Miranda V. Flury is president of Hawkeye Strategies, an international consultancy firm based in Canada, supporting co-operatives and credit unions to enhance governance practices. Prior to setting it up, she was a senior leader at North Peace Savings & Credit Union, a mid-size credit union in Northern British Columbia. She has held director roles on co-operative, regulatory, and private boards and is currently a board director on Federated Co-operatives Limited.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST HEAR ABOUT CREDIT UNIONS? DO YOU RECALL THE FIRST TIME YOU LEARNED ABOUT THIS MODEL?
I vividly remember driving with my dad to go to our local Meridian Credit Union in Ontario, to cash a cheque when I was kid, and I asked him: “What is the difference between a credit union and a bank?” He responded with: “They are like a bank, but the difference is they know your name when you walk in”. And that was my first introduction to credit unions – an explanation of the service differentiator. I am still a member of that credit union today.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
I don’t have a typical day per se. What is consistent in what I do is that I am waking up in a different city/country two-three times a week and I prioritise working out (CrossFit or spin!) in the morning before starting work. I even managed to convince some of my clients to join me in the morning! My work days could be broken into four categories: meeting with my clients on Zoom to talk about our existing engagements, facilitating all day with a credit union board and executive team, providing professional education to directors and leaders, or speaking on stage to large audiences.
HOW DID YOU START WORKING IN THE CREDIT UNION SECTOR?
I was headhunted in a senior leadership role for a credit union in Northern British Columbia. At the time I worked in a different industry, but was heavily involved in the community, which I believe, is how I was recommended. I remember during the interview I demonstrated to them my leadership skills and articulated that I could learn all about credit unions very quickly. After I was hired, what I learned was that the financial services industry was about proactively supporting people to achieve their goals and that your financial position is much more multifaceted than I ever appreciated. It’s not just about buying a home or saving for retirement, it hits all aspects of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs (basic needs, psychological needs and self-fulfilment needs).
WERE YOU THERE FOR A LONG TIME? HOW DID YOU THEN SET UP HAWKEYE STRATEGIES?
I was with the credit union for a few years and decided to open my own company, Hawkeye Strategies. At that point, I had education and experience in governance and strategy and I built Hawkeye Strategies with our current tagline in mind: “Our mission is to help you achieve yours.” I started contracting to the Canadian Credit Union Association teaching in their Accredited Director Education Program. From there, word of mouth spread and my business took off internationally.
WHAT DOES HAWKEYE STRATEGIES DO? HOW WAS IT FOUNDED?
With every engagement, we focus on making sure we have tangible and useful deliverables, and that the process of getting to that end is enjoyable. Our clients are co-operative boards, executives, regulators, credit union peer groups and consortiums, credit union centrals, credit union service organisations and credit union advocacy groups. These co-operatives are located all over the world and we have the pleasure of serving them through three areas of professional focus: consulting and facilitation (strategic planning, improving board efficiency, mergers and acquisitions, board assessments, CEO evaluations, enterprise risk management), director and executive education (strategic thinking, fostering strategic culture, strategic resilience, board and management: the roles at the board table, director training) and speaking engagements (including at the World Credit Union Conference and governance related conferences).
ARE YOU PERSONALLY INVOLVED WITH ANY CO-OPS?
Since I fundamentally believe in co-operatives, I am a member of several organisations with this business model. I am a board director of Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL), which is one of the largest and most complicated co-operatives in North America. It is a Canadian wholesaling, manufacturing, marketing and administrative cooperative owned by more than 160 independent local co-operative associations.
BASED ON YOUR CONSULTANCY WORK, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE THE GREATEST CHALLENGES FOR CREDIT UNIONS AT THE MOMENT?
While there are a few large challenges ahead for the credit union sector, I think one of the main challenges is keeping pace with member expectations while balancing regulatory advancements. As technology continues to advance, that influences member expectations and introduces new regulatory advancements, which ultimately require economies of scale to meet the demands. This becomes quite challenging when co-operatives are community-focused and tend to have smaller balance sheets relative to the scale that is needed to meet this demand.
HOW DO YOU WORK WITH CREDIT UNIONS TO SUPPORT THEM TO ADDRESS THESE CHALLENGES?
There are a few different ways I support credit unions to address a number of challenges and opportunities that are in their future. The most obvious work is through strategic planning, where I support boards and executives to ideate on how to create new value for members and protect the existing value their credit union has built over several decades. I also work with credit union boards to enhance their governance practices, which, in turn, helps to have the right directors, asking the right questions at the right time.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE NEXT FOR THE CREDIT UNION SECTOR?
In order to address the large challenge of keeping pace with member expectations while balancing regulatory requirements, I think credit unions will need to transition to what I would call full-scale collaboration efforts. What I have observed in Canada, the UK, Ireland, and the USA is that you’ll see a credit union or two that are collaborating and they’re doing it really well on a very narrow focus. When you have a larger number of credit unions that have come together, it is typically because they are in crisis and they all agree to deal with the crisis in the same manner.
If we truly want to address issues that require scale, we have to be able to fully collaborate on items that don’t differentiate each credit union – all of the backend areas of work that members are not exposed to when they interact with the business. If we could find a way to effectively collaborate on a much larger scale, like at a national level. I think the credit union sector would be in a much better position to address some of the very large challenges they are facing today. I have heard all of the reasons why it isn’t possible, from egos in the room to sophisticated technical integration, to the amount of money required to actually pull it off. But my question to the sector would be: Can we afford to wait until it becomes a crisis?