I hate being cold, and if it's below 70 degrees-OK 75-I'm cold. However, cooler weather for many parts of the United States also means it's time for International Credit Union Day. Of course in Australia, home of the one of the most developed credit union industries, it's a credit union rite of spring.
Springtime is a time of hope. Plants are budding, fawns peek out from behind their mothers to nibble fresh grass and birds sing in the trees. For Christians, it's when Jesus rose from the dead. And International Credit Union Day is a time of hope for the credit union community around the world.
The industry should recognize that this year, particularly as it concerns American credit unions, we need all the hope we can get. The last couple of years have been anxious for many and even bitter. It's turned credit union executives against each other, against regulators and, in some instances, everything.
So use Oct. 21 as a turning point. I'm attending an International Credit Union Day event at Credit Union House in Washington as this goes to print. As a journalist at the leading credit union industry publication for the last decade, I've tried to maintain a certain distance from the industry for a balanced perspective. But I have failed at that.
Belief in the credit union industry is infectious because so many people do believe, like Santa. The one thing I can look forward to in the cold, nasty D.C. winters is getting into the holiday spirit. When I leave for work in the dark and come home in the dark, it's nice to at least see colorful twinkling lights on the houses. My kids drive me nuts motor-mouthing about what they want for Christmas and how they can't wait to see Grandma D and Pop-pops and help decorate their 20-foot tree. But it's also great to see them genuinely ecstatic about family time spent building gingerbread houses and reading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
The credit union industry needs that feeling back. Credit union executives have been so nervous about how their boards will react to the corporate crisis and how (or if) they'll be able to keep their own institutions' financials up some have stopped behaving in the credit union spirit. They haven't lost their belief in the system, but they've been deeply wounded and can't seem to get past it.
There are two ways of dealing with adversity. One is to harbor resentment, which one of our staffers defines as the punishment you give yourself for others' mistakes, or you can work with it. Everything is a learning experience.
Take for example, the work the World Council of Credit Unions is doing in war-torn, corrupt and impoverished countries. In its blog entry, "Social Mission vs. Corporate Responsibility," WOCCU COO Brian Branch explained how credit unions in Africa are working on AIDS/HIV prevention programs and financing agricultural efforts and assisting in the battle to care for the orphans of victims of the disease. Yet, the kids in the photo at the blog are smiling, and the credit unions there may not have 100% success, they can smile about the little successes along the way. When credit unions exist in part simply to keep its members live, that's adversity.
I'm not trying to minimize the impact of the last two years on credit unions; it has been huge financially, but in this case at least, life goes on. The credit union must too.
The NCUA seems to have learned from the last two years and is making adjustments to its regulation of corporate credit unions. The agency is moving forward with its legacy asset plan. Credit unions have learned the importance of due diligence and are tightening up their policies regarding this into the future. But while certain evolutions of thought are occurring within credit unions, the startled look in executives' eyes and tightened tone in their voices are still there. If you aren't in a positive mood about the fate of the industry, I find even if you initially have to fake it, it will become reality.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the new look of Credit Union Times. Previously our publication had, let's call it, a utilitarian look to it, and the logo had a vintage 1980s quality. Redesigning Credit Union Times for the 21st Century has been an arduous and exciting task. We've done a lot to modernize the look but also the functionality of the publication by leading the reader to more information on a topic with the 'Next Steps' you'll find at the end of many of the articles. You'll also notice on this very page we have integrated an online directory to guide readers to online only exclusive materials at cutimes.com. Times have been challenging for credit unions and publishing, but we're still putting out the best independent credit union news publication, and I'm smiling. Let us know what you think about our new, fresh design.
So about those gingerbread houses and making lemonade out of lemons: What do you do with the stale, Candyland-style homes? We spent family time shooting them up with a BB gun.