Can Small Be Strong?

Theresa Witham, managing editor of CUManagement
Theresa Witham Photo
Managing Editor/Publisher

2 minutes

From the editor

Our cover story this month examines the strength of smaller credit unions. While they may not have the budgets of big banks or even big credit unions, the most successful small CUs are using innovation to serve their members well.

Still, the billion-dollar question is out there: Is the industry headed towards a $1 billion threshold for survival?

In the CUES Podcast Episode 20, Steve Morrissette, adjunct associate professor of strategic management at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and lead faculty at CUES’ Strategic Growth Institute™, says it’s a myth that credit unions need to be $1 billion in assets to thrive. “There’s more than one right size,” he says. “There are multiple sweet spots where you can do a good job.” Listen to the podcast (or subscribe to the CUES Podcast via iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher).   

The answer for small CUs may be in their focus. “They can no longer afford to be all things to all people. They really need to be hyper-focused on particular market segments or product lines and try to carve out those niches that they can profitably serve,” says Glenn Christensen, president of CEO Advisory Group, Kent, Wash.

Filling a niche is what $10 million The Florist Federal Credit Union, Roswell, N.M., is doing.

A couple of months ago on, we told the story of the CU’s visually stunning and award-winning website. How did they do it? “… we are able to be a lot more nimble,” says CUES member Cisco Malpartida Smith, CEO of the Roswell, N.M. credit union. “We can be scrappy and bold. We launched our new website and online banking in 60 days. Our online banking platform is extremely close to the robustness of a Bank of America.” Read the story. Smith also has more to say in “Tiny, But Fierce.”

Credit unions of all sizes benefit from understanding and analyzing all the data available to them. But it is still unusual for an $81 million CU to employ a full-time data analyst. Cassidy Cochrum fills this role at Ohio Healthcare Federal Credit Union, Columbus. “Our CEO, Bill Butler, is a true data evangelist and has fostered a data culture across the entire organization,” she says.

Committing to data study is one way a small CU can be at its best. Learn how CUs are using analytics to grow loans, manage CECL and even be more sustainable in “Time for Data Amplification.”

What are your thoughts on the $1 billion question and the future of small credit unions? Email

Theresa Witham
Managing Editor/Publisher

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