A few weeks ago a friend and I took a whirlwind tour of seven different Major League baseball games in seven different baseball parks. Our sojourn included Los Angeles, Kansas City, St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Denver. Great baseball and wonderful weather made the trip amazing. Then I got home and started to reflect on what I had seen.
"How could a common product—baseball—be experienced in such different fashions?"
We got to each park 90 minutes before the game and were also able to get the ballpark tour in St. Louis and Pittsburgh. Each of these parks were very different even though they had a very similar product. The size, the feel, the history with the overall culture was unique to each. How could a common product—baseball—be experienced in such different fashions?
All the teams were rooted in some historical context, either in the recent past or long ago. There was a story about each team that was presented in a variety of ways. The dugouts, the retiring jersey numbers, the statues, the color of the seating, the seventh-inning stretch and what was sung, and the list goes on with all that one could participate in seeing around the park. Even the specialty food seemed to be specific to the park.
The history seems to drip through the bricks like St. Louis with the number of World Series trophies displayed. Pittsburgh had items from players over the century that showed a richness I had never realized. Kansas City had their Hall of Fame and an unbelievable nine-minute movie about their history and the 1985 World Series. They all had taken some aspect of who they were and defined it in the terms that were already part of that team. Their identities were unique.
That got me thinking of credit unions. Each has a unique history and setting. The narrative around any credit union would be extensive. Just the small difference of how we do any particular business practice would probably show that type of difference. And yet all of us have exactly the same set of products for the most part. How it gets delivered is open to any number of options.
Ron Shevlin posted a great article on bank branches. You need to read it to get some context. The question is: Can credit unions formulate, from within their own unique and individual cultures, delivery mechanisms that present viable experiences as they relate to financial services that are relevant to their membership? Do members really care that the coffee is Ethiopian or do they want an understandable and acceptable reason as to why their check went NSF? There is a lot of listening to what is needed but no one is really hearing the message. It is time to change, not in some revolutionary fashion, but in what we know and what we do. We have good relationships with individuals that can be built with a newness and fashion needed or we can stand back and watch it diminish until it is too late.
I certainly can’t see the future or a precise model that should be followed. If we are ever to be innovative it is now in our attempt to formulate what is needed. There is always the room for failure in any new development but without any attempt to change our failure will be complete.
I look at it this way. Every game in baseball is different and unique. No two are ever the same. Can credit unions deliver a unique and different model from the same standard fare that is encompassing and part of their own culture?
Gene Blishen lives in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. He is the General Manager of Mount Lehman Credit Union. This is a single branch credit union that started in 1942. It is one of the few single branch open-bond credit unions left in the Lower Mainland of B.C. Despite its small size, Mount Lehman is known for being one of the most innovative credit unions in the world.