A CEO’s Current Analysis—and How to Respond

As I write this, we’re deep into preparations for our 2022 business plan and budget. We’re in the mood to look forward and say, “yesterday’s numbers are yesterday’s numbers.” And, as of June 30, yesterday’s numbers are spectacular.

I could wax on about all of the effort, the good luck, and the wonderful contributions of everyone involved. Credit unions put forward the capital and embrace our alliance; we go about our day-to-day business; and the results are great.

But I have a nagging feeling about the future. We all have the sense that we’re making money by hunkering down, by avoiding aggressive investment, by just riding the wave of a national COVID approach that will leave us hanging in the future.

American citizens will all have to wake up and face the day after all the free money expires. As American businesses, that means we are going to wake up to consumers being resentful about how hard life is, the day after the COVID relief funding ends.

I wonder what a marketplace of resentful consumers means to credit unions. I wish I had a crystal ball and could tell you exactly what it means, but I don’t. I can only tell you what we’re planning for 2022 and how we hope that will pay off in the coming years.

    • We’ll have to be more aggressive about investment and think hard about what we’re committed to as a community of credit union operations. We need to fuel the future with investment. The hunkering down is over.
    • While we have a bit more time to analyze business trends related to the COVID pause, we’ll have to quickly identify the game-changers that will last, versus the over-reactions and over-estimates of how things like remote work will affect our future. We can’t throw out the baby with the wash based on an interruption in economic models. What will we count on? What will we bet on? What will we make work? I’m not sure it’s going to be as radical in the next two years as most people think. We have options if we’re patient. We have a future if we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot.
    • We’ll have to avoid being disappointed by the fact that COVID might not end as cleanly as we all hoped. We’re making progress, but that progress may not be without some setbacks. Things like vaccines, wearing a mask, and social distancing might not just end, never to be seen again. It may feel like these issues linger right through 2022 and 2023, like a bad hangover after New Year’s Eve. Optimism, and a realistic evaluation that things are getting better, will have to rule the day for business planners.

Wow! These three marketplace realities confront every in-place or new leadership team.

The pressure will be high to pick the right investments, to choose the right trends to run towards, and to maintain an optimistic viewpoint, when pessimism is all around. No easy missions for any CEO.

The pressure is not on a single individual; it’s on a network. For a network to work, we all have to help our peers be successful by contributing to each other’s success. If you want to contribute to our CUSO’s success, spend a few minutes thinking about how each of us can be the person who helps us all avoid dropping the ball.

The numbers as of June 2021 are great. The predictions for September 30 are as positive as any year I can remember. My faith in the future is constant, given my faith in all of you.

Source: Randy Karnes, CEO, CU*Answers, used with permission

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