CUES Podcast
CUES Podcast
Jun 15, 2020
CUES Podcast 94: Setting Strategy and Planning for Growth Even in Tough Times—An Interview With Sarah Szilagyi
Play • 23 min

It’s OK for credit unions to be strategically planning for growth during these uncertain times, Sarah Szilagyi says during episode 94 of the CUES Podcast.

“We as humans as maybe even … as women, we tend to think when we’re in a time of needing to help people, it’s not a time to think about growth or opportunity,” explains Szilagyi, SVP/experience and chief of staff for CUES Supplier member CO-OP Financial Services, Rancho Cucamonga, California. “Actually, that’s one of the beautiful things about credit unions. Credit unions are meant to help people, that’s why we are here. But it is also OK to say, ‘There’s opportunity right now—opportunity to help people, which would lead to growth.’”

“It is a time of change, which means a time of opportunity,” she continues. “As consumer behavior shifts and needs change, what credit unions can offer members also shifts and opens up new doors. A lot of shoppers are buying online now. A good portion … are buying online in the last 10 weeks for the very first time. That alone is an opportunity to explore, that member behavior, that shift. What cards are they using? Are they protected properly, etc.? There’s an opportunity to broaden services right now and to better serve members. They go together. It’s OK.”

Szilagyi notes that the situation credit unions and their members are in right now is “all-new territory,” and totally unique from anything that’s been experienced before. Because of this, the process of strategic planning is shifting. 

“The pace of decision-making has increased drastically,” she notes. “We’re working cross-functionally more than ever to get things done. We’re looking at our members and asking, ‘What do they need?’ and really working quickly to serve those needs. We’re trying to plan and re-plan while many of us are at home watching children.”

Szilagyi notes a Gallup poll that found credit union members were hit harder than the average American with regard to the COVID experience. “Thinking about that is a credit union priority,” both in their immediate response and in longer-term planning, she says. Credit unions need to be offering “financial wellness and products that help their members be financially well, as well as digital and contactless type of products.

“Building trust is really one of the most important things a credit union can do right now,” she adds. “Being an ally will increase loyalty long term and members definitely need a financial partner right now they can trust.” 

These days, credit unions’ planning cycles are addressing immediate issues and looking forward to 2021, Szilagyi notes. To support credit unions in this effort, CO-OP Financial Services is offering its Credit Union Strategic Investment Assessment in partnership with EY through July 2.  

The show also gets into:

  • How the impact of people—both employees and members—on strategic and growth planning is bigger than ever 
  • Why data is an important foundation for growth
  • More about the development of CO-OP Financial Services’ Credit Union Strategic Investment Assessment
  • More about what a credit union receives when it does the Credit Union Strategic Investment Assessment
  • Strategies for applying in the real world the results of the Credit Union Strategic Investment Assessment
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