Is Credit Union Organizational Structure Holding Back Member Growth?
Credit Union Organizational Structure: Challenges Abound Within the CU Industry
As Credit Unions grow, staffing tends to expand along with the CU's assets, and this can sometimes lead to a counter-intuitive segregation of duties. This is not a problem that is specific to only CUs, but one that is often faced as many kinds of businesses expand and add new staff.
We’ve seen many medium to large CUs where digital responsibilities were grouped with mobile banking staff, programers or other IT personnel, outside of marketing or communications departments. We’ve also seen CUs with too many staff in the mix, leading to a lack of a clear chain-of-command and thus failing to adequately follow-up on what is or is NOT being accomplished.
Unfortunately, there’s no template for how a Credit Union SHOULD be organized, but with greater number and specialization of staff comes the potential for inefficiency and decentralization of responsibilities. Both of these can lead to larger marketing and sales campaigns that are disjointed and lack clear implementation.
Further, Credit Unions often grow based on the skill sets of existing employees. CUs tend to promote from within, which is a great strategy for building a postive work culture, but this can lead to challenges in other areas. CUs often don't hire from outside the Credit Union unless someone leaves the organization. This can sometimes leave a Credit Union with a lack of technical expertise in areas of innovation or change.
It is essential that CUs periodically restructure staff based on skill sets, assessing areas of need and then filling those gaps, rather than simply letting departments grow and change over time via staff attrition. Departments that remain organized as they have always been for the sake of preserving the status quo is a dangerous habit, though one that is all too common.
Be wary… when evaluating CU organizational structure, the ‘path of least resistance’ may lead to inertia and stagnation.
We recommend that Credit Unions keep all forms of member communications and marketing within ONE department’s chain-of-command. However, it is also essential that marketing goals and objectives are tied and coordinated with sales and lending staff, so that leads from one department are then properly follow up on through the other.
Credit Unions should also have some form of Service Level Agreement (SLA) between marketing and sales, so that individuals understand their roles and expectations with regard to the buyer's journey. If, for example, marketing is driving leads in the form of email or phone numbers for potential new loans, but then member service is failing to adequately follow up with these leads, you will see frustration and lack of success.
Some Credit Unions group Marketing and Business Development staff into one department to better connect leads to follow ups and conversions. This is potentially a very good practice, but depending on the size of the CU this may or may not be practical.
Remember that it's easy to tell people they should be doing some kind of specific sales or marketing activity, but if these staff members don't have the time in their day or the best practice training to implement a new idea or approach, they will likely fail, and again this will lead to staff frustration and lack of growth.
We also recommend a CRM be in place and utilized by BOTH Marketing and Sales/Business Development, so that relationships with new member leads can be better nurtured over time.
About Meredith Olmstead
Meredith Olmstead is the Founding Partner of Social Stairway, LLC, which provides Digital Marketing services to Credit Unions and Affiliates. As an experienced Director of Online Marketing, she has implemented marketing strategies for various industries and as a Marketing Consultant she has worked with Credit Unions, taking staff step-by-step through the process of launching all of their Digital Marketing efforts. Meredith recommends a very clear and measureable strategy to all of her CU clients, and then works with them to re-evaluate the success of these efforts on a continuing basis, all with an eye on moving toward a clear return on your online marketing investment.