Headshot of Teresa Freeborn, CEO and President of Xceed and CUNA Board Member

Open Your Eyes: Three Myths that Hold Credit Unions Back

It it time for us to open our eyes to a credit union? Turns out, our eyes may already be open, but we’re not seeing the full picture.

Teresa Freeborn, CEO and President of Xceed Financial Credit Union and a Board Member of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), joins us to talk about CUNA’s Open Your Eyes campaign, including what it hopes to accomplish, why the campaign can’t be a “hit and run” effort, and how the propagation of three central myths continue to hold the industry back. Oh, and also how pizza has ruined college students’ FICO scores.

The Three Myths:

  • Credit union awareness is the problem: Despite the ongoing perception of credit unions as the underdog against the big, bad banks, 98% of consumers know about credit unions and have a positive impression of them. The myths that are hampering credit unions, are that you won’t have broad access to your money and that you aren’t eligible for membership. These misperceptions neuter the great work credit unions are doing nationwide by removing them from consideration for many groups of people who could greatly benefit.
  • Self-promotion should be each credit union’s marketing end goal: The credit union industry as a whole must commit to better, more sustained marketing efforts. These efforts need to be much more than just “Apple vs. PC” brand-based attacks; the credit union industry as a whole needs to team up, to reshape the perception of the entire industry, rather than the ongoing self-promotional efforts of individual credit unions. This will create a rising tide that will raise all credit union boats, rather than just propping up a few credit unions at the expense of the overall industry’s health.
  • “Credit union” is a negative term among younger generations: On the contrary, credit unions actually have quite a good reputation among Millennials and Gen Z. On a surface level, this makes a lot of sense when you view it through the lens of ‘who has benefited most from the traditional banking system?’ Since, for a wide range of reasons, these generations haven’t seen the value that older generations see in the banking system, it’s only natural that their eyes would wander for an alternative. It’s important for credit unions to capitalize on this, and be the alternative younger generations want to see.

Read the full transcript here:

Cameron: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Remarkable Credit Union Podcast. We created our podcast to help credit union leaders think outside of the box about technology, community impact and marketing. Each episode we bring on expert guests from inside and outside of the industry for conversations about innovation. Our goal as always is to challenge your preconceptions about business as usual and provide you with actual takeaways that you can use to grow your membership, improve the financial health of your cooperative, and magnify the positive impact you make in your community. Today’s big question, how can credit unions get the most out of the Open Your Eyes Campaign, that CUNA is leading as well as benefit from all the research and best practices that have come out of its creation on an ongoing basis? Today I’m very excited to welcome Teresa Freeborn, President and CEO of Xceed Financial.

Theresa is, I would say, sort of a luminary in the credit union space. She’s currently on the board of CUNA and she’s very, I think this is a well-deserved and I think exciting honor. She’s going to be featured by the National Credit Union Foundation at the Herb Wagner dinner in early 2020 with a lifetime Achievement Award for all of her good work. I have several connections to Teresa, so Xceed Financial is actually a client of Pixel Spoke. And I was at the Global Alliance for Banking on Values in Vancouver earlier this year and I was talking to a former board chair and they started raving about this CEO in the credit union space and all they were doing.

And then eventually I made the connection that it was Teresa and we just learned before this, that 20 years ago, she is actually from Vancouver, BC, and she immigrated to the US. So big move and as far as the commitment level that we’re both going to bring to all of you today, I’m leading this podcast with a broken rib that I got in soccer last night and Teresa is visiting her family in Vancouver, BC and is calling us on vacation. So Teresa, thank you so much for joining with all that going.

Teresa Freeborn: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Great to be here, Cameron. Thank you.

Cameron: So I’d love to start, can you tell us a little bit about how the Open Your Eyes Campaign came to be? What’s the primary goal for you all with this campaign?

Teresa Freeborn: I’m so excited to tell you a little bit about this because you know, all of us are, I guess we all believe so passionately in our credit union movement and of course the difference that a credit union membership can make in a person’s life. And yet, credit unions as a whole, as a category, we’ve been stuck at about 7% market share for financial services for generations, like we’re talking for decades.

So it was time to understand why, why is that? And of course more importantly to develop a strategy to try and correct it. And the Open Your Eyes Campaign is totally rooted in market research, which is a really important thing to note off the top. And it shows that we actually don’t have an awareness problem, which is what everyone thinks it is. We actually have a consideration problem. And even though 98% of Americans have heard of a credit union, so they are aware of us, 72% say that they wouldn’t do their banking with a credit union.
And that’s because they have a couple of misconceptions about credit unions. And first of all, they think that we’re not everywhere so that would be really hard to access their money. Which of course isn’t true. I mean we have the shared branching network. We have a proliferation of ATMs more than what any of the big banks have individually. So, that even means that even a one branch credit union can be virtually everywhere. So that to me is a myth as I call them here.

But the second is that consumers also don’t think that they can join a credit union, which again is another myth. It’s not true, because everyone is eligible for membership in one credit union or another. So it’s not like we’re not accessible. So these are major misconceptions that people have about credit unions. And while a lot of us are working very hard in our own individual marketing to promote our own credit unions and promote our own specific products and services, those industry wide perceptions are just so much bigger than any one individual credit union can possibly tackle.

So the primary goal of this Open Your Eyes Campaign is to combat all of those misconceptions and sort of at the very top of the food chain, at that sort of credit union category level, really try and get credit unions into that consideration set for financial services.

Cameron: That’s a really fascinating set of misconceptions. I remember I was at a Filene event a couple of years ago at Arizona State, I think, and they brought in university students and they talked about how they just started grilling them up there and they all kind of said, “Oh well we chose,” I think it was Chase or Wells Fargo, there just weren’t enough ATMs, [inaudible 00:04:36] I was just thinking, “What a fantastic and kind of painful example of what you’re talking about,” that both the access question and the eligibility question. So it’s fascinating. So those two questions, basically, we’re not everywhere and you’re not eligible. Those are the myths that we’re trying to combat.

Teresa Freeborn: Exactly. Thank you.

Cameron: Yeah. So if the campaign ends up meeting or really just exceeding expectations, what impact do you hope it will have on the industry? You talked about the sort of 7% market share being stuck there. What kind of vivid vision do you have for the future?

Teresa Freeborn: That’s important you say that, because the short answer truly is, is that we’re going to make some inroads, of course, into that market share dominance of the big national banks. By empowering these consumers out there to make better and more informed choices for their financial service relationships. But let me tell you why I always emphasize that this isn’t and can’t be a hit and run campaign. I think this is the most important thing that your listeners need to understand. You can’t anticipate some instant turnaround here. Okay. This is going to be a long haul on our part. So our research shows of course that the consideration problem that we face relates to what I call that big brand I mentioned earlier. And each of our credit unions has of course their own individual brands. But you know what, for better or worse, we’re all part of that big brand that’s called credit union.

And, I think you probably know exactly what I mean. When people talk about credit unions, they don’t usually say Xceed or Kinecta, instead they say that credit union, we’re all simply that credit union to most consumers. And the good news is that most people have generally very positive views about that credit union, after all we’re the good guys of banking, right? We’re for the people, we’re not for profit. We’re the ones who helped many of them finance their first car. They like us, they really, really like us. That’s kind of where we sit with them. But they have those lingering misconceptions that I mentioned earlier, which has of course kept our whole market share very flat. And it’s essential that this industry, brand building, big brand building campaign, it’s got to be sustained over time because consumers don’t buy checking accounts or mortgages like we buy groceries for instance, right?

It’s going to be maybe a year or two years or longer before any one individual makes a major financial decision. But here’s the kicker though, when they are ready to make those major financial decisions, we as credit unions need to be right there at the front of their mind so that they can come and check us out and see the kind of value we bring. So if we pull together as an industry, and we do this right, the campaign is going to work very hand in hand with individual credit union marketing because, of course, when they’re ready and we’re top of mind, they will go to their individual credit union. So we’ll all benefit from that. And all of this will of course deliver that long-term growth that we as an industry need to see and need to plan for.

Cameron: So, I can’t remember, some famous person said this, but it was like, “When do we change? And it’s that we change when the pain of doing nothing starts to exceed the pain of trying something new.” And so you’ve got a great quote that we found online where you said with regards to this campaign, and let’s just say that the broader movement credit unions nationally joining that we need to stop asking, should we do this and start asking what happens if we don’t do this? So what do you fear, if we’ve been steady at 7% for decades, what’s your fear if we don’t just, if we just stick with the status quo?

Teresa Freeborn: I guess it comes down to me being that sort of as a matter of survival for credit unions. And by the way, that quote, I stole that off my chair of the board of CUNA, Brett Martinez, he always says that and I loved it and I said, “We have to tell everybody that because to me at the end of the day, stop it, stop, stop asking, should we do it?” It was just such a brilliant way to get the message across. So I’m going to give him full credit. Here’s what it comes down to. If you think about the big banks and the dominance they have and you think about all this emerging new FinTech offerings and nontraditional competitors. You hear all of this as you go to all these conferences, but I think the days are over when individual credit unions can sort of stumble along and not worry too much about competitors or innovation and they can expect that their institution would be just fine.

Everything will just carry on. But it’s not today’s reality. This pace of change, as you mentioned, in financial services, it’s such that we simply can no longer survive sort of squirreled away in our own little niches that we have, it’s impossible. And if you think about it, none of us are really big enough or rich enough, compare us to those big banks we talked about earlier. We can’t do this on our own. It’s impossible. So as has been the case for I think so many other successes in our industry, whether there are co-op trusts or are credit union indirect lending, we need to band together and we need to band together in a very collaborative way to make some big change in how consumers and Americans see credit unions. And this campaign isn’t designed to change credit union values, but it certainly introduces us in new ways to consumers that haven’t really considered us.

And if we don’t act and we don’t do it together, those are the two pieces right now, it’s absolutely inevitable that our already very puny slice of the financial services pie could actually cease to exist because we’re going to be irrelevant. And by that time, I think it’s just going be too late to do anything. So that would be just such a huge loss. I mean obviously not for all of us who have devoted our careers to the credit union system and industry that we’re in, but most of all to consumers and our members who would lose out in what I believe is their absolute best value and absolute best choice for their financial services out there.

Cameron: Yeah, you make a really interesting point. I hadn’t really thought about this, but I guess in a sense the move towards community charters, exposing credit unions to more competition has probably also increased the need for credit unions to bond together in that collective brand that you talk about it. I like that framing of how that really is going to be what’s going to drive this next phase. I’d love to talk a little about marketing because you have a stat that kind of made my eyeballs pop out of my head a little bit. You said that banks typically outspend credit unions by $43 to $1 when it comes to marketing. So I’d love to know, do you think this is the primary barrier when it comes to general awareness about credit unions or just kind of a lack of marketing culture in investment or are there other factors as well?

Teresa Freeborn: Well, certainly the money that we spend on marketing is a big factor here. But remember, when you talk about the banks and their spend, they spend most of the time fighting over each other’s customers. Okay. That’s the first thing I’ll say. And remember, credit unions, we don’t have this awareness problem as we initially thought, we have this consideration problem. So that’s a really crucial distinction here. And the primary barriers to people considering the credit unions are the ones that we found in our research. Far too many people don’t believe that they can join a credit union because too many believe credit unions, they’re only local without any national scale, they won’t be able to access their money when away from home.

So this campaign and the tools, like our messaging guide and all the pieces that come with this program, they can unify our voice at that category level and that will really help consumers understand that there are credit unions they can join and with our vast network they can access their money anywhere they travel. So in fact, if we do this together, we’re like one of those big institutions out there.

Cameron: I like that. So you already kind of alluded to this. I wanted to hear, I guess my understanding, we first heard about the Open Your Eyes Campaign from a client of ours in Minnesota, because I think to some extent I believe it was sort of like they did kind of their own statewide effort and it’s grown from there, if I’ve got that correct. But it sounds like it’s kind of rolling around the country in different phases. Do you have an actual end date for the campaign? And then you already alluded to how important is about not make this a one and done thing. How do you hope to keep momentum going once this initial push is through?

Teresa Freeborn: Yes, Cameron, it has to be an ongoing effort and it has to be this long term, very sustained program for all the reasons I mentioned. You know, category brand-building isn’t a short term proposition. So, we’re well on our way through CUNA’s facilitation here to establish this sustainable model just for that. But at some point we’re likely to transition even the creative because it has to live forever. We need to just make it as part of how we do business. If you want to carry the name credit union attached to your institution, then you also have to protect the big brands and that is the term credit unions. So we all have to continue to invest in that to keep that top of mind consideration going. So, it isn’t a one and done. And it’s interesting because that’s probably one of the bigger questions I’ve got and most often mentioned questions is, “So it’s a three year program, right?”

And I’d say, “No it’s not. It’s three years to get it off the ground because quite frankly, I can’t measure anything in a one year timeframe.” I can measure some metrics to see how they’re doing. I can talk about impressions and click throughs and all of that, but in terms of moving the needle on consideration, it doesn’t happen overnight. So this is why it’s not that one and done and plan for it. Just plan for it as part of your cost to being a credit union. It’s just going to be part of every day from this point forward. It has to be.

Cameron: All right. So I promise not to throw you curve balls. And my brand, I just have so many questions. So I hope this isn’t a curve ball. I remember another thing that that came up in some of Filene’s work and their Consumer Decision Making Center of Excellence was that for a lot of younger folks, credit union itself is kind of a tough term because great, the concept of credit is somewhat tarnished with the mortgage scandal and student, college savings and then union is also a thing that I think used to be really powerful and visceral for so many Americans, but really, the union movement has weakened so much over the last many decades. So I’m just sort of reconceptualizing what you’ve shared. Is this a version of saying that we need to make sure that credit union stays that kind of … the feelings and the sentiments that people have about their credit union stay attached to that two word label of credit union nationally, so that kind of all ships are rising with this tide?

Teresa Freeborn: That’s a good one. And it’s not a curve ball. I’ve had to address the same question over and over again. So I’ll tell you my personal views on this for starters, and that is, is I have many of opportunities in my career to what? Get rid of the word credit union because of all the things you mentioned. But if we really pay attention to the research, which I am absolutely committed to, when we researched for this campaign and we found out what are the barriers to considering a credit union? And we find out what these myths are, first of all, the millennials and the gen Xers, which is really the target that we’re going after in a big, big way. So these are sort of older teenagers through to 40 years old. Let’s just say that the age group, they know what a credit union is.

So it’s easy for us to say, “Well, there’s all this negative connotation with the term credit union or credit or union.” But here’s the good news is they know what a credit union is. So I want to work with that. I wouldn’t want to reinvent a new category for us or a new title for us or new name. We are Xceed Financial Credit Union. I can use Xceed Financial when I think it’s appropriate to do so. But I’m going to tell you most of the time I like talking about the fact that we’re a credit union because consumers and it’s born out by the research like it, they really, really like us, [inaudible 00:16:00] earlier. So I think that’s a red herring. How about that?

Cameron: Yeah, I love it. I mean, it was someone else’s research so my feelings aren’t hurt. I thought it was an intriguing point and I think I’m always impressed with kind of the human desire for novelty, whether or not it’s actually accurate or meaningful. There was a business group of entrepreneurs I was in where the slightly sarcastic quip was that in this group, the conversation stay the same, only the people change. And the point was that every year you had a new rotating cast of characters coming up with what they thought were original ideas. But actually they were the same ideas that have been talked about ad nauseum. And it sounds like you’re saying that there’s kind of a desire to do something new and different and strike credit union, but actually you’re hurting yourself and the movement as a whole.

Teresa Freeborn: Well, and what’s also interesting is I honestly believe, Cameron, that this generation that we’re definitely wanting to really target and go after, they see the most to gain with the credit union institutions. They just don’t think they can have any of it. But they love the idea of it. It’s like, there’s a chance for this young generation, just like it was when I was in that age cohort, to stick it to the man. And there’s something really powerful about that, that they can choose this alternative. They can put more cash in their jeans every month and they can feel good about what they’re doing. And they’re not beholding to some preferred shareholder at one of the big banks or some of the criminals that are still working for one of these big banks. They love that idea.

So again, all we can do is eliminate those barriers from keeping them joining something that they really think it’s a good idea. So think about that. That’s a much easier task for us than starting from square one or having to create a new brand for goodness’ sake. So, I’m pretty passionate about that. I’ve always been a follower of the research and as much as it’s sometimes [inaudible 00:17:49] maybe, because I may not think exactly this way, but when I hear it, you have to build your strategies based on it and I think we’re on the right track.

Cameron: Yeah, that’s great. I [inaudible 00:17:59] just hammering on that point of eligibility and access is really helpful for me to kind of lock into that. And actually it makes me think, I guess, I’m sort of on that fringe. I just turned 40 so I’m a millennial depending on some of the definitions. And I remember we moved my business over to the local credit union and that was actually my exact, I had no real awareness at that point. But I remembered I had a negative opinion of big banks and I had a positive opinion of credit unions without really knowing anything. And I remember walking in and I just said, “Hey, we were curious if this is something that we could do with you.” And of course they said yes, but it’s just interesting to think back to my experience before I knew quite a bit about credit unions, you know, like I do now.

So another thing that you’ve done a lot of really powerful work around is this concept of diversity or diversity equity and inclusion. And you’ve said, it sounds like at times that the future of the credit union industry will really surely depend on diversity. And so it’s no longer a nice thing to do at some other time, but it’s truly a business imperative. So I’m curious if you can share a little bit about what you think … I’d actually love to see positive and negative. What do you think credit unions are risking by failing to focus on diversity inclusion, but also what’s the opportunity?

Teresa Freeborn: Of course, I’m always looking for an opportunity to talk about this, but face it, look at our population, right? Our memberships, and our workforces. They’re all becoming more diverse, not less diverse, but more diverse and with ever larger numbers coming from other countries. And that’s simply demographic reality. And credit unions ignore that at their peril. So talk about risk. If we’re going to be around to the longterm as a credit union system, then we’re going to have to figure out how to market to these folks and how to meet their needs. And we have to figure out how to manage diverse teams to gain this optimal performance for our organizations. Or again, we won’t survive. So beyond that, there is a ton of business research and I’m sure you have read most of this, Cameron, but it shows that diverse teams bring broader perspectives to business challenges, right?

They just make better business decisions, better, smarter decisions if you have more perspectives at the table. So that’s a pretty good argument just on its own. But there are a couple of other benefits to consider that I’d like to just raise here. One, would be that the leaders that cultivate diversity and cultivate inclusion on their teams, they also elicit more loyalty. And it’s been proven, and it’s not surprising if you think about it, that if people feel valued and included, they’re less likely to want to jump ship or they’ll work anywhere else. So that continuity is important for credit unions tackling long-term challenges like the war on talent and war for talent, but especially as it relates to this increasingly diverse population and member base. I think it’s really important. And then in terms of gender balance, I think that most of us have already seen the study, whether they’re from Canada or the US or Australia or Europe.

Basically the best firms for women, meaning the firms that respect what women bring to the table in terms of leadership position, they consistently outperform their industry mediums, which is a pretty powerful point to raise as well. And then maybe the last that I’ve mentioned here would be that, in recent years we’ve also seen a lot of news coverage about the high cost of corporate and board level indiscretions. And it’s pretty clear that much of this behavior was enabled by and for the want of a better term of the old boys’ club. And having diverse teams fosters, I think, better governance and stronger corporate responsibility. It eliminates the ability to look the other way if there’s any inappropriate behaviors. So those are the sort of top of mind for me as to why I think it’s important and what we risk in not addressing this in a much broader, bigger way.

Cameron: Yeah. Thank you for raising that. I think it was Rachel Prosser in our neck of the woods here in Salem, Oregon. Anyway, I think it was after GAC posted a big LinkedIn article about the behavior that was kind of being tolerated that was really intolerable and it’s been neat to see some of the events I’ve been going to have increasingly been highlighting a code of conduct and I think that connects to your point, Teresa, about what I’ve seen, I’m not sure if it’s the same stuff. There was a particular Harvard Business Review article was that diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams with the caveat that it must be kind of a welcoming and inclusive environment. And those two kind of go hand in glove, right, if women don’t feel safe or any particular group doesn’t feel safe, then obviously that absence of safety will limit the effectiveness of the team and that we have to be looking at both of those factors working together.

Teresa Freeborn: Yep, exactly. Great point.

Cameron: So ,I’d love to know, you talked about the diversity and inclusion imperative, so you’re like network to everything in the credit union space. What else are you kind of like keeping your finger on the pulse over your eye on as far as other business imperatives that, as you’re looking out into the next one, three, five, 10, 20 years, that you think we as credit unions need to be paying attention to?

Teresa Freeborn: It’s probably not necessarily profound, but it’s certainly something that I’m spending a lot of our time collectively in our shop thinking about and that we’ve just got to better understand how these new entrants that I mentioned earlier in the financial services space and how they’re changing consumer expectations and consumer behavior. And we all know that, I don’t know about you, but I think there’s an Amazon package coming to my house every day. So think about the expectation that consumers have, that they can have something within 24 hours or even by end of day now. So, we better have some strategies that compete and differentiate ourselves in a very positive way. Goodness news is, is the banks are big, they take a long time to put things in place and credit unions are, I believe, much more nimble. And that’s why we’ve seen such innovation with credit unions.

So, I think we have a way to get to that. But I think that just upping our technology game in a big way, I think it’s really, really important on how we plan to engage with our consumers and how we want to market to them, how do we deliver our products and services. How about just looking at the products and services we offer and saying, “Is this what we’ll want to continue to offer?” Just because the baby boomer generation loves them and takes advantage of them. I haven’t really thought about it through the eyes of that younger audience. So I think that whole technology play, we’ve got to get our heads around the needs of the younger generation of credit union members. And here, there’s no surprise here. The average age of credit union members is way up there, right?

It’s quite high. And although we love our older members and many of them are super engaged with us, we’ve got to devote a lot more of our energy to establishing relationships with our younger members and doing that very early on while they’re still in school, while they’re starting careers, while they’re starting families and while they’re, what? What’s the expression? Adulting, we want to be there front and center when they’re doing that. It’s our investment in that future and I think we can do a little differently than how the big banks, you mentioned earlier that a lot of students, for instance, you know, “Oh yeah, well I’ve got my first account at Chase.” You know why they did? Because they got a free pizza. They took a credit card and then it got them into debt and that they didn’t know what to do with it. And the next thing you know, we’re dealing with these young people that are still trying to correct their FICO scores because of a pizza. Think about it.

So we’ve got to approach this a little differently than we’ve done in the past. And I think we’ve got the right heart for this. And we’ve got to use our values based banking proposition here and put that squarely in the hands of these new younger consumers.

Cameron: That’s another good line. Trying to correct their FICO scores because of a pizza. Ouch. That should be like a book title or something.

Teresa Freeborn: You know what I’m talking about, Cameron, come one.

Cameron: I totally do. Oh my goodness.

Teresa Freeborn: [crosstalk 00:25:43]. Yeah.

Cameron: Yeah. It’s just, it makes me wince just to imagine that that’s something so … yeah, no, that’s painful, [inaudible 00:25:50] just very well put. So not once, but twice. I’m going to try another curve ball. So as I mentioned, I actually first made the connection I was talking to, I think you probably know, I was a past board chair of Vancity and I didn’t realize the connection, [inaudible 00:26:03] and she was like, “Oh, one of the amazing CEO have been working in diversity and inclusion and I think it’s the former Xerox credit union.” All of a sudden I was like, “Wait a minute, is this Xceed Financial?” And she said, “Yes. Theresa’s amazing.” And then I didn’t realize until this call that you actually are from Vancouver. So I’m curious if it’s not too much of a curve ball. What do you think US credit unions can learn from Canadian credit unions? Because Vancity in particular is just an incredible organization and I think there’s not as much communication I see across the border. Even though it seems like there would be lots of opportunity for mutual learnings.

Teresa Freeborn: Yeah, we’re probably restricted more because of regulation and legislation to sort of operate freely across the border. We’d love to, like for instance, I love that Canadian credit unions have mutual funds, they’re called ethical funds and they were originally started by Vancity and then now the whole industry in Canada, the whole system in Canada has opportunities to access them and to of course offer them to their members. I just look at that and think, “Oh my goodness, we could so use that product and service in the US and why wouldn’t we just partner with Canada and make that happen?” Right. So that’s one thing that’s on my list. When I get the moment to the day, I’d love to pursue that with some bigger, because I think it’s an important piece.

The other thing I think we could learn from our Canadian credit unions is that don’t be afraid of consolidation. Okay? Canada has so few credit unions today, but they are absolutely big and powerful in their space and it’s because a lot of credit unions came together to form those great, big credit unions. Plenty of work for everybody. But you can deliver a really great value proposition. So don’t be afraid of size and don’t be afraid of consolidation. I think that’s where the industry has to go because we can’t all afford to do the things we want, Xceed is $1 billion shop. I’m telling you, we can’t afford to give our members everything they want. It’s hard. It’s very hard. Margins are so, so tight. And it’s tough to offer that, to operate nationwide and provide all the products and services for members.

So I think consolidation and ethical funds in terms of the mutual fund family would be awesome. But I think also in reverse, I’d say that Canadian credit unions could learn a little something from American credit unions. I think that the whole idea still of sort of workplace credit unions is a big deal. And if we could get in, in Canada, into big workplaces, and small workplaces, I think we can offer a benefit that, I mean, it doesn’t have to have all the regulatory stuff around it, but I’ve just loved the idea that you can do something special for a certain segment of the market and that would be a workplace. So I think we should do a lot more together, for sure.

Cameron: Yeah. Great answer. All right, so the rapid fire questions, I know. Prepare yourselves. All right, so, one to two sentences. If you had a different career, what would you be doing?

Teresa Freeborn: Oh, I always joke and say I wanted to be a lounge singer, but really, reality is it’s actually golf course is my happy place. So I probably would rather just be a golf pro, play golf every day. That would be fun. Yeah.

Cameron: You’re probably not going to sing a little something for us on the podcast, are you?

Teresa Freeborn: No.

Cameron: No? All right. All right. Maybe next time. What’s your favorite cause?

Teresa Freeborn: Oh, I’ve spent 20 years working on this one and that’s credit union for kids, of course. I mean let’s support those kids in hospitals for sure.

Cameron: So when you look out at a big, bright, beautiful, and sometimes slightly troubled world, if you could wave a wand and change one thing, what would it be?

Teresa Freeborn: Oh, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this thing that said that we’re going to have 20 by 20, which means 20% of corporate America’s boards would have, would be made of, comprised of women. I would say women in 50%, at least 50% of all leadership positions throughout society. And if we get that, then I think we’ll have a whole cascade of other very positive things that will happen.

Cameron: So 50 by 50, that’s the big goal?

Teresa Freeborn: Yeah. No, don’t wait that long.

Cameron: Don’t wait that long, yeah. Maybe 50-50 by 30 or something.

Teresa Freeborn: Let’s just do 50% yeah. Let’s just shoot for that. Yeah.

Cameron: I love it. If you’re feeling hungry, what’s your favorite meal? What’s your go to?

Teresa Freeborn: Oh, it’s just crack open a box of KD, Kraft Dinner. If it’s fun. It’s kind of my guilty pleasure. So if I’m starving, I have no time. I would just cook up a whole block and eat the whole darn thing. So yeah.

Cameron: That’s a good one. I’m hungry too. All right. Well, so let’s do our final take. Is there anything that you’d like to reiterate or anything you didn’t get to today that you’d like to leave our audience with?

Teresa Freeborn: You know, I hope I’ve been positive enough throughout this little chat we’ve had here, because I do want to leave the audience with hope and excitement for the future of our credit union industry. And it’s important for us to always talk, as we have today, about the challenges that we face, whether they’re individual credit union challenges or an industry challenge. But, it’s the one thing that I love the most about our movement, that we have these kind of candid conversations with each other about real life challenges that we’re all encountering. And that, it’s so much more real than it is with most industries where executives get together, and we talk about collaboration, but other business does that too. But they don’t really want to say enough about anything to actually help one another. Whereas I think we always do. So let’s not ever lose sight of that with [inaudible 00:31:26], let’s be helpful to each other.

And we are the real deal when it comes to collaboration. So I’m pretty excited about what we’re doing with the awareness initiative. And of course the way that so many credit unions across the country have embraced it. We don’t have everyone yet and you should be there. So I’m very hopeful and optimistic that we as an industry are going to overcome the considerable problem that we have in terms of consideration. So I would just encourage all the listeners to check out the Open Your Eyes Campaign. Check this whole program out and see why this is so important and rise above all those reasons why we shouldn’t do it and talk about what happens if we don’t.

Cameron: Fabulous. Perfect note to end on. Hey Teresa, thank you so much for joining us today.

Teresa Freeborn: Okay, thank you, Cameron. My pleasure.

Cameron: All right, folks, another great conversation. I really enjoyed having Teresa on. A couple key takeaways that I had, actually five of them. Couple is not correct. The first time ever, I just thought it was really helpful to hear in really clear terms what the research shows that the problem credit unions face is not awareness, that 98% of consumers know about credit unions and they overwhelmingly have a positive impression. So the big false myths that we’re combating are that you won’t have broad access to your money one, and two, that you aren’t eligible to join a credit union.

I like Teresa’s comment about upping the marketing game and how spending more is obviously one piece of that, but that ultimately the big banks are mostly just trying to steal each other’s customers. That it’s really important that we focus on the category brand of credit union and not just our own brands and so this isn’t just a hit and run campaign. This is the start of something that It’s basically evergreen and always happening, always being refreshed.

Another myth that I thought was surprising was Teresa saying that the idea of credit union being a negative term among younger generations is actually a myth and that the research shows this is not the case. It was [inaudible 00:33:31] to see Teresa’s passion for diversity and that is a key piece of credit union staying relevant and current, not just now, but into the future. And just a reminder, if you haven’t seen that Harvard Business School, HBS research that they have on diverse teams making better business decisions and also creating greater loyalty so that if we can create that environment that is welcoming and inclusive, we’re really going to benefit. It’s going to be an everybody wins situation.

And lastly, I thought that, I had not heard of that 20 by 20 but I know that a representation on corporate boards tends to be overwhelmingly white men. The goal of having 20% of all corporate boards being women by 2020 and her sort of big dream of getting 50% of corporate boards to being women. I think as we’ve seen in a lot of interesting examples that if you have representation, then you tend to just have a more tolerant and welcoming environment and a lot of the bad behavior that we’ve seen elsewhere could just go away.

All right, well thanks for joining us today for another great episode. Until the next time, I wish you all the best of luck in making your credit union remarkable.

Hannah talking on the phone