Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way
The credit union industry has many leaders: Credit unions that excel at their business, credit unions that assist other credit unions, and volunteers who spend their free time sifting through inches-thick board packets rather than plopping down for another "Law & Order" rerun.
Credit unions are leaders not only in the U.S. but around the world. The World Council of Credit Unions has had much success in delivering financial services into the hands of the underserved. Employing mobile banking technology to serve the most underserved of areas has been a great way to get these folks in the doors of credit unions and a step toward bettering their financial situations.
"The old model of financial services was to set up branches and wait for members to come to the credit union. Today, credit unions need to respond to the convenience of the member," WOCCU's blog reads.
This movement has not caught on in America despite the fact you can't stroll the sidewalk and not pass someone talking on a cell phone.
Cliff Rosenthal, head of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, said his organization was working on a pilot some time ago, but the timing wasn't right. Now might be the time to revisit it, he added. Agreed.
One CDCU is taking a stab at it. Maria Martinez, president/CEO of the Border Federal Credit Union in Texas, has been exploring mobile banking for the last three months. It's not as if she didn't want to provide this option to the 21,000 members of her $98 million community development credit union, but the costs were prohibitive. She explained that they've come down some and the credit union is finally moving forward.
A larger credit union, CUSO or vendor should be stepping in to offer a free generic platform for credit unions like The Border to provide mobile banking services to their members. This type of effort is completely in line with credit unions' cooperative nature and all credit unions' dedication and responsibility to serve people in low-income and underserved communities.
Martinez acknowledged that mobile banking will not be a money maker for her credit union. However, it can help her members, currently within three low-income counties, and she is hoping to expand. She added that it will be a boon to her members, though, who often incur NSF fees. A text message warning that they are nearing a certain amount of funds in their account could help avoid the NSFs.
The Border FCU's efforts go a long way toward maintaining the not for profit, not for charity but for service philosophy. Credit union directors are vital for this same reason, in addition to providing safe and sound financial institutions. Without them, there is no credit union industry.
Credit unions should be run in a democratic manner with a board representative of the membership. At the same time, no one wants just anyone running financial institutions just as you wouldn't want just anyone running the government. (I'm really fighting back the jokes running through my head right now.) Seriously, agree with President Obama or not, he's of above-average intelligence and motivation. The average Joe or Jane American would not be equipped for the job.
If a credit union board member is not fully educated when it comes to what is going on within the institution, the board is opening itself up to chaos at the institution as well as personal liability. If board members do not comprehend what is going on at the institution, a fraudulent or rogue CEO could run roughshod all over them and the credit union.
Credit union people tend to think the best of other credit union people. I always offer up my trust in people freely unless they prove they are unworthy. Of course, the CEO and board need to trust each other, but directors also need to work toward preventing the worst and education is a powerful tool.
So why on earth would NAFCU oppose the NCUA's regulation requiring bare minimum standards for board member financial literacy? Since it is a member-driven organization, it must be a push by the members. However, during a webinar recently hosted by our Credit Union Leadership Forum, 77% of attendees responded that the NCUA's regulation "definitely will help" or "will help some" to the question, "Do you think the latest NCUA regulations on FCU directors will help credit unions to function more effectively in the future?"
Preparation is key to everything from sports to business. The Crash Network was created to help young executives continue and progress their careers within credit unions. By educating themselves on the industry and meeting industry legends-without being forced to by regulation-these up-and-comers are galvanizing the future of the industry.
Similarly, TMG's Jeff Russell recently launched the blog PlanBPhilosophy.com, which is dead-on in encapsulating the way we're all living today. The idea behind it is what if what you were planning on doing doesn't work out. In one entry, he highlights how the Chicago Bears' third-string quarterback could have not practiced as hard as he did because his chances of playing were virtually zip. But he did prepare and when his time to shine in the playoffs came, he was nearly able to turn the game around. Third stringers must be prepared to step in and lead when others are injured or benched and the coach (or board) must have faith in them for Plan B to come together.