SAN DIEGO -- After some 36 years of serving on the Point Loma Credit Union Board change is the only constant says former Chairman David Washburn, who recently announced his retirement.
"Serving on the board was such a great foil to the highly structured Navy work environment with the U.S Government, where you could have everyone in the room and still not have anyone there who can make a decision," said Washburn. "It was such a relief to be able to make decisions on programs or ideas that would make a difference in members' lives and quickly act on them."
Washburn's introduction to credit unions began when he was building his house. At the time Point Loma CU was one of the first to offer real estate loans.
"I thought I could learn a lot about managing the family economics by seeing what they do at the credit union," said Washburn. "A year later they invited me to serve on the delinquent loan committee and then I was named a credit committee alternate. It was an interesting way to find out what problems people had and how the credit union could help. I'm glad I joined because it has been the most rewarding activity in my life."
About two years later Washburn was appointed to the board and says at the time he was the youngest in terms of age and status. According to Washburn, the diversity on the board is one of the reasons why Point Loma CU has been able to effectively anticipate its members' needs.
"What is so wonderful about our board and CEO is that we have mutual respect and each recognizes that they need the other. It is a supportive environment where we trust each other and we don't just sit and watch for things to go wrong and point fingers," said Washburn. "We remain true to doing what is best for our members and that focus allows us to look for innovative ways to improve our services where others either wouldn't or couldn't."
Washburn is credited with being instrumental in the expansion of Point Loma CU from its early military origins to a community-based credit union encompassing the two counties of Riverside and San Diego.
Faced with the same challenges as other credit unions in recruiting new board members, the board enacted a modified term limit policy.
"It is about finding the right balance," said Washburn. "You want to develop people to learn the job and gain experience but why would they join if they have to wait 15-20 years before they'll have the opportunity to be an officer? That's why we passed the rule that one cannot occupy a specific office on the board for more than three years running."
At Point Loma the supervisory committee serves as the training ground for future board officers. The committee has an educational budget and new members are teamed up with more seasoned supervisory committee members. In addition, supervisory members and interested new members attend monthly board meetings to help groom them for the next step.
"It takes a few years to learn the ropes and do the job right," said Washburn. "This way we can feel more confident that there is always someone here who is well prepared to take over and lead the credit union into the future while still having valuable input from more seasoned board members."
Looking ahead Washburn says the recent rash of credit union-to-bank conversions is a disservice to members.
"I really see no advantage--they are in the same business, offering the same products but they get to pay taxes," said Washburn. "There are so many small banks around San Diego County that are being gobbled up that there must be a better way for these credit unions to make money. They've lost sight of their mission to serve their members' best interests before their own."
Washburn adds that there is no reason why a credit union should convert and dismisses claims by some converts that they can't survive as a credit union.
"I think the biggest problem in any organization is to identify your market. Even if you have a community charter you can't serve all the needs of all the potential members. You have to make some tough decisions on what sort of credit union you will be," said Washburn. "These days members have more options so to compete and get in the game you have to find your niche."
Washburn says overall Point Loma has been able to take advantage of most opportunities and he's confident in the future of the credit union.
"We'll never rise up and knock off Navy Federal--but that's not our goal anyway and for our market we do our very best." --firstname.lastname@example.org