CU Water Cooler

A Prairie Girl Spends Another Day in Nashville

Jill HulsComment

Nashville. Water Cooler. Day Two. Five more things I learned

1. Nashville has a healthy nightlife on Broadway

Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge is an example of that with a front and back stage. If you are not careful, you may feel tired upon waking up for Day 2 of The Cooler. The Frist Centre for Visual Arts has good coffee.

2. Rob Oxoby may not make a great investment advisor

Given the advice he gives his family about buying Blackberry. That being said, he sure understands that his family may take his advice as they may consider him to be their “trusted advisor,” especially if his family could be considered “poor.” Rob studies and teaches behavioural economics (I think…the coffee was still kicking in…) at the University of Calgary. He also shared a few other interesting findings in research:

  • People who have a shared identity cooperate more with members of their shared identity group. Shared identity group members also hold each other to a higher standard of adherence to the norms of the group than non members, and respond with reciprocity.
  • Reciprocity for financial decision-making requires trust. Customers look elsewhere if they think they have been treated poorly, and tend to forget they are trusted unless reminded.
  • As people, we don’t like the feeling of losing something and we avoid it (loss aversion). Loss aversion is important when it comes to framing decisions and choices. Savings actually shows up as a loss for people in behaviours and may play in to why it can be difficult to show people the value. It requires a current loss via a reduction in current consumption. People also show less loss aversion with savings behaviours when engaging with a business or cause they identify with.

Why does this matter? Well the connection made was that for people to care about financial literacy and savings as an important norm, best success is had if they are viewed as part of their identity group. Fundamentally, if this is the goal of your business, you need customer engagement. If you get it right, customers will love you and bring more customers to you. So… how are we doing that I wonder? Clear Mission > Identify Norms of Target Market > Transparency > Consistent Execution


3. Shari Storm knows how to connect with an audience and show business results

In all honesty, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this presentation. Shari shared the story of Verity Credit Union and the transformation of their brand and positioning to grow market share and serve members.  My thoughts going in were skeptical: a Credit Union for Moms? How does this connect to a healthy business model? Then Shari took the stage. With great style and storytelling, Shari broadened my perspective with her story. She helped me understand that sometimes what looks like a niche may actually be a genius-sleeping giant. Some cool things to ponder:

  • Verity wanted to engage better with the “family market.” Was facing similar challenges as many credit unions in the system including sluggish member engagement, high average age of members, broad brand.
  • Through data, she came to the conclusion that if want to grow the family market, tailoring to earn the business of the “mom” could have huge impact: Mothers control 85% of household spending, high percentage of online users and sharers, the influence where the family does their business (including their children), they are loud and prominent advocates when they are pleased.
  • Through focus and positioning to Moms, $20,000 on a launch, and whole bunch of spinoff and organic marketing, Verity grew new members with 40% of new members being between 18 and 34, dropped average age of membership by three years, and has grown a low-cost organic marketing program using current happy members!

4. Gene Blishen is to the Credit Union System what Gandalf is to the Lord of the Rings

Gene cares a lot about the success of the credit union system, he gives generously of time and resources, he's an innovative thinker and wise like a wizard. With quotes like “I just think of a world without credit unions and it’s kind of dark,” it’s easy to want to learn and hear more from him. He is on Twitter and has a blog in case you are looking.

5. Matt Davis sees connections with innovative technology

Matt believes in helping members learn and gamifying the learning process. Automation and gamification of skills is all around us from Nike FuelBands, to vibrating forks, to peacock wallets to thrust meters. Learning new skills is hard, and we like to stay in the flow channel. Could we automate or game format our offering, resulting in more engagement in the flow channel and ultimately spread more education and earn more business?


So, in the end I walked out of the Cooler feeling like my perspectives had been broadened and I have more to share when considering, contributing to and making decisions. I met some fantastic people I hope to continue to learn from as we move this credit union system forward together. And you know what? I believe this is important as we all need each other in this system to be successful in our journeys—for sharing, for support, for challenging, for innovation and much more. I felt a sense of community at the Cooler; commitment to the credit union business model. For me, the respectful public questioning and debate of thought processes and ideas were a powerful show of that.  Anyone considering going to the Cooler in 2014, I say do it. Lean in to the Cooler community of people and ideas; reach out, interact and Tweet to get best bang for your buck. The reward will be new perspectives, friendships and growth.


Jill Huls is a branch manager with Conexus Credit Union in Saskatchewan, Canada. She's a member of the Saskatchewan Young Leaders Committee and was a top five finalist in the 2012 CUES Next Top Credit Union Executive competition.