The P.A.

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

The Disruptor That Truly Differentiates

On January 30th, 2017, posted in: Uncategorized by

hands with smartphonesThere is a lot of talk in the business world around “disruption.” Disruption is just that — disrupting. No need to overthink the definition. It does appear to me that over time and after relentless conversation, “disruption” has become synonymous with new technology and/or carries a negative connotation. I disagree. Disruption can exist on many fronts and be very positive as well. Thought leaders may need a wake-up call.

Inside the financial services world (specifically credit unions), thought leaders, without conscious thought, regularly equate disruption with the latest and greatest in technology. Yes, there was a time when technology disrupted, then differentiated, but today it is primarily imitated from one institution to another. Those who subscribe to this narrow view of disruption may accidentally be more myopic in their approach than intended.

Inside our credit union and most other banking institutions, “instant” is the consumer benchmark created by technology. I’m not sure instant can be further disrupted. Now that mobile computing is relatively mature, imitation at a level of instant gratification has permeated financial services delivery. Most of us offer mobile banking already, so imitation far and away exceeds disruption. Sure, there remain degrees of technology disruption on the margins, but really, no one differentiates their institution with technology any more — even fintech companies are quickly imitated and/or bought by a competitor. Generally speaking, we all have the same “instant” mousetrap, leaving no substantive room for technology differentiation.

First, my point is this — disruption is far-reaching beyond technology. Second, there are other means that exist by which to disrupt and to differentiate. That’s the Holy Grail — differentiation.

  1. Socially responsible leadership with a giveback component is a disruptor that can differentiate.
  2. So is serving the underserved, marginalized consumers.
  3. Developing unique products that defeat the banks and credit union’s current overwhelmingly homogenous offerings, and help to meet people where they are, is another example.
  4. Understanding that community development is a strategy, not a job function, differentiates in a big way as well.
  5. And don’t forget the old-fashioned approach of knocking on doors, shaking hands and developing relationships. In a world preoccupied with the latest technology, “boots on the ground” may be the true differentiator, especially when tied to a social media effort.

Gaining attention is the currency to growing the brand and market share. Focusing on our credit union roots, our relationships, our service and our mission may be the disruptor that truly differentiates. Technology aside, even millennials want personalized service.

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