Day 2 of THINK 2012 delivered important messages to credit unions:

Putting member growth in the fast lane.

Dr. Neil Goldman, Senior Partner, Goldman Consulting and Strategy, discussed fresh research findings that will help credit unions to understand prospective members better and further member growth.

Bank customers still have negative emotions toward banks (even more pronounced for credit union members). According to Net Promoter scores, there are more detractors than promoters when it comes to banks. This score is reversed for credit union members. Still, despite negativity, most bank customers don’t move.

Dr. Neil Goldman offered a 10-step program to put member growth in the fast lane, explore it here.

Give people what they want, when they want it.

Alexis Maybank, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Gilt Groupe discussed in her “By Invitation only: How we built Gilt and changed the way how millions shopped.” the changing consumers and what credit unions can learn from the lifestyle start-up.

Gilt Groupe offers luxury items and services aligned with a luxury customer lifestyle and discount mindset. The site features 400, 000 daily visitors, 5 million+ members and 1.5 million monthly shoppers. Gilt Groupe curates their offerings and sell offer everything on their site. It’s an emotional discovery process. Gilt Groupe tries to be the most aspirational shopping experience.

Predictive Commerce

Businesses need to focus on capturing data to get to know their customers better, based on three pillars: Customization,Personalization and CRM.

A store in your pocket

Customers want to communicate with a brand on their terms, through their preferred channels. By now, the majority of consumers use mobile as their main device.

Social Media: Go to the conversation

Gilt Groupe brings services and sales to the conversation, connecting in real-time with their consumers and gives them lost to talk about and share. Don’t disrupt the conversation, just be a friendly service and people will flock to you.

Surprise and delight

Focus on what you can do online that you can’t do offline. You can’t build sites or platforms and hope people will come. Experiment, launch, iterate. Rinse and repeat. You can’t build trust through advertising, you have to build it through the consumer/user experience.

Int the following THINK It Out session, Alexis Maybank and Dr. Neil Goldman were joined on stage by Dr. Michael Steinberger, Dean of the Western CUNA school, Dennis Gabel, Chief Finance and  Strategy Officer Filene Research Institute,  and Bill Cheney, President/CEO CUNA, to discuss how credit unions can become cult brands.

Do we need to rethink how we engage with members and prospects?

It’s not the products and services that matter to people, it’s the emotional connection to a brand. Credit Unions need to segment their services and products, focusing on specific customer desires: Some want lazy services, some want high-touch services – you need to find out where the most profitable prospects are and deliver products/services based on their needs. Gilt Groupe’s self-imposed barrier is the email address customers have to provide before they can access the deal, get value. What value can credit unions provide in exchange for data?

Are credit unions too passive/too polite?

Credit Unions should be more aggressive with prospects, share their story. You can influence people by building trust. Credit Unions will never be able to match the marketing budget of Wall Street banks. However, new social channels allow credit unions to tap into the growing power of networked communities and relationships.

What are credit unions missing?

The community aspect of credit unions is hugely appealing to prospects. The more you create a sense of community with your credit union, the more people will be attracted to your products and services. 1/6 Americans are hispanic, what are you going to do about it? How are you dealing with more and more baby boomers retiring in the next few years?

Mission Critical Agility
In the afternoon session, Dr. Jeff Norris,  Mission Planning and Execution Systems Manager, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, delighted the audience with his speech about being agile in the 21st century.

Dr. Jeff Norris explained there are three pillar to implement mission critical agility: Vision, Risk and Commitment.


The first part dealt with vision, starting off with an anecdote on Monks jolted by electric currents happening sometimes towards the end of 18th century, followed by a run-down of the very interesting history of Alexander Graham Bell, whose invention of the telephone thrashed any outlooks that the then successful Western Union telegraphing company had. Moral of the story: Failing to see the value in visions can kill your business. (Even worse, Western Union was apparently offered to buy a fully functional telephone with related patents, for what can only be described as peanuts, and flat out refused it).


Dr. Jeff Norris illustrated the importance of risk with the example of getting to the moon, and how to actually achieve that. The defining moment of managing the feat was to propose that there cannot be a single spacecraft that would manage lifting off earth, landing on the moon, getting up again and re-entering Earth, but that the whole thing would have to be composed of several parts that would play a role during the different phases of the mission.

This idea was originally proposed by John Houbolt and first opposed and later accepted by Werner von Braun.

The main point: This massive change in concept enabled the NASA to land on the moon. The question needs to be asked not only about the cost of changing something but also the cost of not changing something. Sometimes we believe the road to success is doing the simple thing.

“Do the simplest thing (…) that could possibly work.” – Ward Cunningham.


When you’re making a tough decision, you often eliminate all the options until you make up your mind. How long can you stay uncommitted, considering the vast amount of options available? It’s often more important to know when to make a decision than what decision you finally make. The better way is to leave as many options as possible open?

Culture above Creativity

Doug Rauch, former President of Trader Joe’s, discussed with the THINK audience how creative thinking can yield better solutions to everyday problems facing your credit union.

Trader Joe’s is named after its founder, Joe Coulombe. The chain began as a Greater Los Angeles area chain of “Pronto Market” convenience stores. The original Pronto Markets were similar to 7-Eleven stores, so similar Coulombe felt the competition with 7-Eleven would be ruinous. He is said to have developed the idea of the Trader Joe South Seas motif while on vacation in the Caribbean. The biggest difference compared to competitors was that Trader Joe’s created a culture of sustainable innovation. This changes everything because it allowed the brand to regard creativity as process, not an event. Creativity should be an integral part of your credit union, not just part of a division or job title.

The real big picture according to Doug Rauch

  • A culture of trust and care is the secret weapon you have. If you want to change your credit union, change your culture.
  • Consider your credit union a customer experience company.
  • Transcend the Transactional. Look beyond the deal.
  • Connections with people make the real difference.


– To embrace risk within the credit union and board, fail forward.

– How do we create engagement with a new generation of customers?

– Try to find ways to cooperate with other people to be able to focus on your members’ needs.

– Find the key critical element that matters to your members and excel in that element. Great companies don’t excel at everything, they are good at 1-2 things.

In the afternoon THINK It Out session, Doug Rauch and Jeff Norris together with Caroline Lane, SVP Business Development and Marketing, CO-OP, and Jeff Russell, CEO/President, TMG Financial Services discussed how creativity and agility can reinvent your credit union.

Being agile when everything is on the line is critical.

It’s important to stay consistent with your vision but be flexible with your tactics. The panelists agreed that the vision for credit unions is there but they often don’t take enough risks and stick to proven but now less effective tactics. Credit Unions need to embrace the financial crisis and deliver diverse, customized experiences. Why would you try to emulate the opposite of the giant, faceless Wall Street giant? Be yourself, be authentic.

 Focus on the frontline staffThey are often the most important and personal connection with your members. Wouldn’t it be worth a massive investment to make the frontline experience for members delightful and enchanting?


– To embrace risk within the credit union and board, fail forward.

– How do we create engagement with a new generation of customers?

– Try to find ways to cooperate with other people to be able to focus on your members’ needs.

– Find the key critical element that matters to your members and excel in that element. Great companies don’t excel at everything, they are good at 1-2 things.

The day ended with the announcement of the THINK 2012 Prize winner,