When It Comes to Bank or Credit Union Success, Simplicity Wins

Mark Arnold
When It Comes to Bank or Credit Union Success, Simplicity Wins

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” — Leonardo da Vinci

It’s easy to fall into the “complexity trap.” We think if something is complex, it must work well. The more complex the idea, the better it is. The more complex solution, the better result. In fact, the opposite is true. The more simple something is, the more likely it is to be successful.

In other words, simplicity wins when it comes to bank or credit union success.

Look at Apple: their products and strategy are quite simple. As Steve Jobs once said, “That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

For many credit unions and community banks, you are dealing with financial issues that are indeed complex. You are addressing items such as the volatile economy, interest rate risk, the housing market, consumer debt, consumer price index, regulations and liquidity just to name a few. Mention any of those at a cocktail party and people’s eyes glaze over.

As leaders, you can make things simple. Especially in four key areas:

1. Your Strategy

If you are trying to impress your regulators, your board or staff with a 50+ page strategic plan that contains multiple tabs, tables, charts and graphs: stop! The best strategy for bank or credit union success is a simple strategy.

For example, Herb Kelleher famously founded Southwest Airlines on the back of a napkin. As Forbes noted in a recent article, “The iconic saying that many great businesses started on a napkin doesn’t come out of thin air — it’s a real-life phenomenon.”

While your strategic plan doesn’t have to fit on a napkin, it does need simplicity. Keep your strategic priorities to four or fewer. As Donald Miller noted on a recent podcast...people love three priorities, like four priorities and forget five priorities.

We routinely tell strategic planning clients that one of your session’s outcomes is focus. Strategy isn’t just about what you’re going to do; it’s also about what you’re not going to do.

2. Your Marketing

The most effective marketing for bank or credit union success is the simplest marketing. That applies to all aspects of your marketing: your brand, your messaging, your copy, your niches, your channels, your plan and your calendar.

While conducting marketing assessments, we see all kinds of marketing. One common mistake is that credit unions and community banks are all over the place when it comes to their marketing. Their brands completely lack focus.

Doing too much hurts your marketing efforts. As Forbes noted in a separate article, “The truth about marketing is that it should be simple.”

For example, we recommend branding clients summarize what makes their credit union or community bank different in six words or less. And you can’t use words like “community,” “people” or “service.” Doing that exercise quickly helps you to simplify your marketing.

3. Your Website

Want to get a headache or have your eyes overwhelmed? Go to five or ten financial institution websites and see how much stuff they have on their homepages. It’s amazing how busy credit union and community bank websites are. They are junky and clunky. They are not contributing to bank or credit union success.

Yet, your website is now your front porch. And it takes less than five seconds for someone to form an opinion about your website. Why is that so important? Because 75% of consumers judge your credibility from your website design.

Keep in mind what Abmatic AI said in a recent post, “A clean and minimal website design can lead to higher conversion rates by reducing distractions, improving user experience, creating a clear call to action and prioritizing website speed and mobile responsiveness.”

Don’t put so much on your site that consumers don’t know where to find key items. If it’s been more than two or three years since you’ve redesigned your site, then it’s time for a serious revamp.

4. Your Employee Communication

Your employees are a key part of your bank or credit union success. In fact, you can have the best strategy and the most unique brand but if your employees are not engaged with your organization, you are going to have limited success.

But employee engagement does not happen by osmosis. It takes intentionality. And it also takes simplicity. How well do your employees know your vision or your values? Can they recite those items? If your vision/values are too long or too confusing, employees won’t “get” them.

As Donald Miller famously says, “if you confuse, you lose.” Sometimes you confuse employees because you make internal messages overly complex. When it comes to your employees: simplify, simplify, simplify.

Simplicity wins. It wins with your strategy, your marketing and your website. Exponential growth requires exponential simplicity. And to get help simplifying any of these areas and find greater bank or credit union success, book a free consultation today.

Mark Arnold
Founder and CEO