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Connecting the Dots on Credit Union Collaboration: A Colloquium at the Wharton School

The last five years have been difficult for credit unions, and smallness is, without question, a major factor in that difficulty. The increasingly challenging environment of the financial services industry may spur credit unions to take a more proactive approach to collaboration.

Executive Summary

Have you ever seen the solution to a problem so clearly, yet at the same time you realize it may be nearly impossible to implement said solution? For us at Filene the problem is anemic credit union growth and the sustainability of the industry. The solution is large-scale credit union collaboration. There is a raft of data, experience, and philosophical undertones supporting collaboration among credit unions.

This report is the second step toward understanding the how, why, what, who, and where of collaboration in the credit union system. The initial step was a research report exploring the viability and application of the franchise model with credit unions.

What is the research about?

This report summarizes the proceedings and research findings from a colloquium held in conjunction with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and sponsored by Filene Research Institute in August 2007. An impressive group of academics, consultants, and practitioners shared their theories and experiences with collaboration from inside and outside the credit union industry.   

What are the credit union implications?

During the colloquium, Filene Research Institute’s chief innovation officer, Denise Gabel, aptly noted, “The issue is not collaboration. It is about change.” She is absolutely right. While credit unions need to understand the vagaries of how large-scale collaboration works, the larger issue is that of changing behaviors and mind-sets.

Filene Research Institute invites the entire credit union system to pause and consider the implications, benefits, and power of collaboration. The credit union system has the moving parts, resources, and ability to collaborate. It only requires the will of the credit union system to make large-scale collaboration happen.