Things That Make You Go Hmmm
A month or so ago I was asked to do another Q&A session for the Metropolitan Area Credit Union Management Association, but after I agreed I was told that the NCUA, which was to have a representative on a panel regarding the legacy asset plan, did not want to follow that format. I was a bit miffed initially-not at the disinvite but that the agency wasn't willing to take questions before the group.
However, NCUA Director Larry Fazio surprised me (somewhat pleasantly) when he threw the floor open to the audience to ask questions. He drew quite a few audience questions, many of which were pointed. It was good that the group had the opportunity to get at exactly what was on their minds-to a point. I think it did add some to the NCUA's credibility, and Fazio very obviously knew what he was talking about in responding to the questions.
The line of questioning might have gone differently though from a prepared and disinterested third party such as Credit Union Times, which has a good working relationship with the NCUA and isn't at the mercy if its examinations. In fact, during the session, which I attended, many credit union executive attendees were either at a loss for what to ask or were afraid to. A couple asked questions but there were long pauses at times between the answers and the next question.Before it got awkward Janice Hollar, a credit union consultant, and Credit Union Times' staff tossed out many of the questions.
One thing I've heard around the industry is that some credit union boards and executives don't understand that the credit unions still own the bad assets. The confusion may lie with the NCUA's use of the term "re-securitization." So after biting my tongue for a while and no one was asking other questions, I asked Fazio about the use of re-securitization, which implies a sale of the assets.
The problem is according to Fazio, "It's hard to reconcile the economics, the accounting and the legal. They don't actually reconcile." Hmmm.
He further explained that technically the assets were transferred into a trust but in the end the economics come out the same. Credit unions are on the hook for whatever occurs with the legacy assets.
Something else to make you go hmmm? Check out the guest blog on the Credit Union Exchange Cary Anderson, CEO of Main Street Financial FCU. He wrote, "All five corporates had boards made up of CEOs, so the rule is changed to make sure no volunteers serve on the boards (only C suite individuals), make sense? Did a CUSO cause the problem? No but what the heck, let's throw them into the mix." Hmmm, using an ax to swat a fly?
I also attended a business development roundtable hosted by MECU of Baltimore. The group of area credit unions of all sizes and charters meets at the end of each year to discuss what they've done and how they've measured up to their 2010 goals and what they are planning for 2011.
One thing the group was struggling with was quantity versus quality when it comes to SEG or "business partners." (Long explanation but essentially MECU has a hybrid charter.) In some cases, management was pushing for X number of SEGs added in 2010. Two credit unions had goals of 60 new SEGs. One is at 31, while the other stands at 74. So which one has the better deal?
The one credit union that hit just half its goal claimed high-quality relationships were developed with these partnerships that would likely lead to greater member penetration. The one-person shop that added 74 new groups was not bragging about it: many of those SEGs were just a handful (or less) of employees and others were small business that ended up just wanting business services, but the business development executive was told to count them.
So which credit union is getting better bang for its buck? Fewer SEGs with more employees and great buy-in from HR, or the credit union that exceeded its goal for the number of SEGs but were either low quality or low member conversion?
The first credit union admitted it had an existing SEG with a couple thousand potential members that it visited every other week, but after spending 16 employee-hours a month, they had a relatively paltry number of members to show for the employee time invested. Hmmm.
Credit Union Times ON AIR is our new weekly, online radio show. Last week, I hosted a segment on Issues Affecting Credit Union Volunteers, which covered several timely and crucial topics such as director education, assessment and recruitment. My Nov. 3 column stating that paying board members would be a useful recruitment tool came up, and all five of the industry veteran guests disagreed with me that credit unions should have the option to pay their board members.
One panelist later asked for a mea culpa from me on the issue. I was in the minority, but does that make me wrong? Examine this: Not to toot my own horn, but I'm an ideal credit union board candidate. I'm a female executive well below the average age of credit union board members. I know and understand a good bit about credit unions, their issues and care about their survival. I would guess I'm very much the average financial services consumer in terms of needs and services expected. In addition to credit unions, I know about raising a family while working, journalism and PR, management and I can comprehend balance sheet basics.
I also play volleyball and volunteer for my team. I love credit unions, but in large part that's because I'm already in the industry. Prior to the last 11 years, all I knew about credit unions was my dad had a credit card and Christmas Club account through one he joined at work. So if my career path hadn't accidentally led me here, what might encourage me to take time from my family and my volleyball to serve on a credit union board? Hmmm.