ILSTV spoke with Renate Mueller, President of Renate M. Mueller Consultants Inc., at the recent CUISA conference in Vancouver BC and asked her to discuss the issues currently facing credit union insurance divisions.
Renate Mueller: It’s nice of you to chat with me today and I do have to apologize for my raspy voice because I’ve been fighting a chest cold for two weeks, so I hope it will come back to normal. We will get through the interview easily.
My background is actually with a credit union as well as with many other aspects of business. I was a chairman of a large credit union a number of years ago along with being on the board of directors for many years. My very first loan actually came when I was 18 years old from a credit union, so I think my heart and my soul is quite dear to the credit union movement in general.
However, the credit unions in British Columbia as you well know have expanded really well into the insurance industry, the property and casualty insurance sector; and many of them have very successful insurance operations. However, some credit unions have now not been so successful. The number aren’t there and the profitability is not there, so we have seen some large credit unions and some smaller ones divesting themselves of their insurance assets; for various reasons, but generally it’s directed by the board of directors and they take a look at the profitability.
As you know there are two very distinct divisions in credit unions: one is the banking and the other is the insurance sector, and they don’t always gel according to what management sees and understands.
The insurance brokerages in the credit union sector have the same issues as the property and casualty insurance brokers outside of the credit union system: looking for good staff, training good staff, motivating good staff, as well as keeping good staff. They also have issues with markets. They need to make sure they have enough insurer markets to be competitive in the marketplace for the consumers, and their consumers generally are their members.
The other issue that I think I have seen is the credit unions generally do not have a thumb on the pulse of how many of their members are actually customers of the insurance brokerages. And that is something that some credit unions can in fact collect data on and others can’t. Without having that information it doesn’t help with the broadening and marketing to the membership at large that is in credit unions. So there is some privacy issues and other concerns . . . that impacts on their growth pattern.
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