Co-Op Think 16 What an amazing few days. I spent three days with the folks at Co-op Financial Services for their annual THINK event. For 2016, the crew converged on the stunning Hotel del Coronado in San Diego. This awesome venue played host to some exciting discussions around unlocking the heart of Credit Unions.

I love working with the Credit Union groups, as their core business is directly aligned to the interests of their members. It is where people connect with other people to enable better financial lives. The world's credit unions greatest challenge doesn't lie in their business model,rather on the number of people that understands their model. Speaker Max Schorr of Good, rocked the boat by comparing Credit Unions to the DMV, a point that alarmed a vast majority of the audience. But this later turned out to be a key perception issue highlighted by the point that "if you don't own your brand, speculation will". This is a confronting reality for an industry that does good to its members everyday, but is not given recognition for that effort.

A key insight I would like to share is that Credit Unions should stop focusing on banks as competition, and more towards the user-centric startups of the Fintech world. Companies like Lending Club, Kabbage, Prosper, Currency Cloud, and Kiva, are stronger threats to the Credit Union industry than banks do. These startups embrace the ethos of 'People helping People', a trend which drives strong Fintech user growth.

The outlook is strong for Credit Unions, especially those that are already a part of large shared technology ecosystems like Co-op, as they are positioned to bring their genuine human centric businesses into the digital era. Their challenge lies not in transforming their core, but on connecting their brand with the core mission - ensuring the broader market understands and appreciates their role within the community.

I look forward to working closely with Co-op and their member banks over the year to progress their innovation journey.

For those looking for a practical guide to their innovation, my latest book Innovation Wars is available to order NOW. Grab your copy before the chance slips through your fingers.

Co-op THINK heads to New York in 2017, and I can't wait.