where they stand financially. This allows you to better recognize their stresses, helping you to better present opportunities when the time is more suitable.

Sharpen your individual saw. It’s tough not being able work your sales pipeline. That aspect is on pause, but only temporarily. Take this time to get better as a professional and person. Invest one hour per day building a better you. Brush up on your writing skills. Learn the latest in communications competencies. Read a book on resilience. Take a walk and crank out 20 burpees. Connect with colleagues who help you and create ways to better serve clients when the doors are reopened. Be a better version of you in preparation for getting back to business.

For those of you who have been a part of the “Selling to the C-Level” system, you recall the daily habits that set you apart from others serving financial institutions. Add these sharpening routines to your tool chest. When you focus on clients and a day in their lives, you better understand where you add value. More important, you are recognized as a partner who wants the client to succeed first. When they succeed, you succeed.

© 2020 by Jeff Rendel.  All rights reserved.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional and President of Rising Above Enterprises, works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in sales, service, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners.

Contact:;; 951.340.3770.

Becoming a Digital Credit Union is a Two-Way Street

April 2, 2020

“Becoming a Digital Credit Union is a Two-Way Street” by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

Many credit union strategic planning sessions close with an objective or central idea that reads, somewhere along the lines of, “Expand our digital reach to members,” or “Design a credit union-wide digital experience,” or “Increase members’ digital engagement with our credit union.” Add findings from current research that displays growth in omni-digital members (all phone, tablet, and laptop) is outpacing omni-channel members (they’re digital, but stop by a branch or call from time to time), and it’s evident that digital engagement with members is a strategic inevitability.

How are credit unions adjusting their business models to meet the trends shaping their members’ expectations and credit unions’ abilities to serve members? Responses from several dozen credit unions (of all sizes) indicate that “going digital” in credit unions is a two-way street: how a credit union engages with its members and how members engage with their credit union. Let’s explore common themes and practical methods from more than 40 credit unions nationwide.

Engaging with Members

Digital marketing visibly led the way as the most effective approach to market to members. Email marketing, customer relationship management (CRM), marketing customer information files (MCIF), digital advertising, Big Data analytics, and artificial intelligence carried credit unions’ messages into the tailored and preferred space of members. Digital marketing proved more successful than conventional marketing due to its pinpoint accuracy, economic advantages, and comparative ease of execution.

Digital service brought branch deployment and design, and credit union professionals, into the digital space, as well. Interactive teller machines, video-centered interactions with offsite tellers, and lobby-based, tablet-powered service brought assistance from “behind the counter” and into relationship-focused consultations that increased members’ ease and convenience (a chief predictor of repeat and increased business). In many cases, walk-in traffic was most often served digitally: members benefitted from the simplicity and credit unions gained from the efficiencies.

Digital onboarding and feedback kept credit unions in touch with their members and aware of service dependability and variations. Digital onboarding helped engage members soon and long after account opening; and, assisted members, new and long-term, in benefitting from all features of their relationships. Digital feedback, especially immediately following transactions, was instrumental in championing successes in service and – equally important – ensuring a consistent and branded experience across all member-facing platforms.

Engaging with Your Credit Union

Digital access proved much more than checking balances and paying bills. Omni-digital members had zero interest in banking from the branch. Account opening, applying for loans, text updates, funding (even new deposit account funding), and finalizing documents via digital means was “business as usual” for credit unions’ members. While most members could tend to finances via a credit union’s app or mobile website, a human connection was needed from time to time. These credit unions met members’ needs through extended or 24/7 call center availability or secure chat features once inside the mobile or online portal.

Digital ease helped credit unions acknowledge that members may love their credit union, but they will be brutal about its app and mobile website. Single sign-on systems, remote deposit capture, P2P payments, picture pay products, card controls, and loan shopping tools (VIN scan, mobile loan approvals, comparison tools) all added ease and control to the member and her or his experience. With ease being the driver of experience, these credit unions committed to creating digital simplicity and refinement in the, often, multifaceted world of financial services.

Digital education put the strength of understanding at members’ fingertips – literally. Credit unions built their knowledge centers to focus on education, recommendations (analytics helped a lot here), and decisions (“Next Step” opportunities to keep the buying process moving). Knowledge centers were combinations of video tutorials (none longer than two minutes), “What If?” scenarios, and even games (which always ended with a message about the value of the credit union). Of most interest was the acceptance and utilization of digital education by all demographics; it wasn’t just a Millennial thing.

Research has revealed that mobile/digital members: have higher retention rates; use more products and services; generate more revenue; and, are less costly to administer. And, digital-first members are only growing in number. Consider the guidance from this national set of credit unions as you look to digitally engage with your members. It’s a two-way street that produces financial and experiential value for your members and, as a result, enterprise value for your credit union.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional and President of Rising Above Enterprises, works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in leadership, sales, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners.

Contact:;; 951.340.3770.

How to Hold a Great Virtual Meeting

March 24, 2020

“How to Hold a Great Virtual Meeting” by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

Face-to-face, in-person meetings carry a lot of value – teamwork, networking, and catching up – but, sometimes, virtual meetings are timelier and more convenient, if not downright necessary. Like a live meeting, virtual meetings take just as much preparation – and a little more patience – to ensure success. Here are ten tips to help assure your next virtual meeting (Slack, WebEx, Zoom, etc.) is as productive as having the entire team onsite.

  • Assign a facilitator. If kept unchecked, virtual meetings can get a little out of hand (distance, buffering, over-talking, etc.). Task the facilitator with keeping the meeting on track and managing appropriate involvement (and, respect your request of the facilitator, too).
  • Work from an agenda. Send an agenda to all – well-ahead of time – and work from it. Expect that participants come prepared with comments or questions for dialogue.
  • Come prepared to contribute. This requires all to pre-read, conduct due diligence, and plan to participate. This helps create strong ideas and solutions during the meeting, rather than a lot of “Let me get back to you” remarks.
  • Use a call-in number. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is contemporary; but, occasionally Internet audio lacks good quality. A dial-in number is dedicated to audio; but, be mindful of too many speaking at the same time (mobile call-ins tend to cut other lines off).
  • Turn the video feature “On.” It’s a fantastic way to make everyone feel that they are in the same room. Plus, being on camera compels engagement (which is what you need from any meeting).
  • Eliminate distractions. Sign off email, close your web browser, shut your door, and put the cat in another room (seriously; email me if you want to hear the story). Any distraction lessens your attention and diminishes your focus for the meeting.
  • Involve everyone. While not all will equally contribute, hearing from each is vital. As facilitator, go “around the room” several times to make sure everyone can take part.
  • Use the “Raise Hand” feature. In person facilitation is straightforward; one can manage the flow of conversation by being present. When many are part of the discussion, raise your virtual hand so the facilitator knows you have some feedback.
  • Use visuals. While it’s good to see everyone on screen, it’s equally nice to see the highlights of the conversation. Use the notetaking and screen sharing features of your video conferencing platform.
  • Keep meetings to one hour. Attention spans begin to wane, and effectiveness can dip: more reason for a good agenda. If extra time is needed, take a 30-minute break to think about solutions offered and return with a focus on results.

Virtual meeting technology allows communication between teams at a distance to be more routine. Success during these meetings asks that we respect time and to be present. Commitment to both helps organizations and professionals meet and move forward, regardless of location.

© 2020 by Jeff Rendel.  All rights reserved.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional and President of Rising Above Enterprises, works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in sales, service, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners.

Contact:;; 951.340.3770.



Advocacy is the Key to Sales

February 26, 2020

“Advocacy is the Key to Sales” by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

Six years ago, a now $16 billion bank began to acquire nearly 75 branches in the Western USA from one of the nation’s largest banks. Initially, there was a lot of deposit runoff (25 percent), which was accounted for in the purchase price. Once the transaction dust settled, nearly one-half of the acquired accounts were gone, but deposits were up 25 percent. The bank’s CEO and his team concluded that the lost accounts were zero or low balance accounts, part of a past culture that compensated bank employees on the number of accounts opened.

Recently, the bank’s CEO opined on this dynamic in The Wall Street Journal. “Our philosophy is to do what is best for the client. If they need a new account, then open it; but, if they have too many accounts, it’s OK to close them and get to the mix of services the customer desires.” Doing what’s best for the customer – or member – and what he desires as a governing principle for a business model. Sound familiar?

Sales is a fascinating phenomenon in credit unions. We want members to buy, but we don’t want to pressure the sale. We want to deepen relationships (measured by added products), but we don’t want to overwhelm members with a never-ending cross-sell. We want to pull members to a better deal, but not push so much that they leave. So, what’s a credit union to do? Advocate for the member.

Credit union leaders are always the greatest sources of practical wisdom for articles. Reach out to several dozen on any given topic and a “Top Ten” list will emerge. Except for this time. Forty-plus leaders added their thoughts, with one theme common amongst all – advocacy for members. Until the member wins, the credit union doesn’t win. Make certain the member is succeeding – with or without a sale – and the credit union will reap the benefit of a long, lasting relationship.

One CEO expressed advocacy in its clearest sense: “We want our members to earn more, save more, and experience more.” Products, services, and technology offer all three; but, not without a culture and set of systems that seek to ensure members are in the best position possible. Growth, and the sales that drive it, requires a long-term approach to relationships and their business value. Some members are ready to buy now – sell to them. Some members will buy later – keep them informed and be ready to act when their time is right. Do what’s best for the member.

Decades ago, Jim Cathcart, a fellow professional speaker, declared, “The highest level of business is an act of friendship.” Not revenue, profitability segment, or propensity to buy. Friendship. Advocacy for a member with your credit union’s success a product of that investment. As you continue to develop, expand, and refine your credit union’s sales and business development programs, consider the importance of being an advocate for your members and their opportunities to “earn more, save more, and experience more.” Odds are good the same kinds of business outcomes will benefit your credit union as a result. Your members deserve the success their credit union is able to provide.


© 2019 by Jeff Rendel.  All rights reserved.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional and President of Rising Above Enterprises, works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in sales, service, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners.

Contact:;; 951.340.3770.

High Performance Leadership from the Next Generation

January 22, 2020

“High Performance Leadership from the Next Generation” by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

Examine a good deal of books and articles on leadership skills desirable in today’s workplace and you will discover conversations on accountability, collaboration, communication, emotional intelligence, and integrity – to specify a small working set of many competencies. While these and many other attributes are necessary for success, what are the next collections of skills looked-for in up-and-coming credit union leaders; and, what inventive structures help to develop the next generation of managers and executives?

Listening to scores of credit union executives, from numerous asset sizes and markets, two themes emerged as worthwhile in preparing leaders for the future: get strategy out of the Boardroom and throughout the credit union; and, tap into the collective wisdom of next generation high potentials.  Winning the “War for Talent” certainly goes beyond competitive pay, generous benefits, and flexible work schedules. Winning involves preparing professionals for roles that leverage their talents with your credit union’s desire for higher levels of internal engagement and commitment.

Let’s explore different hands-on methods that credit unions are utilizing to prepare leaders of, and for, their futures.

Get Strategy Out of the Board Room and Throughout the Credit Union

Describe how every job is of great strategic value. One of the most common responses focused on the importance of strategic thinking at all levels in the credit union. While the development of strategy rightly occurs at the executive and board levels, execution is paramount at all points. Credit union leaders insisted that strategic execution can quickly fall flat when individuals are not able to understand how their daily roles fit with the overall direction. After all, members most often experience the desired effects of strategy through member-facing professionals. One Texas CEO shared, “Members interact with our front line and branch professionals every day, not me. I need those leaders to understand how their daily activities aggregate to create strategic success. It’s my responsibility to model and show the bigger picture.”

Similarly, it is important for employees “behind the scenes” to understand their roles in strategy, as well. In fact, many leaders argued that employees who “never see members” are a major part of strategy since members significantly depend upon technology, back office operations, and sound financial management for a long-lasting credit union. As professionals begin to realize how strategy fits with their jobs, their mindsets shift to understanding how important each role is in strategic execution through daily activities. A New York EVP stated, “In some way, we all serve members. When we understand that role, and its end result, we see that strategy is a part of all we do.”

Add an entrepreneurial approach to every job. With an eye toward strategic thinking, ownership and accountability is significant as credit unions look to instill commitment in workplace thinking. Several credit unions revealed that their professionals were challenged to treat their jobs as their own businesses. They were encouraged to focus on the business outcomes of their duties and were provided a stake in the results from success. As they succeeded and produced results unique to their given jobs, they were rewarded. Rewards ran the gamut from money to time off to in-office celebrations. Equally important, they learned from shortcomings and aimed for quick recoveries to ensure rapid execution and a likely path to success. “Trying, and learning, every day helped us be better today than we were yesterday,” shared a Minnesota member experience executive. “

Many expressed that expecting workers to just do their jobs was not as good as allowing them to get the job done. Staff members were encouraged to understand that successful approaches to business processes and execution asked that they regularly refine and modify methods to meet the changing needs of members and workplace success. If staff members were expected to own their jobs like a business, staff would also be allowed to find better ways to accomplish goals. One Oregon-CEO shared that, “When you’re the expert and owner, you know how to do the job best. If a better way exists, it needs to be offered, considered, tested, and acted upon.”

Get uncomfortable when there isn’t change. New ways of going about business means one thing: change. Remember how Sniff, Scurry, Hem, and Haw, the characters in Who Moved My Cheese, presented different ways that people deal with change? To some extent, change management in the past was passive; one deals with change. Today, creating change is a factor in leadership; and, is actively sought and expected, rather than dealt with and managed. “If you are not moving forward, you are not making progress,” conveyed a Missouri talent and development executive. “The continual improvement of a credit union and career involves change and transforming professionals who can be instruments of change. Progressive credit unions should realize that actively involving employees in change is key to creating compulsion for change.”

Most credit unions ensured that the business reasons for change were always explained in terms of the value provided to members and the credit union. Also important was discussing how members drive change and expect evolution as a part of retail financial services. “Our mobile app was preceded by online banking, ‘Telephone Transfer,’ and the ATM. Had we failed to move forward with our members, we would not have any members,” held one Michigan CEO. Regular communication proved invaluable in securing buy-in throughout the process of change. Interaction with all staff allowed for updates and questions, even when all the answers weren’t available. As a result, change became something expected and wanted (rather than shocked by and avoided).

Tap into the Collective Wisdom of the Next Generation

Design programs for high potential employees. Odds are good that a portion your staff show a desire and ability to advance and lead in your credit union. As credit unions identified those who might lead at higher levels, they developed a range of formal programs. Some created in-house, emerging leaders management programs. Many enrolled emerging leaders in industry management schools and certification programs. Others developed longer-term, cross-functional assignments that allowed emerging leaders to work together on projects involving respective specialties. And, several paired emerging leaders with next-level managers to help execute larger start-to-finish, profit-and-loss types of projects. The aim was to see how potential executives performed with executive kinds of responsibilities.

High potential programs add great value to succession planning, as well. They help to create leaders who are well-versed in understanding strategy, operations, and the interconnected nature of running the credit union. They allow a professional who is a specialist (say, Director of Payments) to gain exposure and experience to other credit union functions. This increases business savvy, broader credit union communications skills, and growth as a generalist (a skill many CEOs shared was increasingly important in higher leadership). In all cases, emerging leaders had opportunities to present before senior executives, the CEO, and even the Board. This gave the highest levels of leadership a helpful opportunity to meet succession in action.

Instill two-way mentorship programs. As formal education courses and internal learning curricula provide opportunities to grow, mentorship programs allow for mastering the nuances of organizational life. Mentorships pair an emerging leader with a seasoned executive or manager to regularly discuss ideas, challenges, opportunities, and work/life issues that might influence workplace projects and relationships. Most objectives for mentorships focus on helping the mentee accomplish more and improve professionally by: setting goals; building strengths; developing and assisting others; and, incorporating priorities, resources, and professional acumen when moving business initiatives forward.

Of greatest interest was the value that mentors received from mentees. Where mentors shared from experience and been-there-before wisdom as a way to help mentees increase effectiveness, mentees helped mentors see that “the gears of bureaucracy don’t need to only turn slowly.” One Florida EVP/mentor shared: “I thought the main benefit of this program would be giving our next generation of leaders a head start on how to advance and when to retreat. Instead, the real benefit was mine. When ideas are right for our credit union – and our members shouldn’t wait – my mentee taught me that moving faster than traditional ways beforehand made the credit union and me more nimble and ready to act.”

Create forums for innovation. Armed with outside training, internal development, and insights from those who have gone before; why not create formal mechanisms to give new ideas a chance to grow and succeed? Some credit unions instilled “Ideas of the Month” to gather systematic ideas. Others held quarterly “Good-Better-Best” meetings to aim for continuous review and improvement. But, six credit unions created so-called Departments of Innovation, made up of their high potential staff and overseen by the CEO. The premise was simple: the CEO would post an actual challenge to the innovation team with one message: “Pitch to me a solution with a concrete business plan.”

“Shark Tank” quickly became the nickname for the innovation teams. High potentials, from all areas of the credit union, would get to work with a goal, deadline, and permitted budget. Working together, they would debate, discuss, determine, and design a solution to the challenge. Understanding strategy helped with focus. An entrepreneurial mindset created excitement. Continuously in search of change generated lots of ideas. Working directly with other high performers set a high standard and prepared them for executive roles. Having a mentor brought clarity to considering the well-being of the credit union and culture. Come “Pitch Time,” the CEO would hear a plan ready for execution and, periodically, in need of some refinement. More important, the CEO had a cross-functional team of high performers that could, concurrently, work toward a common business objective. That, alone, established an advancement in succession planning.

“Credit Union Executives Will Soon Retire in Record Numbers,” summarizes the title of many articles in current credit union publications. And, it’s true. What’s also correct is the number of potential leaders, already in credit unions, with aspirations to learn and sustain that leadership. Invest in their strategic value. Invest in their ideas. Invest in their vision for the next era of your credit union.

© 2019 by Jeff Rendel.  All rights reserved.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional and President of Rising Above Enterprises, works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in sales, service, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners.

Contact:;; 951.340.3770.

Getting Strategic Meetings Back on Track

December 15, 2019

“Getting Strategic Meetings Back on Track” by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

We’ve all been there: The strategic planning session that opened with the intent of staying at the highest levels of conversation and found itself in the weeds the moment the discussion swung to marketing, branch locations, Millennials, and the list goes on. While it is important to include these and other issues in strategic meetings, maintaining the focus on “what” needs to be accomplished versus “how” it will be achieved is significant.

A board is tasked with balancing risk and return; ensuring members’ needs are met; and, providing strategic guidance to the CEO. Often, the level of detail in board conversations correlates with the life cycle of a credit union or a line of business. For a credit union just getting started (a few charters are approved each year), its board would be fairly involved in operational discussions as the credit union acquires members, generates revenue, and builds capital. Since most credit unions are mature and established in the industry, a board’s dialog might focus around new lines of business, different markets to serve, or increased concentration in a grouping of loans.

If a conversation with your Board feels like it’s getting too operational, redirect the discussion back to strategy. Staying mired in the details can create an unneeded setting that lessens the value provided from the Board and CEO. Below are some phrases to help steer the conversation back on course.

  • “Let’s establish and focus on our general objective.” How to market to potential members near a new branch can get very meticulous very quickly if left unchecked. Where a yearly marketing plan was once the norm; marketing is now very flexible and fluctuating with the use of analytics, business intelligence, and digital outreach. In this case, the general objective is to increase membership tied to a new branch. This pivot back to the overall objective keeps a board focused on the real reason for a new branch (adding and serving members), rather than the hands-on methods of accomplishing the goal.
  • “Are we taking too much risk? Are we being too conservative?” Entering a new line of business (commercial lending), a vastly different market (metropolitan area hundreds of miles from your established footprint) or increasing concentration in a product that caused losses in the past (high loan-to-value residential lending) can cause much concern for a board. While a board might agree that the new direction is necessary, uncertainty is common. A board may need to examine several scenarios to understand different outcomes. A board may ask for more attentiveness during execution, or it may perceive well-managed risk allows for greater than planned growth and business development. Regardless, it’s imperative to clarify your Board’s comfort with new risks.
  • “What gauges of progress are most beneficial?” In most cases, boards just need to see signs of progress, especially with new ventures or adjustments in current business plans. In the examples above, a board may want to receive updates on new members from new branches; net yield from commercial lending; market awareness and market share in a new city; and, past real estate delinquency comparisons – all as new or expanded endeavors become more mature as part of your ordinary operations. Providing this kind of information to a board allows it to provisionally be a bit more involved, recognizing that successful results will allow it to focus on new areas of growth and risk to the credit union.

Keeping a strategic meeting’s focus on what must be done, not how it is done, is key to achieving the highest outcomes from all participants. Consider using some of these tools the next time it seems that the conversation feels like an operations update, rather than a discussion about the next phase of growth for your credit union. You will accomplish more at your meeting and ensure that the roles of all parties are best utilized for the benefit of your credit union’s members.

© 2019 by Jeff Rendel.  All rights reserved.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional and President of Rising Above Enterprises, works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in sales, service, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners.

Contact:;; 951.340.3770.

PFI, Where Art Thou?

September 16, 2019

During a recent discussion, nearly 50 credit union CEOs deliberated that consumers may not seek a primary financial institution (PFI) for all financial services needs. That prompted further discussion on delivery, marketing, pricing, products, technology, and service. “If PFI status is elusive,” they debated, “How might credit unions refine their strategies to develop wide-ranging relationships with members?” Reaching out to an expanded set of credit union leaders, from various asset sizes and markets, the answers proved thought-provoking and action-based. Let’s explore.

Don’t expect financial monogamy. While people like to be loyal, price and convenience are significant drivers in consumer decision-making. Having multiple financial relationships didn’t seem that big of an inconvenience. While many credit unions measured products per member, most realized that producing a mass of “triple product members” wasn’t especially reasonable. However, constant life-stage and -cycle marketing allowed credit unions to have some grade of relationship (some years more, some years less), over a long period of time. The focus on retention and an elastic relationship led to top of mind status and a greater probability of sales.

Be incessantly uncomfortable. “Your member’s last experience is her next expectation,” shared a CEO. “Continuous improvement drives our commitment to ensure members remain.” Many leaders revealed that they endlessly observe the retail experience at other retail establishments. “Banking is retail,” voiced several CEOs. “As consumers, members have a set expectation level of service; it doesn’t vary from one business to the next.” Watching the retail experience, and fine-tuning their own, allowed credit unions to integrate different angles of the member experience. In the end, the credit unions formed a more pertinent experience aligned with members’ expectations.

Deliver on digital. The rise of the omni-digital member is here. “A good price, mobile access, and a local presence will bring members in, but digital ease will keep them here,” stated one CEO. The consumer swing toward “all things digital” necessitates that credit unions have a mobile-first philosophy in all aspects – marketing, new accounts, underwriting, funding, engagement, delivery, service, and the list goes on. “We want ease for our members; hassles lead to attrition. Thus, our capital investments focus on mobile delivery, business intelligence, and digital marketing,” replied a member experience executive. “We’re moving at the speed of members.”

Bulk up on soft skills. Where members will choose digital engagement first, there are times when an eye-to-eye or ear-to-ear conversation matters. Leaders expressed that when digital capacity is exhausted, or a complex matter is involved, members expect (and rely upon) a skillful professional. “When the time comes for a live conversation, our service leaders must deliver trust, empathy, communication, and leadership,” articulated several executives. “The soft skills that, often, seem old-fashioned are more vital today; we’re still in the people business. When members do reach out, it’s a matter of great importance to them. The connections we reinforce lead to long-term business.”

Build community in your branches. Branches still matter, but their emphases are changing. “Branches prove your permanence to members and the communities you serve,” held several CEOs. They voiced that branches certainly show long-term commitment to a community, but they also provide ideal leadership opportunities. Be it an onsite community room or staff involvement in home-grown initiatives, branches put the “local” into the big business of financial services. “Branches show we’re there, branch involvement shows we care,” voiced a CEO. “Pinpointed community leadership, through each branch, helps members – current and soon-to-be – see our values in action in places that matter to them.”

From the insights of this set of leaders, perhaps the “P” in PFI is better redefined as “permanent.” Permanent in the sense that a measured retail relationship may ebb and flow, but a credit union’s place in a member’s mind – awareness, marketing, sales, service, community – can be long-term. “Once a member, always a member,” the motto goes. Perchance the strategy for member relationships should always go beyond the onboarding phase and continue through the many periods of a member’s life and financial services needs.

© 2019 by Jeff Rendel.  All rights reserved.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional and President of Rising Above Enterprises, works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in sales, service, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners.

Contact:;; 951.340.3770.

Culture is a Balancing Act

April 8, 2019

“Culture is a Balancing Act” by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” said the late Peter Drucker, a distinguished management consultant and organizational scholar of our time. “But, what if your strategy is to change the culture?” countered a credit union CEO and friend. Both are spot-on: Culture is a crucial component of organizational existence. How credit union professionals comprehend, identify, and react to culture drives organizational capability and attainment.

Recently, the Harvard Business Review published an article titled, “The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture.” One of the more noteworthy aspects of the article and research were eight identified culture characteristics along two dimensions: how professionals interact (from independence to interdependence) and a general response to change (from flexibility to stability). Across all industries, two culture traits surpassed all others with respect to effectiveness: results and caring. More interesting, results and caring were opposite each other along the two dimensions. It seemed clear that a balanced approach to culture was most effective.

How are credit unions defining, building, and living culture? How do credit union cultures bring clarity and focus for actions and decision-making? In listening to scores of credit union executives, the same two characteristics emerged as drivers and shapers of credit union culture. Let’s explore themes that demonstrate how credit unions are fostering cultures around the attributes of results and caring.

A Culture of Results

  • Quite a few CEOs voiced that every colleague is the CEO of her or his job and its specific role in the member experience. In fashioning this CEO mindset at every level; expectations were critical; accountability was non-negotiable; and, acceptance of and action from feedback was significant. As a result, execution was optimal when all understood their day-to-day influence on long-term strategy.
  • Initiating and acting on member-focused opportunities also formed this facet of culture. While obvious occasions centered on members’ use of products, services, and technology; support and managerial coworkers contributed to member-focused approaches through enriched processes, workflow, and efficiencies. Face-to-face member interaction was not a prerequisite for one’s contribution to members’ experiences and success. And, in many cases, non-member facing activities were the principal determinants of the member experience.
  • When results help to steer culture, focused measures and outcomes are needed. CEOs clarified that strategic objectives and metrics are not reserved for those in the board room and executive offices. In fact, it’s the opposite. When strategic initiatives and measures are delineated – all the way to the first lines of delivery and support – every colleague is a stakeholder in the credit union’s success. As measures are achieved, celebrations follow. And, if measures miss the mark; lessons are learned, strategies are fine-tuned, and the drive for relevant results continues.

A Culture of Caring

  • CEOs also made clear that a key feature of culture is ensuring that all distinguish the role that credit unions play in members’ lives and, ultimately, financial services. Regardless of members’ needs or circumstances, credit unions aim to enrich each member’s financial standing and the place they call home. This greater good and point of focus, manifests itself in pricing, service, and community commitment. Many CEOs underscored the enduring stability of this pledge (closing in on a century in some cases) as a hallmark of culture.
  • Relationships and reciprocated trust among colleagues further defined caring as a part of culture. With all credit unions, the purpose and agenda were straightforward: service to members and their credit union. This standard necessitated that coworkers strive for professionalism, authentic communication, and partnership in their many interconnected working relationships. The result was not just improved collaboration and effective execution, but greater levels of commitment in a dynamic and rewarding atmosphere.
  • Connected to the CEO mindset vis-à-vis results; depending on workmates for insights, ideas, and innovative approaches to a credit union’s progress was useful. One CEO shared that the most practical and up-and-coming ideas often derive from those who best comprehend the inner workings of a department or job. Why not look to them first? Many credit unions built idea-sharing into job descriptions. This practice added value in that staff members readily contributed to building a better business model; and, continued to provide information as they understood where ideas fit and did not fit into present strategy. That their voices were heard mattered most.

While many other faces of culture exist and thrive, consider broadening “results and caring” as prominent parts of your culture. Though opposite in position, together they help align long-term strategy and everyday leadership. Credit union leaders – as they convey ambitions, cultivate leaders to promote a balanced culture, and persistently talk about culture – will discover they can achieve change and build their credit union in any business environment.

© 2018 by Jeff Rendel.  All rights reserved.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional and President of Rising Above Enterprises, works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in sales, service, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners.

Contact:;; 951.340.3770.

Five Practical Ways to Build a Member-Centric Culture

March 18, 2019

“Five Practical Ways to Build a Member-Centric Culture” by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

For the past two decades, credit unions have indicated that member centricity is the leading feature of their strategic areas of focus. You can find some variation of member emphasis in just about every strategic plan. But, how can a credit union tell that it’s getting this focus right? Technology, data, systems, and sales help; however, resources can determine how much a credit union can and cannot invest in these kinds of capabilities and processes.

All credit unions can get underway with a commitment to, and action plan for, a culture dedicated and driven for the member. Products, delivery, and marketing matter; but, culture encourages the necessary outlook and principles in employees. To build a member-centric culture, credit unions should deliberate these five practical ways to add action to their strategic objectives.

Think like a member. Simply put, members are consumers. While the product may change from one establishment to another, the expectations of members/consumers do not. Look to current research on customer service and uncover the elements that consumers value most. Then, refine your service and experience standards to reflect features that deliver value to members. It’s all about the member.

Listen to members. There are many ways to gain insights from members, from transaction-based member effort scores to good old-fashioned lobby talk. What’s most important is that employees hear feedback from members and how to deliver and increase value. To some extent, every employee is a member service representative. Each day, front line or behind-the-scenes, everyone serves members.

Hire with members in mind. If members are the priority, hiring practices should include evaluating a candidate’s inclination toward member service. Marketing and human resources can work together to create questions and consider candidates’ and employees’ views of member-centric thinking. Regardless of role, all employees should understand and connect the actual significance of members.

Measure member success. Ultimately, members vote with their wallets. But, a lot leads up to expanding or narrowing relationships. Common measures – net promoter score, average wait time, first call resolution, mobile/website uptime, loan turnaround – trace the association between culture and member. Member-focused measures display how daily activities generate member success.

Add member success to employee evaluations. What if evaluations were like mission statements – tied to serving members?  Every department affects some measure of success – revenue, profit, service, or experience. When an employee’s success is tied to members’ success, a stake is created. Expectations and results reflect commitment, risk, and reward to serving members at all levels of the credit union.

Credit union leaders have an appreciation that culture and strategy go hand in hand – culture propels strategic focus; and, strategic focus reinforces culture. With member focus at the heart of many credit unions’ strategic plans, evaluate how these five real-world methods can place member centricity at the core of every function in the credit union.

© 2018 by Jeff Rendel.  All rights reserved.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional and President of Rising Above Enterprises, works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in sales, service, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners.

Contact:;; 951.340.3770.