Ask an Exec – Volume 21

As part of our “Ask an Exec” initiative, each quarter BCEL members are asked to submit questions to our featured executives. Questions are compiled and highlighted on our website with corresponding responses.

For this edition, Janice McGregor, Senior Manager: Member Experience from Kootenay Savings Credit Union, and Nelson Sandhu, Chief Experience & Innovation Officer at G&F Financial Group, share their insights on the credit union member experience.

Questions:

1. What is the single most valuable piece of advice you have been given on maintaining & developing relationships?

2. As an advisor I know that my company doesn’t survive without sales. As a consumer I want to run away the second I feel like I’m being sold something, I want service. How do you blend the two so the member is satisfied with the service while the company still gets the sales it needs?

3. What membership/customer acquisition trend(s) are you seeing, and what do we need to do to stay competitive in this area?

Janice McGregor, Kootenay Savings Credit Union

What is the single most valuable piece of advice you have been given on maintaining & developing relationships?

Over the years I’ve received a lot of relationship building advice. It’s difficult to choose one single thing… So, I won’t.  This is what works for me:

  • Listen more than you speak
  • Be yourself – it’s much easier than pretending to be someone you’re not
  • Take every opportunity to let people know you appreciate them and why
  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable – let others know what your development areas are and solicit feedback
  • Take ownership of your mistakes
  • Apologize when you should
  • Ensure all parties understand and agree on expectations, commitments, next steps
  • Hold yourself and others accountable – be honest with yourself and hold up the mirror for others (even when it’s uncomfortable)
    • Give feedback through the heart and take it in through the head
  • Do what you say you’re going to do and if you can’t – inform those impacted asap

As an advisor I know that my company doesn’t survive without sales. As a consumer I want to run away the second I feel like I’m being sold something, I want service. How do you blend the two so the member is satisfied with the service while the company still gets the sales it needs?

Members want financial advice from people they can trust. Think about it – if your car keeps stalling you don’t go to your local garage and tell them what to fix… You hope they know their stuff and can evaluate your car’s needs and tell you what it will take to fix it.  If they overcharge you or change parts that aren’t broken, you won’t trust them for future repairs.

To give good financial advice, you must know and care about your members and know the products and services your credit union has to offer inside and out (including who they might benefit and why). 

To really know your members and understand their needs you must listen for cues and ask questions.  Then, equipped with knowledge of your products and services, you can identify and offer the products and services that best fit their needs.  This really is what members want.  ‘Sales’ doesn’t have to be a bad word – think of it as your way of helping your members achieve financial success.  ‘Sales’ only becomes a bad thing if you push products and services your members don’t need (or shouldn’t have).

All members have financial needs – if you know your products and services AND take the time to know your members and understand their needs you will do what’s best for the member AND your credit union. 

What membership/customer acquisition trend(s) are you seeing, and what do we need to do to stay competitive in this area?

CUs have an advantage – they don’t serve ‘customers’ they serve the people that own the credit union –members.  CUs often share profits with their members and with the communities they serve through grants and donations. Members have a say in how the CU operates and can vote for the board of directors.  CUs focus on members and ensuring they have what they need to succeed financially.  Big banks and fintechs generally focus on maximizing profit for the benefit of their stockholders.

Having said that, people still want options to do their banking when and how they want.  Many still prefer to visit their branch while others prefer digital and of course there are people that do a bit of both.

Credit unions (CUs) are challenged with providing excellent in-person service AND offering digital and remote services that can compete with banks and fintechs.  This is tricky as many CUs don’t have the resources the big banks do.  Also, fintechs generally have lower operating costs which means they can dedicate more resources toward innovative digital solutions.

People are not nearly as loyal to their financial institutions (FI) as they used to be.  Many fintechs and banks have shiny new products and services AND they’ve made it easier to transfer to them.  This means customers/members leave their FI to chase rates or sign up for the latest and greatest products and services more often than they used to.

CUs must find a way to invest more in digital banking technologies while continuing to provide the trusted advice (in person, digitally and/or virtually) members want and need. Once they have the table-stakes in place they should focus on promoting what they offer and the advantages of dealing with CUs over big banks and fintechs.

Nelson Sandhu, G&F Financial Group

What is the single most valuable piece of advice you have been given on maintaining & developing relationships?

Always be proactive about networks and never be shy about reaching out. Be the expert, be the connector and be the referrer. When people have an issue, or a problem (banking and non-banking related), help them out and leverage your network. Be that trusted person who can add value to the member’s journey beyond banking. Nothing beats that personal relationship building.

You want to have an expansive network and not necessarily deep relationships with the whole network. Be a connector and someone who people can approach when they need help or a referral.

Segment your networks with respect to level of contact and engagement required. Some networks disappear or wither away after a period. You need to refresh and create new networks.

Equally important, build networks beyond your work environment and industry. There is a lot of value and knowledge to be gained from global networks too.

Be strategic and make sure it is a mutually beneficial relationship where you can offer something back in exchange.

As an advisor I know that my company doesn’t survive without sales. As a consumer I want to run away the second I feel like I’m being sold something, I want service. How do you blend the two so the member is satisfied with the service while the company still gets the sales it needs?

I feel like I’m being sold something, I want service. How do you blend the two so the member is satisfied with the service while the company still gets the sales it needs?

We are in the banking business. Everyone needs banking. Members have choices. Our role is to provide our members the knowledge and advice to advance their financial well-being. The key here really is to build the relationship and trust, plus have great service. We need to time and position products and services as the need arises. It is our responsibility to identify the need, educate the member because it is important to address the gap, and only then recommend a product to fulfill that need. When you can get the member to recognize the value of the product and service, the process is much easier.

If the member banks with us, then ask them for their other business also. It is not like we are promoting a product that the member does not use or need. Everyone needs a credit card, and we need to ask why not our institution’s card when they bank with us? 

You cannot sell a mortgage if the person does not own a house. We sell nothing but fulfill needs!

What membership/customer acquisition trend(s) are you seeing, and what do we need to do to stay competitive in this area?

We are living in a very disruptive world where technology and data / AI is being leveraged to make our lives easier and faster. Businesses must transform or wither away over time. Consumers have choices and we need to provide them with personalized, frictionless, and efficient experiences. The whole user experience and technology infrastructure, together with decision trees must be designed with the consumer behaviour and journey in mind. How do we add value beyond banking and what are the interventions to make sure members stay on the right track? With Open Banking on the horizon, Credit Unions need to adapt and rethink their business models that facilitate automation and personalization. It is not an option for organizations anymore to ignore the rapidly changing consumer behaviour. Look at how we ourselves engage with other retailers and what are our expectations. Our members want the same!