CU Water Cooler

Co-operate & Differentiate

William AzaroffComment
Photo from my recent trip to Bologna

Photo from my recent trip to Bologna

This is my follow up to my last two posts, the first on co-opetition and the second on differentiation. One could claim that I'm giving mixed messages. Co-operate but differentiate, how is that possible?

I believe that a credit union's democratic business model allows us to do both simultaneously. In Bologna, I witnessed co-operatives who competed with each other, and also banded together to jointly offer a service or respond to an RFP together. They knew that in some areas they could compete, but in other areas they needed to co-operate to prosper.

I see credit unions' relationships the same way. I want our web experience to differentiate us—for our members to understand Vancity's value proposition, distinct from other FIs, including other credit unions. But I'm also aware that we all need a similar toolkit 90% of the time. That's why, in BC, we share a common online/mobile banking platform. We all need the same tools, but we can market and use them in different ways. We are all, for the most part, on Twitter, but we leverage the platform in ways that speak to our business strategies and therefore come to life in remarkably different ways.

So choose those areas where you want to be distinct, unique and different. And choose those areas where you know you have the same basic needs as your credit union peers so you can co-operate and collaborate. By being clear on what activities fit into each bucket, you can create greater value for your members.


William Azaroff lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He is Director, Business & Community Development of Vancity, Canada’s largest credit union. William works on a team overseeing Vancity's entire granting slate to develop members' communities, improve financial literacy, develop new businesses creating positive impact and, ultimately, to grow the Vancity brand and business.