'Bankers Smiling' Now, Says One Minnesota CEO
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- From the podium, little was said about Wings Financial or Think FCU at the Minnesota Credit Union Network annual meeting here last week, but in the receptions and private gatherings there was plenty of buzz about the impact of the controversies and the state's newfound connection to them.
"I'm certainly not happy about Wings' actions and what bothers me is that I really don't understand why Wings is doing this," declared Grant Johnson, president/CEO of the $20 million Toro Employees FCU of Bloomington, asking "Is it simply for short-term capital reasons, to shake up the industry or what?"
The effect, he told Credit Union Times, is to create a divisive CU climate, certain to be telegraphed to lawmakers.
"The bankers are sitting up there smiling as they watch, just waiting to see how it all turns out," suggested Kent Greff, president/CEO of the $200 million General Mills CU of Minnetonka, who also found the Wings move on Continental unsettling.
But the two CEOs--Paul Parish of Wings and Paul Horgan of Think--"are both pretty sharp, calculating guys" who have obviously thought out their strategy for the direction they've taken their CUs, said Greff.
"You should know the two Paul's are plenty influential in this state over the years," said Greff noting the many alumni who trained under Parish and Horgan before moving on to other CUs.
For one, Harry Carter, the vice chairman of the MnCUN and president/CEO of Topline FCU in Maple Grove, said he was an employee of the former IBM CU "back in the 1990's."
Like a few others interviewed by Credit Union Times, Greff said he was surprised by the close member vote at Think in favor of conversion. "I really thought it would be defeated because I thought they had a pretty prideful attitude up there," said Greff.
But Theresa Malone, president of the $46 million Capital Trust FCU of St. Paul, took the opposite view on Think. "I knew it would win the way they were moving," said Malone explaining the Rochester CU had long since removed itself "from any meetings or anything to do with other credit unions."
Matt Maras, president of the $24 million United Employees CU of Albert Lea, said several of his directors have inquired about the Think conversion, but all have rejected any notion of switching. "They definitely want to stay a credit union," said Maras, a point shared universally by CEOs at the conference.
Many told Credit Union Times that Think did act properly and carefully in following disclosure rules in the member vote and should be commended for that. But Wings was another case. "It is definitely troubling, not the credit union way," said Malone of Capital Trust.
The way Wings worked around the Continental board "is simply not right. No is no," said Russ Plunkett, president/CEO of the $412 million Postal CU in Woodbury, adding the Wings' motives appears to rest on a favorable TIP charter.
But while he disagrees with Wings' methods they have their own growth strategy. "I have enough of my own challenges to worry about theirs," said Plunkett agreeing also that bankers might take advantage of the controversy.
"Sure, they always do a few turns and twists to get at us," he said so there's nothing new there. As for how the MnCUN is functioning with the loss of dues income from Wings, its largest CU, the trade group leadership maintained there was no problem.
"Wings has been in and out of this trade group for a long time so we've adjusted," noted Mark Cummins, the new president/CEO.
And William Raker, the president/CEO of U.S. Federal CU of Burnsville, and a past MnCUN chairman, declared, "We can run the business just fine." --firstname.lastname@example.org