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Unconventional Thinking: Leave Your Own Back Yard

June 2013 – Vol: 36 No. 6
by Bill Rissel

Getting out of your comfort zone can get you new ideas.

Recently, I had the pleasure of “crashing” the CUES Florida Council meeting. I say “crash,” but in some ways it was a homecoming: This was my council while I worked in Florida credit unions for 15 years before coming to Kentucky some 22 years ago.

As you might imagine, there were a lot of new people, but there were still some “old timers” around—people who have served their credit union and its members for many, many years. Seeing them caused me to reflect on the many people who have spent their credit union lives serving members and making the movement what it is today.

A portion of the meeting was a networking session. I expected the participants would be discussing similar issues to those in our area. Some were, but I was surprised to find that many subjects were very different:

  • Increasing loan volume by lowering the acceptable credit score. The different slant here was to hold down delinquency and losses by installing GPS and engine cut-off devices. Net result: Higher yield on auto loans, and increased volume without increased losses. Some folks had several years of experience with this.
  • Having charities/schools market the CU for you by offering a prize for the most credit cards or new checking accounts referred. The organization that referred the most received a $1,000 prize (that’s about the same as the cost of a newspaper ad). This technique brought in far more business than the ad would have.
  • Offering property and casualty insurance. This is something we don’t currently do.
  • Using “non-standard” auto loan guarantee programs. The cost of the default insurance is passed on to the member.
  • Using a virtual private network for the board packet vs. a PDF file.
  • Various ways credit unions are using health savings accounts for employees.

Humans are herding animals. We are most comfortable going to the same meetings, and sitting with people we know. We naturally feel more at home in our own herd. It is a little unsettling to step away from our group and interject ourselves into another. The problem with herding is that we fail to expose ourselves to new people with different perspectives.

The payoff for our discomfort is obtaining new insights, learning new methods, profiting from a new acquaintance’s experience or becoming aware of a new vendor-partner that is serving members well. You never know what you will learn when you put yourself into different surroundings.

To experience those payoffs, consider registering for a CUES professional development event or a CUES Council meeting away from your geographic area. Attend a meeting focusing on a subject outside your expertise. Sign up for a webinar offered by the American Bankers Association and see what they are talking about. Drop in on a meeting of local entrepreneurs. Basically, force yourself to step out of your realm of comfort. What you experience may change the way you approach a problem or how you develop a new product.

I am trying to heed my own advice. Butch and Joe hold my normal seat for me every Thursday at Rotary, like they have for the last 20 years. I decided for a recent meeting to move to a new table and sit with Burt and Bill. They were leafing through a familiar magazine when I sat down. Imagine how surprised I was to find out that they also collect antique firearms!

CUES member Bill Rissel began his career in 1972 and has been president/CEO of $1 billion/ 78,000-member Fort Knox Federal Credit Union, Fort Knox, Ky., since 1991.

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