Ban the "B" Word?
Dick Ensweiler's lecture to CU marketers about using the term "BANK" may have been sincere in his desire to depict credit unions as "different", but it was hardly inspiring or practical. When it comes to the products and services we offer credit union members, we are "banks" in the public lexicon of personal finances. CU marketers should not be afraid of speaking plainly on that fact simply because it offends, angers or frightens a larger and older segment of the financial industry. Banks and bankers have always taken offense with anything or anyone that would interfere with their prime directive: maximum profits provide obscene personal wealth. Nowhere in his "B" word lecture, however, did Ensweiler mention the CU prime directive, and the real difference between banks and credit unions: not-for-profit, not-for-charity. This everyman, egalitarian prime directive is what banks really can't stand about credit unions, and the theater of their current attack should be viewed as the classic parable of might versus right. When CUs were young and small, our not-for-profit directive mattered nothing to bankers. The credit union movement started in earnest some 75 years ago when banks had no use for the common workingman. There was no profit to be made from such an ineffectual and poor body of people. The formation of CUs by common people was scoffed at. But, the CU message of people helping people, economic brotherhood, and not-for-profit had a ring of truth to it. Membership grew, as did our lines of products and services, our business acumen and our appeal as an alternative form of BANKING. Nothing breeds success like success. And having created our own version of banking because the banks wanted nothing to do with us, it was inevitable we would eventually obtain for ourselves everything the banks would deny us, even their markets. And how dare we even think of ourselves as BANKS. Never mind that bankers recently discovered CU "share drafting" and call it free checking*. Who am I, as a CU marketer, to point out that "share drafting" is free (without the asterisk) checking, or that "credit unioning" is the same as banking, only without that same asterisk? What bankers are really afraid of is that someday they will have to follow in our footsteps, forfeiting obscene wealth for the relative penury of not-for-profit. Dick, you can bank on it! Mike Dillon Marketing Director South Division Credit Union Evergreen Park, Ill.