On Fences, Neighbors and the Willingness to Delegate
"Good fences make good neighbors." So says Robert Frost's 1914 poem "Mending Wall." True when plotting a garden, and in the workplace a clear delineation and willingness to delegate is necessary.
Board and committees provide great guidance to their credit unions. After the guidance is offered though, the board needs to step back and allow credit union management to do its job. That's what they were hired for, right? Sweating the small stuff by committee is never efficient or effective.
For example, a credit union board decides the credit union should work to decrease the average member age-that's the guidance. Then there needs to be trust in the CEO and staff to make it happen. So the CEO comes back with, we're going to add student lending, train staff to cross sell from there, beef up our online and mobile offerings and target market to colleges. Board says OK.
Then the CEO must feel comfortable saying to the marketers, IT folks and HR, "You're the experts, make this happen."
Of course, then the work product of the busy worker bees gets completed, revised and approved up the chain until it is ultimately launched. Board and senior management follow up is crucial to discover the true success of the effort. How many new young members were added to the membership over a particular time period? What were the most successful methods or products? What was the ROI? Proper oversight is a bigger picture view, so it's important not got get stuck in the weeds that can grow up and over and through your fences.
The same holds true for financial services charters. When credit unions seek a risk-based capital structure or alternative capital from members, they aren't looking to become banks, as the bankers assert. Expanded capital only allows credit unions to further expand their generally lower priced, more consumer-friendly services.
And so goes business lending. Credit unions that stick to their purpose of providing services to their members needn't overlook offering a business loan to a retiree of one of its SEGs merely because it's a credit union. A 40-year accountant may want to consult part time and need to set up an office to do so. Police officers often retire young and might want to launch a business of their own. These are legitimate credit union members with very real needs at a time of economic malaise in the United States; their needs coincide with the nation's need for recovery. Nothing could be more economically patriotic than the expansion of business lending, with strong but reasonable oversight, by microcosms of democracy, yet the bankers continue to fight credit unions on it as evidenced by last week's passage of the $30 billion thrown to the banks without any provisions for credit unions. Credit unions truly want to remain credit unions, but they require some legislative modernization to continue as credit unions. Credit unions want to keep that fence up between not-for-profit financial services cooperatives and banks; the banks would just prefer the Atlantic Ocean as a moat between the charters. They should learn to be more neighborly.
Credit Union Times keeps a sturdy fence between editorial and advertising to ensure our readers get top-quality news coverage for high-caliber executives. In turn, it is these very executives that advertisers want to reach. Some companies are very strong supporters of keeping this fence in good shape, while others try to throw their weight around to affect editorial coverage.
Credit Union Times' editorial and advertising teams are neighborly-for example we're going to be presenting our readers and advertisers with extremely well-redesigned magazine next month that will be to the benefit of both. That is one reason why we have a separate editor and publisher; ad spend will never dictate which companies get news coverage and which don't.
This fence isn't new for newspapers, though many are combining the two jobs with their cutbacks, nor has anything happened in particular with advertisers occurred of late to bring it to my attention; our advertisers respect Credit Union Times' editorial integrity and, in fact, count on it. We're consistently ensuring strong fences for the benefit of all.
--Comments? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org