According to Wikipedia (so it must be true) the phrase “To have one’s cake, and eat it too” is to want more than one can handle or deserve, or to try to have two incompatible things.

I have often thought of credit unions conversion to community charters (while still hanging onto a huge sponsor) in many cases as a perfect example of “having one’s cake and eating it too.”

If your credit union was founded by a sponsor, (common bond) that still exists, expanding to a community charter is risky. And yet, credit unions have done this in record numbers. Why? Because they can.

A relationship with your sponsor is just that – a relationship. It needs to be nurtured. When things happen that threaten the framework (like new management) we need to be extra careful to emphasize our history and why we are with them in the first place. We need to make sure their needs are being met before we turn all of our attention to the community.

In the state of Washington alone there are over 100 credit unions that now have the entire state as their field of membership. Yet they still serve big, viable groups like Boeing, Fire, City, Police, Microsoft, Teachers, Postal and Healthcare workers.

Recently a 50 plus year-old credit union (we’ll call them XCU because WTFCU is already taken) was notified by their sponsor (which apparently the CU now refers to as a Community Business Partner) that the credit union is no longer allowed to visit their employees. Period. The “No Soliciting!” sign has been hung up! Door slammed in their face. Why?
This is what they were told (I’m paraphrasing):Because XCU has a community charter where anyone in the area can join. This does not make it a unique benefit to their employees.

SIDEBAR: XCU screams loudly in all their marketing “Now everyone can join!”

This employer does have a relationship with ING because, “They are part of the employee benefit package.” When did the credit union STOP being an employee benefit? It’s one thing to say it, quite another to actually do it. They got distracted.

So while XCU was out begging for business with membership drives in the community that included a chance to win a car, the sponsor (founder) was being wooed by ING.

Be careful what you wish for — they have absolutely no choice now but to go into the cold hard competitive community and continue to beg for business. Sure, they can still serve this core group, but they can’t take them to dinner anymore. It’s kind of embarrassing.

Remember, brand is your reputation. If you have a bad one, all the marketing in the world isn’t going to help you. What are you doing today to protect your reputation?

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