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CUs Dare to be different says Harvard professor
GDAŃSK, Poland (7/17/12)--Creating something different is often more important than creating something better, marketing expert Youngme Moon told a general session audience Monday at World Council of Credit Unions'  (WOCCU) World Credit Union Conference in Gdańsk, Poland.

When it comes to capturing market share, credit unions must differentiate themselves, marketing expert Youngme Moon told a general session audience at World Council of Credit Unions'  World Credit Union Conference in Gdańsk, Poland.
Moon, the Donald K. David Professor of Business Administration and chair of the Harvard University MBA program, shared her differentiation message with attendees at the conference, currently under way in Gdańsk.

Moon pointed her message directly at the global credit union movement, stressing the need--as well as the opportunity--for financial cooperatives to stand apart from the crowd.

"Right now there is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to grow your membership," Moon said in her keynote presentation. "There is disarray in the financial services industry, dissatisfaction among consumers, and the biggest financial institutions generate the most distrust. But are you different from your competitors in a way that's easily understood by consumers?"

Businesses have a tendency to make changes in lockstep with their competitors, Moon said, which makes them no more than another provider in an already crowded field. Companies able to capitalize on their differences--even to the point of emphasizing their perceived negatives in their product or service portfolio--stand a better chance of creating a persona unlike that of competitors and setting themselves apart. Add to that a commitment to members, and credit unions stand a better chance to differentiate their enterprises in distinctive and successful ways.

"You can't build a brand that's different without passion," Moon said. "For credit unions, differentiation comes from a sense of irreplaceability, and that will create a strong sense of loyalty."

Credit unions thrive when they consider what is best for the member, World Council of Credit Unions President/CEO Brian Branch told a general session audience at the World Credit Union Conference.
Loyalty to credit unions from members, as well as from credit unions to their members, has been an essential part of the global credit union movement's success, according to Monday opening speaker Brian Branch, WOCCU president/CEO. Branch shared credit union stories from Colombia and Mexico to Sri Lanka and Kenya, stressing the commonalities in member needs from country to country and culture to culture and how credit unions strive to meet them.

"It is all about what is best for the member," Branch told the general session audience. "As credit unions, we have a set of values that champion the common person and emphasize the financial empowerment of those members."

In recent years, two themes have emerged as critical to the future of credit union success, Branch said. The first is messaging and the growing need to articulate the credit union advantage in ways that are compelling and attractive to consumers. The second is increased accessibility, defined as delivering credit union services remotely and generally through handheld electronic devices to members whenever and wherever they need them. These and other key attributes will help define the credit union difference, he said.

Between educational sessions at the World Credit Union Conference, participants networked with their peers. (Photos provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
"We operate locally and cooperate globally," Branch added. "This is how we will build a credit union community."

Monday finished with breakout sessions that followed learning tracks on leadership and strategy, technology and innovation, compliance and regulation and international credit union movement trends. Specific sessions focused on redefining board member roles; meeting new compliance standards, including Basel III guidelines; and creating a "mobile wallet" to help introduce financial services to the rural poor.

The 2012 World Credit Union Conference runs through Wednesday. It will include a panel discussion featuring credit union leaders and regulators from three countries striving to seek common solutions, a closing general session presentation by Bank 2.0 author Brett King, World Council's annual awards ceremony and a closing night reception at the historic Gdańsk shipyard, the birthplace of Poland's Solidarity movement.
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