As I come to the end of my term as a board member and chair of NAFCU, it is with particular pride that I reflect upon how our industry has evolved over the last decade.
I am impressed at the spirit of innovation that has continued to fuel us in times of both adversity and prosperity. While certainly much of the development has been driven by technological advances, at a deeper level there is a mindset that sees challenges as opportunities and recognizes untapped possibilities.
As I look at other industries, there always seem to be leaders. Whether in consumer products, technology or the food industry, certain firms define the category. Curiously, the products or services they provide may not be the most expensive, but they are distinctive. McDonald's, Apple, GE, IBM, Google, Sony and Nike are just a few of the organizations that come to mind.
Given the record of success for many of these organizations, I know it cannot be serendipity that they are at the front of the pack or that they have persevered in challenging times.
Warren Bennis, prominent organizational consultant, offers these insights on leadership:
- The manager administers; the leader innovates.
- The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
- The manager accepts reality; the leader investigates it.
- The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader has his or her eye on the horizon.
- The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
- The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.
To be successful, we must be managers and leaders. We must be able to lead first-ascertain the what and why-and then execute the how and when.
We have fostered many notable developments in precisely this fashion. Examples include the Corporate Stabilization Fund and the lifting of the cap on the Central Liquidity Fund as well as the continuation of the $250,000 limit in deposit insurance.
Looking forward, we are poised to apply the same know-how to address what will surely be major changes stemming from the finance reform bill. In addition, it behooves us to recognize the significant impact the corporate credit union stabilization program will continue to have on natural person credit unions. That's why we have since last year urged the NCUA board to set the NCUSIF normal operating level below 1.3% of insured shares and let the fund drop below 1.2%.
On a positive note, it is encouraging that NCUA has decided to follow through with separating the premium assessments for corporate stabilization and the NCUSIF. This is an important development, as it's a major step toward greater transparency.
Our top concern regarding corporate stabilization must be the continued health of natural person credit unions and the NCUSIF. We will continue to work to ensure the impact on credit unions is as limited as it can be under the law.
Beyond the legislative and regulatory arena, we must recognize there is no leadership without great ideas. Ideas help provoke thought, generate new perspectives and offer new opportunities. In fact, General Patton once said, "If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn't thinking."
Fortunately, the credit union industry is blessed with both great ideas and leaders. I believe there are several fundamental ideas that will continue to provide opportunities for growth and drive our success going forward.
Consumers are dissatisfied with other financial institutions and want quality, affordable financial services from a trustworthy source. Consumers are looking for an alternative to the big banks. As impressive as our industry's new member figures have been in recent years, we must strive to be the financial institution of choice. The more credit unions can promote what they offer, the more membership will grow and the more robust our industry will be.
Credit unions' core mission of service is more important than ever. Today, more people find themselves in need of reputable, low-cost financial products and services. Unfortunately, many people have been victims of the waning economy and find themselves in circumstances that they would never have imagined. It is precisely at these times that credit unions can prove most useful, and underscore the unique role that we serve as not-for-profit, member-focused organizations.
We must continue to innovate, constantly finding new ways to be at the vanguard of trends and issues facing our industry. Likewise, we are equally committed to pursuing new and dynamic products and services to support members in the marketplace. Our agility in adapting to the changing financial landscape is the cornerstone of our successful history and promises to be the key to our future achievements.
In closing, I feel uniquely privileged to have been a part of these exciting times for our industry as a board member and chair of NAFCU. I look forward to the future with full confidence and great expectations.
Brad Beal is president/CEO of Nevada Federal Credit Union in Las Vegas and the outgoing chair of NAFCU. He can be reached at702-641-4220 or BradB@NevadaFederal.org