The P.A.

A weekly address from Patrick Adams,
President of St. Louis Community Credit Union

Having A Purpose Is What Sets Credit Unions Apart

On April 1st, 2013, posted in: Uncategorized by

Credit unions are cooperative structures, i.e. co-ops. That, in essence, means that our members own us versus being a customer at a national bank where, quite frankly, the opposite may be true. Membership is a better deal than being a customer – plain and simple.

There are those from within our own credit union ranks that discount the value of a cooperative structure. They claim that the average consumer has no interest in anything but good service. I don’t buy into that premise. But if one does subscribe to such an idea, I have a thought. Maybe consumers only concern themselves with good service because they are not aware of our story. Not telling our story is our problem, not our cooperative structure. We have tremendous value as a cooperative, but the guy on the street needs to know the story that makes the value come alive.

When a credit union sells nothing more than checking accounts, car loans, ATMs, certificates, etc., they diminish their role in the community. Surely, if all you know about a financial institution is what they sell, then the market is most concerned with the price, delivery and quality of said item. If a credit union would, for just a moment, stop cheapening their existence by being a purveyor of goods and services and begin weaving into the discussion why they exist (i.e. telling the story of their part in the community good), then suddenly the cooperative movement means something.

To all the naysayers of the world who think credit unions are “just like a bank with better service,” be advised that you have discounted our existence. When price, delivery and quality of a checking account are equal, then “purpose” makes a difference. A bank’s purpose is to pay its stockholders. A credit union’s purpose is to pay its stakeholders. See the difference? It’s huge and meaningful. The difference between being a stakeholder and a stockholder is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. There really is no comparison.

A diaper is a diaper is a diaper. Really? A peanut used to make peanut butter is the same. Really? Proctor & Gamble, one of the world’s best at selling stuff, realized that having a “purpose” attached to at least some of their products truly mattered. Pampers sales skyrocketed when they stopped talking about adhesive and dryness and started talking about childhood development. When P&G associated themselves with UNICEF and their purpose-driven efforts to vaccinate the world from childhood diseases, they started selling billions of more dollars of Pampers. When adhesive and dryness are equal, I guess having a story rooted in purpose matters.

Likewise, know that all peanuts are not the same. Some have carcinogenic afla-toxins. That’s “dangerous mold” if you’re a mom. That’s why Jif checks every peanut prior to going into their peanut butter. Now you know why “Choosy mothers choose Jif.” It’s more than a jar of peanut butter. It is about the good health of children. See, a story matters.

Credit unions have a cooperative structure that has a purpose: to increase people’s standard of living and better their lifestyle. If people knew our story, then price, delivery, quality and service would be just part of the decision. Add to the cognitive sales information the story of why we exist, and we’ve got ourselves a heck of a story. We probably ought to tell it.

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