Posted by Karen Houston-Johnson, VP, Credit Union Resources, Inc on 1/18/2017

Most all credit unions today are dealing with reduced profit margins, limited avenues for growth, increased operating costs and greater capital constraints. As a result, management should be more targeted in what it does and how it does it.

For many credit unions, creating a vision, core values and a strategic plan can be a daunting task. It requires management to accept that yesterday’s success does not guarantee tomorrow’s success. Rather than considering it another activity to check off, it needs to be a top priority, especially in our rapidly changing environment.

Make no mistake – even the best plan, without great execution, means nothing. Regardless of your credit union’s size, a strategic plan is the foundation on which all business activities can be connected and aligned.

Strategic Planning & Implementation

Below are four key ingredients to successful planning and implementation:

  1. Creating Vision and Direction that is Simple and Clear – A strategy may be fairly complicated at the highest level, but the closer it gets to the front line and marketplace, the simpler it has to be.
  2. A Good Plan – Is well thought out, challenges assumptions and is created with input from sources inside and outside of the organization.
  3. Great Execution – Requires commitment from the very top.  This commitment must be demonstrated through behavior, investment, communication, and accountability.  The Plan is a living document that must become part of the culture and updated to reflect changes in the environment on an ongoing basis.
  4. Communicate, Communicate, and Communicate! – Continuously, using different ways that connect individuals and their roles to the vision and success of the credit union.  Don’t communicate half way – close the loop by asking for feedback from all employees and all levels of the organization that are involved.

A well thought out strategic plan paired with great execution will result in organizational focus, accountability, and improved performance.

It’s also important to keep improving your strategic planning process.  Periodically, take a step back and review the purpose of strategic planning.  Double-check that the plan is creating clarity about why the credit union exists, what it stands for, how it brings unique value to the members, the marketplace and its direction for upcoming years.

Although it may seem daunting at first, there are solutions to most all of the challenges leaders face when creating a vision, credit union core values, and a strategic plan.  All that is required is reaching out to find some help!

If you need assistance with Strategic Planning, Leadership and Board Development, or Management and Board Succession Planning, OnBalance is here to help you with these important initiatives as well as Strategic Planning and Succession Planning.To learn more about all of the products and services we offer visit us at www.curesources.coop/onbalance.html  or contact Karen Houston-Johnson at khouston-johnson@curesources.coop, Howard Bufe at hbufe@curesources.coop or Dean Borland at dborland@curesources.coop.

Categories: Financial & Auditing, Sales & Service, Strategic Planning & Consulting, Succession Planning
Posted by Mr. Bob Rehm, CUDE, VP Sales and Service, Credit Union Resources, Inc on 1/17/2017

A Dallas area mall needs to be reborn as something else.  Two of its anchor stores have closed –Macy’s and Dillard’s.

Picking up some photos at Walmart I ordered on line, I was queued up with people there to pick up all kinds of merchandise they had ordered online.  And if you order groceries at Walmart, you don’t even have to come inside.  They will bring them to you in the parking lot.

Then, of course there is Amazon.  Fast and easy right on your door step!

I recently wrote a blog about the customer effort score, which is consumer research that tries to determine how much effort is required to do business with an organization.  The idea is to create loyal customers by reducing customer effort.  Today’s borrowers’ expectations may be set by companies that focus on ease of access to services and customer satisfaction.

What about lending at credit unions?  What’s the gap between the historic bricks-and-mortar delivery system and getting a loan online?  The ease of getting a loan will factor in the mix of how and where people get loans.  New entrants have entered the market with mobile apps and financial tools that simplify the loan process and provide the fast loan experience that consumers want.

Our Impact Group will soon begin a look at the state of lending.  At the upcoming Cornerstone annual meeting, the group will hear from subject matter experts on the trends in consumer lending and how adaptation of technology is changing the traditional methods.

Earlier the group had taken a look at branch transformation – the delivery of services via physical locations.  We touched on these delivery systems.  This round we will go deeper into the specifics of consumer lending.

Stay tuned!

Categories: Business Partners, Research, Sales & Service
Posted by Mr. Michael Salyer, IT Analyst, Credit Union Resources, Inc on 1/13/2017

Hacking has again come into the limelight recently.  The CIA, FBI, and the NSA have recently released findings that Russia may have been involved in the hacking of the DNC e-mails, as well the e-mails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta. The influence this had on the election is far beyond the speculation of this blog post, but it does once again show how anyone can be vulnerable to hacking.

For obvious reasons, financial institutions will always be a high priority target for hackers. The financial reasons are a given, but some of the grey hat hackers might choose to attack financial institutions not for monetary gains, but to sow chaos. The hacking mentioned above shows that no institution is safe from hackers. So if you are a $10 million credit union or a $1billion plus credit union, it’s vital that you take the necessary steps to protect your members’ assets. In this blog we will discuss three main ways to protect yourself and your credit union from hackers; 1) Strong passwords, 2) a robust firewall, and 3) ongoing social engineering training.

Strong password security is an ongoing battle between users and administrators. If network admins had their way, all passwords would have to be at least 20 random characters required to be changed on a weekly basis. Most users would like to have to never change their password, which is most likely the name of their favorite child or pet. The ideal balance is something in between obviously. Good passwords start with having four out of four on complexity; meaning an uppercase character, lowercase character, number, and special character. One measure we teach is to use passphrases instead of passwords. Take this phrase, “My network admin does not like me and the feeling is mutual.”  If you use the first letters from each word, make every other word capitalized, and change some letters to numbers you can get this, “MnAdNlM@Tf1m”. This is a password no one could possibly guess, except perhaps your network admin, who doesn’t like you.

Another security measure you should take is a having a robust firewall with a built-in intrusion detection/prevention system (IDS/IPS). Before any penetration is attempted on your network the hacker is most likely to attempt a probe on your system. A firewall is the first device that sees incoming data from the Internet. Like a security guard posted at your credit union entrance, a firewall receives, inspects and makes decisions about all incoming and outgoing data. But a firewall is not a “set and forget” device. Not only does it require constant monitoring (to include automated alerts), but proper patching is vital. Hackers are always looking for new loopholes to exploit, so if your firmware is out of date, you could be vulnerable to attacks.

Finally we get to social engineering. This is defined as a non-technical way to breach your security. Social engineering is just another form of ID theft, in which the hacker will try to gain access to a user’s full name, date of birth, SSN, account number, etc. Account numbers are especially attractive to hackers, since many online banking platforms require members to use this as their login ID. Some of the more common types of social engineering, and perhaps the best known, are phishing techniques, usually done through e-mail. As a rule, never click on a link in an e-mail that you aren’t 100% sure about. Especially ones asking you to log into something. A good rule of thumb if you aren’t sure is to hover your cursor over the link. At the bottom of your browser it will show you the actual location you’ll be directed to. In addition, always report suspicious e-mails to your IT personnel. Another method of social engineering would be someone attempting to infiltrate your branch disguised as someone else. This could be someone dressed as a technician or someone in authority (policeman, fireman, etc.). No matter who it is, always check for an ID and then check with your management to ensure this person has authorized entry.

These three are by no means all you need to do to protect yourself and your members’ data, but it’s a good start. Your IT personnel and/or your Security Officer should keep themselves up to speed on current and trending threats. However, it’s not their job alone. Every credit union employee must use common sense and situational awareness to keep your assets safe.

Categories: Technology Consulting & Compliance
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