Financial institutions have all kinds of assets. Fixed assets. Branches. Loans. Investments. You get the idea. Most of the assets are things.

The reality is that the most important assets at credit unions or banks aren’t classified as assets. Here are a  few to consider:

(1)  Your people—Too many times we view people as an expense on the balance sheet. That’s a terrible mindset. People are not an expense: they are the most important asset you have. If you see your staff as a necessary expense, then don’t expect your bank or credit union to grow (and trust me, they know if you view them that way). One the best strategic decisions you can make is to stop investing in fixed assets (branches) and pour your resources into your people. For example, send them to a conference, provide ongoing training, provide a webinar, buy them books, etc. When it comes to your assets, investing in people will yield a positive return.

(2)  Your brand—If the budget is tight, the first thing we cut is marketing. While that might help you improve your quarterly numbers, drastically reducing your marketing expenses will lead to a long-term death. Your branding expenses must be wise (you absolutely need to calculate ROI); however don’t fall into the trap of reducing them to just hit a number. As Ray Davis says in Leading for Growth, “In terms of growth and margin, brand is really what it comes down to in the end.”

(3)  Your culture—Healthy companies have healthy cultures. What are the values at your bank or credit union? If you (or your employees) don’t know what they are then don’t expect growth to occur. Culture is sometimes a vague word and hard to define. So we ignore it. And investing time and resources into developing a world-class or winning culture is hard to do. We’d rather spend our resources on something more tangible. But the reality is you are only as strong as your culture.

Real asset growth will come from investing in the right assets: your people, your brand and your culture.