The banking industry may be licking their wounds these days, but "once they get their TARP funds back," some of those larger banks will pose a bigger competitive challenge than ever to credit unions on consumer issues, former NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar recently warned.
In a featured speech to the annual FOCUS 2010 EduConference of the California/Nevada Credit Union League, Dollar said large banks may be in survival mode while getting lambasted in public forums, but they are likely to emerge more consolidated and leaner later on ready to focus on the marketplace.
Thus, there is new urgency, he said, that CUs "seize the mantle of consumerism rather than cocooning away awaiting the fog to clear."
Speaking at the league's annual Monterey conference, Dollar, now head of a Birmingham, Ala., consulting firm bearing his name, urged CUs to build growth momentum during the next 18 to 24 months "that can sustain itself when the banks get back to the banking business."
He warned CUs, however, that if CUs "closet themselves away until the fog clears, they will find the fog has cleared for the competition as well."
It is not too often, he said, that CUs are handed such opportunities "where the competition is forced to focus elsewhere for a few years."And so CUs, he urged, ought to "turn on your lights and press on through the fog" acting carefully and with forethought.
Regarding the future status of the Monterey meeting, a 25-year tradition on the league calendar, officials said 2011 plans are to find a new location.
Under a program revamp, the two-and-a-half day Monterey gathering, formerly called the Big Valley Conference, is expected to have lower lodging expense with the conference's length cut as part of an overall emphasis on highly focused Webinars and one-day seminars.
Last month's Monterey meeting drew 245 attendees, a drop from the 600 CEOs, directors and guests who in past years used to convene in the quaint resort city for the education sessions as well as golf and evening entertainment.
Like its peers elsewhere, officials of the California/Nevada league cited the tough economic conditions as a reason for travel and conference economizing as they respond to continuing bottom line concerns of member CUs.
On that score, Mark Klinkert, the league's senior vice president of professional development, said the organization has witnessed a near 50% drop in overall conference attendance over the last two years compared to 35% for other leagues.
Despite the decline, the California League, he noted, is continuing to offer its convention consulting experience to other leagues, including its northern neighbor, the Credit Union Association of Oregon, by which the California group hosts online events, hires speakers and helps on meeting sites.