At GAC, We Can At Least Agree on Something: Editor's Column
Sitting in the sessions at the Governmental Affairs Conference or during impromptu networking sessions in the halls of the Washington Convention Center, attendees are all mulling over the great successes and challenges that credit unions are experiencing every day. One thing is clear: Now more than ever is a time to celebrate being a part of the credit union community.
Even when many in the industry can’t agree on the issues, we can all agree that some agreement needs to be reached in the broadest sense. Take for example the idea of existing to serve the members.
“We may have a different approach on how we do things but not why we do them,” Kyle Markland says in our page 20 feature story. He is all about serving the members of Affinity Plus FCU. He insists the credit union look at the members as people, not just credit scores, when lending out money. He ensures the employees there take this approach by treating them as people and not just cogs in the lending machine. The employees are empowered to take initiative, and this culture of valuing human beings has taken the credit union a long way.
In December alone, Affinity Plus added more than 1,700 new members, a 134% increase from December 2010. He credits not only his employees but also a successful marketing campaign with making the difference. And those new members are opening up multiple accounts with the credit union. He’s not worried about the interchange cap so much because Affinity Plus members do more business with the credit union anyway. There’s much to be learned from Markland, Credit Union Times’ CEO of the Year, and Affinity Plus.
Pioneer WV FCU Chairman Terry Richardson, our Volunteer of the Year, joins Markland in his member-oriented view and shouts it from the tree tops to all who’ll listen. He actively participates in community events to ensure everyone around knows what Pioneer WV is all about—something all solid board members should aspire to.
Not many credit unions know as much about serving their members than Latino Community Credit Union. Formed to protect Durham-area Latinos from becoming targets for thieves, the credit union boasts bilingual, bicultural employees and services tailored to the membership. Despite or because of its service to the underserved, which we’re recognizing them for, Latino Community enjoys a relatively low delinquency rate.
And in the end, credit union executives will agree it all comes down to the bottom line. For David Kwant, CFO of Mountain America CU and our CFO of the Year, the efficiency ratio is the one to keep an eye on. Often that means knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em, as with MACU’s REOs. Selling the properties off promptly saved the credit union at least 10% of the value.
As with many people, Kwant exhibited mixed feelings about the government. He loved the loan guarantees but, even as a former state credit union examiner, was confused as to their methods.
And when commonality can’t be found, some make it. Jeff Johnson of Baxter CU is heading up the effort to create the CUFX, or Credit Union Financial Standards, with the CUNA Technology Council. The goal of the CUFX is to streamline for blasting out new business functions and reducing costs. Who doesn’t want that? That’s why Johnson is CU Times’ IT Executive of the Year.
Marketers have their fingers in every aspect of the credit union, so naturally they should have an understanding of what they are representing to the public. Agreed? I thought so.
It’s not just about slapping stock photos of smiling families in a brochure or on your website. Kathryn Davis, senior vice president at Xceed FCU, gets the full picture of the credit union’s business, and that is why she’s our Marketing Executive of the Year. Marketing is not an expense item, but rather an investment that can pay big returns as the feature article on Davis on page 23 reveals.
The same can be said for employee training and culture. Invest in good employees and create a culture of cooperation that ensures everyone understands the value of their roles in the credit union’s endgame. That’s the strategy of our HR Executive of the Year, Kristina Derkos of Redwood CU. The employees there enjoy their jobs and believe that the credit union is fulfilling its mission, which is all any employer can ask for.
Investing in employees is exactly what Brett Jorgenson did when he came on at Gesa CU as chief lending officer. As he says in our page 24 feature, the credit union wasn’t doing much wrong but it wasn’t lending much either. So he invested in training his staff and snatched up experienced but recently laid off lending officers from competitors that were pinched by the housing bubble. He also focused on getting the credit union known among real estate agents. His strategic and nimble moves made Gesa more successful, and that’s why we’ve named him our Lending Officer of the Year.
However, U.S. credit unions are all in Washington this week for one thing: to lobby the government. In some countries, such as Afghanistan, that is easier said than done, because when credit union board members stick their necks out, it’s literal, as IIFC Group CEO Mahir Momand explained. And that is why we went outside the U.S. with our Outstanding Political Action award this year.
So while 4,000 members of the credit union community are in Washington this week, remember what we can agree on: 1) It’s for the members and in other countries, that can mean a lot more than convenience. 2) Employees fuel the services that serve the members. 3) Solid marketing and business development let the members know how you can help. 4) We can never take for granted the freedoms we are provided.