Achieve Triple-Bottom-Line Returns Through Relevance

three interlocking rings
By Mike Beall

3 minutes

Everyone benefits when you incorporate relevance into your strategic planning.

Sponsored by CU Strategic Planning

Credit union executives must activate the significance of “relevance” as critical to the sustainability of the cooperative, not-for-profit business model. The question we must ask is “How are you incorporating it into strategy?” 

Increasing your relevance across product offerings, community engagement and differentiation in the financial landscape is key. By embracing research-driven decision-making, credit unions can achieve their own triple-bottom-line returns (member, community, and financial) and establish themselves as leaders among peer credit unions, fintech companies and traditional banks. More importantly, credit unions can stand out with consumers.

Evaluating Product Relevance

Strategic planning empowers credit unions to continually evaluate the relevance of their product offerings. Through market research, member feedback analysis and monitoring industry trends, credit unions can identify emerging needs and adapt their policies and product lineups accordingly. This proactive approach ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet evolving member financial requirements.

Relevance to Nonprofits in the Community 

Credit unions have a unique opportunity to demonstrate their relevance by creating partnerships that support the specific needs of nonprofit organizations in their communities. Strategic planning allows credit unions to understand the challenges faced by nonprofits and develop tailored financial products and services. By offering specialized accounts, favorable loan terms and educational resources relevant to the populations served by nonprofit partners, credit unions can build strong relationships while tangibly supporting nonprofits in achieving their missions.

Differentiation in the Financial Landscape 

In a competitive financial landscape, credit unions must emphasize their unique value proposition. Strategic planning enables credit unions to define and communicate their differentiating factors effectively. By highlighting their member-centric approach, cooperative structure and community engagement, credit unions can build a distinct brand identity. Emphasizing the benefits of membership, personalized service and positive local impact helps credit unions stand out

Embracing Technology for Relevance 

To remain relevant in a digital era, credit unions must embrace technology and digital transformation. Strategic planning plays a vital role in identifying technology trends and aligning them with member expectations and needs. By investing in user-friendly digital platforms, mobile banking solutions and data analytics, credit unions can enhance member engagement and satisfaction, offering personalized recommendations and targeted marketing campaigns. And proper strategic planning ensures that these investments will be in technologies that will both benefit members and be adopted by them. 

Strengthening Collaboration and Partnerships

Strategic planning provides credit unions with the opportunity to establish strategic collaborations and partnerships to enhance their relevance. By forming alliances with fintech companies or sharing resources with other credit unions, they can leverage expertise, expand service offerings, and access innovative technologies. Collaboration allows credit unions to pool resources for community-focused initiatives, showcasing their adaptability and commitment to serving members and communities effectively.

Improve the Triple Bottom Line Through Increasing Relevance

How are your credit union’s products and activities driving the triple bottom line? How can your credit union be more relevant, to increase that triple bottom line?

  • Return to members. Addressing their most critical needs by increasing household stability and increasing access to wealth and asset building
  • Return to your cooperative business bottom line. How is relevance showing up in the financials? Is your responsiveness to delinquency, staff turnover and evolving technology ensuring the relevance of your credit union? Is it reducing expenses or increasing return on assets?
  • Return to community. Every community is unique, and the micro-communities within your field of membership have unique needs. What assumptions do you have, compared to hearing the challenges and needs from the communities? How are your activities and engagements with partners contributing to community resilience and prosperity? Are you focused exclusively on branding sponsorships or deeply engaged in achieving shared goals with community partners?

Credit union executives should recognize that relevance is a key driver of success. By incorporating relevance into strategic planning, credit unions can evaluate product offerings, meet nonprofit needs, differentiate themselves in the market, embrace technology and strengthen collaborations. These efforts establish credit unions as trusted financial partners offering personalized, community-oriented services that differentiate them from competitors. By emphasizing relevance, credit unions ensure their long-term sustainability, deliver triple-bottom-line returns and make a lasting positive impact on members, communities and the financial industry.

Mike Beall, Esq., CUDE, is chief experience officer and co-owner of CU Strategic Planning, a CUES Supplier member. He’s recognized as an international credit union leader, advocate, and innovator, leading legislative outreach efforts to support CDFI Fund appropriations. Mike has served as president/CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association and its CLUSA International overseas development arm, as well as president/CEO of the Missouri Credit Union Association.


Compass Subscription