Spring is a time of hope and, in the mid-Atlantic region, of relief that electric bills will go the way of the snow. Days are longer and milder; dreary rains come frequently, but we know it's for the best because it helps prepare for the drier days ahead.
Of course, everyone in credit union land is abuzz with the challenges facing corporate credit unions and the spill-over dampening effect on natural person credit unions. The top half of our front page is devoted to this issue this week.
In light of the expenses related to replenishing the NCUSIF and the recession, credit unions are being forced to make tough choices, including uncharacteristic layoffs such as those covered on page 8. That story demonstrates that credit unions of all sizes, from $186 million to nearly $1 billion in assets, have been affected and are making these decisions. Credit unions are closing lesser performing branches and cutting back on employee benefits.
Right now, it's easy to focus on this, and it would be irresponsible not to. However, credit unions need to be prepared for when the storm clouds break and the sun shines on the budding rose bushes. For example, even California credit unions, which are among the hardest hit by the economic-corporate double whammy, are continuing to workout loans for their members (see story, page 6). As a practicality, some credit unions recognize that this is the best alternative to a bankruptcy filing; others are trimming in other areas just to keep these programs going. In the long-run, credit unions should be reaping long-term members and loyal, word-of-mouth advertising.
Additionally, Southwest 66 Credit Union recently paid off two member loans totaling nearly $16,000 to celebrate its 60th year in business. In the grand scheme of things, this was really a small amount for the credit union but cultivates strong member bonds-not only for the winners but their friends and acquaintances as well--not to mention good PR.
Suncoast Schools, which has made headlines recently as Florida's hard times batter much of the CU community down there, recently made a $100,000 grant to the University of South Florida Pediatrics Ronald McDonald Care Mobile that will bring expand the unit's reach to triple the number of schools it serves in Pasco County, providing care for 567 more students. MCT Federal Credit Union has taken on the Montgomery County Public Schools' summer pay program for MCPS employees, allowing them to earn 2.0% on their savings for the summer months they previously were not receiving. SECU of N.C. continues to make its branches more wheelchair accessible and help members stay in their homes.
The list of credit unions sewing the seeds for the future goes on and on. Credit unions also enjoy sustenance from a deeply rooted support system of third parties that is rarely seen in business. A recent example was CO-OP Financial Services' THINK conference (see on-site coverage, pages 20-21). CO-OP waived registration fees for participants (as many are these days) and, though I did not attend, reportedly put on a first-rate, forward-thinking program with takeaways for credit union execs to dig into.
If credit unions take advantage of the rainy season and nurture deep roots from the seeds of today, they will have a fertile future ahead.
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