Banks Are Our Competition. But They’re Also Our Best Opportunity

If, 100 years ago, you asked newspaper publishers why they were running a daily news organization, you would have probably heard about civic responsibility, leading the community, and shaping the thoughts and ideas of the influential and powerful. More than likely, they would have said they wanted to create the best paper in the world. Today, the answer is simpler: It’s about making as much money as possible. All other goals and objectives are secondary and need to serve the primary goal. In the past, profit helped the newspaper to achieve its goals. Today, the goal is to reach the profit goal. What if you asked a bank executive why their company exists? The truthful answer would have nothing to do with financial literacy, improving the community, civic responsibility or shaping the world to be a better place. The real answer would revolve around selling products, maximizing the profit of life events and selling into lifetime loyalty. Most big companies are pretty good at content marketing – creating backstories to explain their actions, reverse-engineering the “why,” making their story more about others than themselves. But let’s be real. People see through this pretty easily. They know the real story. They know about the quarterly earning calls, the expectations from the street, the CEOs that didn’t meet that goal. They know that most companies have a mission to change the world. But they also know that this mission is secondary to the goal to maximize profit. Maximizing near-term profit can be a productive goal but it doesn’t engage and motivate people. Even worse, trying to claim loftier goals while pursuing the real goal is very confusing. And, as we know, if the only guiding force is profit, this makes for a poor motivator in tough financial times. And an amazing opportunity for credit unions. We know that today’s consumer expects more from companies than just making profit. They want alignment with their needs and their changing world view. They want a partner involved in their community, a civic leader. Sure, they still want the best rates and innovative products and services. But those are secondary table stakes. They have experienced over the decades that economics trumps good intent with the majority of companies. Not with credit unions. We are clear in our mission, intention and our desire to do better. There’s nothing secondary about it. It’s what we are. And it’s our best opportunity to prosper in the future.