National Speakers Bring Operational Efficiencies, Employee Engagement and Inspiration to Northwest

The Small Credit Union Roundtable offered networking opportunities and leadership content tailor-made for CEOs of credit unions with assets of $50 million or under.

Scott Prior is like many Northwest CEOs: hungry for new ideas, networking opportunities and ways to make his credit union even more relevant in the community. He’s also so busy leading Connection Credit Union that it’s tough to find time to leave the credit union to find some of those solutions.

Last week, Prior invested in the time to attend the Northwest Credit Union Association’s Small Credit Union Roundtable and the NWCUA/CUES Leadership Symposium. It was a commitment he feels paid off.

“We all have our reasons why we can’t attend,” Prior says. “Too much to do, not enough staff to cover, vacations, auditors—the list goes on and on. However, I am always reminded when I do make time to attend these events, how truly valuable it is to get out of our own little cocoons and see how others are doing things.”

What Prior and other CEOs of small credit unions learned at the roundtable was that “profit” isn’t a bad word; it’s “what keeps the lights on.”

Operational efficiency expert Joseph Prunty was candid about the need for credit unions to fully understand where costs are consumed, where they are spending their money and how much revenue is generated. Prunty revealed that typically, 20 percent of members are contributing 150% of a credit union’s net income. So if services to the remaining 80% of members are going to lose money, it has to be subsidized by revenue generation.

Prunty had some seasoned advice, telling the CEOs to:

  • Ensure vendors are pricing services fairly;
  • Get a clear picture of which members and products are driving contribution to the margin;
  • Determine whether their credit unions have the right products and services; and
  • Create a plan to leverage this information to build a more sustainable business model; a laser focused plan with three or four products and services vs. 20 or more.

At the NWCUA/CUES Leadership Symposium the following day, leadership consultant Michael Neill shared the common characteristics of the highest-performing middle managers and gave employee-engagement insight to attendees.

Neill, president of Michael Neill & Associates, authored an acclaimed research paper on effective managers for the Filene Research Institute. Too much focus on numbers, Neill told Symposium attendees, creates employee disengagement. Instead, Neill advised, focus on the three drivers of engagement including:

  • Trust – are you believed to be authentic?
  • Values – what is important to the organization?
  • Purpose driven mission – a behavioral driver bigger than simply making money.

Neill pointed out that credit unions likely don’t have the financial resources that huge companies such as Apple and Google are able to offer, so they should celebrate the fact that there’s “something awesome and great” which employees are part of.

Neill advised credit union CEOs to coach behaviors, not merely outcomes. He encouraged them to create an environment allowing employees to take risks to build exceptional member service experiences. If employees only follow standard operating procedures, Neill reasoned, then they’re not being allowed to make decisions and excel.


Editors’ note: The next Leadership Symposium and Small Credit Union Roundtable events will take place in Portland on April 17 & 18, 2014.

Questions? Contact Lynn Heider: 503.350.2225,

Posted in Events, NWCUA.