CU Evolution: Helping Small Credit Unions Think Big by Howard Bufe, President of CU Evolution

The financial services world, especially when it comes to the lender-borrower relationship, is undergoing intense disruption. Status quo leadership and lending will not work for most small credit unions. The time to evolve is now, and that is precisely why we have founded our new CUSO, CU Evolution

This month, we officially opened CU Evolution’s doors for business. The CUSO gives small credit unions (under $100mm) the strategies and tools to provide exceptional member and employee experiences in a rapidly evolving world.

My colleague, Deke Alexander, CEO of CU Evolution, summed up our mission best when he said, “Great leaders and great lenders – those are the credit union people who will transform the movement. CU Evolution’s hands-on, fully customized programs are built to help today’s credit union leaders and lenders go next-level, and fast.”

Our team is focused on evolving a credit union’s strategic planning, lending, leadership and marketing capabilities. The programs we offer are fully customizable, allowing credit unions to choose the areas on which they want to focus. Those areas can be anything from board leadership, succession planning and culture development to logo design, branding guides and custom marketing campaigns. Services for credit unions in need of lending program consultation include strategic consultation and staff education.

The small credit unions who partner with CU Evolution are taken through a three-step process coined “Engage. Equip. Evolve.” The Engage phase signifies an assessment period, which is followed by training and consultation to Equip credit union staff with the right tools to meet its strategic objectives. The Evolve phase provides ongoing consultation and support in the form of lending program consultation, training, leadership development and marketing analytics.

Importantly, CU Evolution team members provide strategy execution, as well. In other words, we’re not writing up a plan and walking away. We see CU Evolution as an extension of a credit union’s own staff, as much a part of the implementation as the planning.

CU Evolution originated from Living in Fulfillment Everyday Federal Credit Union (LiFE FCU). Deke, who served as LiFE FCU’s chief lending officer prior to starting CU Evolution, has more than 15 years of credit union and community banking experience. Under his leadership, LiFE FCU’s lending program grew dramatically in nearly every KPI measured, from number of loans and loan-to-share ratio to fee income and loan yield.

Jennifer Schueling, CEO of MECO Federal Credit Union says her credit union’s experience with Deke has been transformational. “I was put in touch with Deke to talk about a loan product our credit union was looking into, but the connection served me in a much broader perspective,” she shared. “Deke began advising, teaching and helping me grow as a CEO. Over the past year, he has been the first number I dial any time I’m in need of strategic guidance. The influential employees of CU Evolution and its subsidiaries can make a huge impact in today’s credit union world.”

As for me, I have more than 35 years of financial services experience. I spent the last six years with Cornerstone Credit Union League. As a credit union advocate and consultant, I provided professional planning, consulting and training services to more than 100 credit unions in the Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas region. Prior to that, I worked for 11 years at Credit Union Resources, Inc. and 19 years in the savings and loan industry.

“Each of these experienced credit union pros understands the daily struggles that confront a small credit union,” said Dustin Fuller, LiFE FCU CEO and a CU Evolution board member. “That knowledge, combined with a contagious passion for advancing the credit union movement, will be nothing short of transformational. We can’t wait to see the impact CU Evolution has on the industry.”

LiFE FCU Board Member Randy Harper agrees and summed up his expectation of CU Evolution’s impact on the small credit union movement in two words: Focus and expansion. “The CU Evolution team will develop the strengths inherit to small credit unions, showing them how to focus on what they do best. At the same time, the team will move its credit union clients out of their comfort zones to expand and evolve, better positioning them for long-term success.”

About CU Evolution

CU Evolution originated from LiFE Federal Credit Union in Denton, Texas, in early 2018 and was joined in ownership by Family 1st of Texas Federal Credit Union in Fort Worth, Texas, in May of that year. The mission of the credit union service organization (CUSO) is to facilitate the growth of credit unions to ensure the movement continues to evolve and thrive. To learn more, visit and follow CU Evolution on LinkedIn.