Who Are The Future Leaders Of The Credit Union Movement?

A recent comment on this blog from Hap Landies deserves a bigger spotlight. In response to a comment I left to Mark Arnold, Hap writes:

“Ron, I’ve been working in credit unions for more than 30 years. I know hundreds of C-level officials, and I disagree that there is a “meaningful number of young professionals involved with managing, leading, and running credit unions…..” There is indeed a cadre of outspoken young people on the blogosphere and around the watercooler, but from what I’ve observed, they are more junior level people from credit union marketing and training departments, and the numerous marketing agencies that want to sell them stuff. They are indeed a rah rah bunch, but they aren’t leading their organizations now, nor will they be leading them in the future. The path to the corner offices doesn’t go through the marketing departments of credit unions. Never has and never will.

I should add……..thankfully for us.”

What do you think? Is Hap right?

My take: The question of whether or not the future leaders of CUs will come from marketing can’t be answered without understanding why the past leaders haven’t come from marketing. Two reasons dominate:

1. Worn-rug syndrome. Is there a rug in your house or office that has a path worn-into it? And what do people do when there’s a path already worn-into the rug? They walk on it.  So when the path to the CEO position has always been filled with people from a particular part of the organization, not only does the incumbent CEO think the position should be filled by someone from that path, but so does the board. And what happens is that marketing isn’t considered a source for the job.

2. Poor reputation. Let’s face it. Marketing has a poor reputation in the eyes of many senior CU executives. This negative becomes ingrained and even a great potential future leader will suffer to overcome this if s/he is in marketing.

So, is Hap right? That it will “never” change?


But that’s not to say that marketers in credit unions will somehow magically be on the CEO track in the future. The ones who get on that track will have to redefine the role of marketing in their organizations. 

Needless to say, the tchotchke-marketers (those whose view of marketing is centered around giving out refrigerator magnets) won’t be on the leadership track.

But marketers who view the marketing function too narrowly — typically in advertising terms — won’t make the track either.

The marketers who infuse marketing into members’ channel experiences, and who influence overall corporate strategy will be the marketers who make it on the leadership track.

Sorry for the political incorrectness, but a lot of older CMOs won’t get there. Their narrow view of marketing is too ingrained. The younger marketers are starting from a different mindset of what marketing is, and what it could be.

I hope you’re still around credit unions for the next 30 years, Hap, for these young CU leaders to prove you wrong. 

For more on this topic, see this post on The Mojo Company blog.

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