The News Isn't Always Pretty, Nor the Lesson to Be Learned Easy
The story of Dean Gaymon, CEO of Credit Union of Atlanta, was a tragic one that has captured the attention of the credit union industry. Gaymon was shot and killed by a police officer while in New Jersey for a high school reunion. The circumstances of the event remain murky, and now, aside from forensics, only one side of what happened has been told.
Comments from the industry, friends and family have come through our website begging justice be served on both sides of the argument. The result of a press conference by prosecutors brought more questions than answers: Was Gaymon doing anything in the park to rightfully draw the police officer's attention? Was the relatively seasoned officer quick to draw and use his weapon with deadly force? Is the seemingly improbable account from the prosecutor's office of the officer's statement due to confusion in a high-stress scenario or a cover-up for bigotry or a terrible mistake or something else?
One thing those following the news must keep in mind is that this country was founded on the belief that we are all innocent until proven guilty. Whether Gaymon received just treatment or not from the officer, that right should not be violated on behalf of the officer. It is too fundamental to a free society-just as freedom of information is.
I have been very disappointed in the reaction of some of our readers to Credit Union Times covering this news. When we started, the story simply was that a credit union CEO had been shot and killed with nothing more than that; we didn't seek to sensationalize it. Once the officer's allegations came out and the family responded, we were berated for covering the story in such a "tabloid"-style. Nothing could be further from the truth. Because of the nature of the allegations, some of our readers said we should not be covering the story.
Let me turn it around: If it had been alleged that Gaymon was collecting alms for an orphanage and the officer was a bigot, we would have been berated for not following up. Credit Union Times would have been accused of not doing its job of informing the industry. Keep this in mind as some in the credit union industry are screaming for transparency from the NCUA and from the corporate credit unions but shun disclosing their own salaries or stories like this. More than a year ago now, we had to report on the tragic end of one of our own; we dutifully wrote the facts without bias or prejudice and did not simply overlook the news because it involved a journalist or Credit Union Times.
The importance of free and independent press is that we can report the news-good, bad or indifferent. The media are an independent regulator of sorts, bringing light to issues that some would rather keep locked up in the dark. The news isn't always pretty, but that does not mean it should be ignored.
Everything is a learning experience. As a practical matter for credit unions, the sudden loss of a CEO demonstrates the need for a solid management team ready to step up and run the business. Solid succession and contingency planning are crucial, in addition to tending to staff psychological needs and crisis public relations planning. The better the planning, the more smoothly things will go in the credit union when it seems the world's spun off its axis. The business of the credit union must carry on.
Without planning for future possibilities, credit unions or any business can be left in the dust. That is the theme of the recently published book "Too Small to Fail" by Open Solutions Chairman/CEO Louis Hernandez Jr. He advocates, "Both in the U.S. and globally, a focus on core replacement is evident." He used an Aite Group pie chart showing 30% of global core replacement spending occurring in the U.S. Obviously, his company has an interest in the core business, but that does not make the sentiment any less true.
As the economy turns the corner, credit unions must review whether their technology is positioned for future success or just a patchwork quilt of survival. While human interaction will always be important in a credit union, the right technology can make that member service even more meaningful and possible. If a member would prefer to complete a transaction online but cannot and must come in to a branch, not only are you wasting that member's time but also the member behind them in line and the service representative. "Spend in areas that have the greatest impact to the consumer while streamlining all lower-level or lower-value functions," Hernandez advised. For example, I take this to mean spend on member-facing website functionality and marketing, while streamlining nonmember-facing yet necessary functions like compliance via technology. He cited data from AMR Research Inc. that showed total governance, risk and compliance spending is expected to grow to $29.8 billion in 2010. Additionally, Aite Group predicted an increase in customer relationship management spending through 2012; if the software can manage the relationship, credit union staff can be busy actually having one with the member.
Hernandez compared financial institutions that were progressive to Apple's creation of the iPhone, while those who did not will end up like Motorola-just patching old systems to its own demise. Motorola plan to spin off its mobile phone division. Forrester research showed that financial institutions quick to jump on iPhone applications, such as BofA, Grupo Banco Popular and USAA, found that 40% of their mobile users were on iPhones.
Technology doesn't have to be about automating member service, but complementing it or even allowing better member service. A last thought from Hernandez: "The profitable model for buying and selling money is disappearing....Any strategy should lead to redefining and then fulfilling the role as a trusted financial intermediary for your targeted market by delivering and demonstrating daily your unique value to the market....Everything must become sharper, more directed and more innovative."
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