Editor’s Column: ’Tis the Season to Be Politically Minded
I just spent a vacation in Virginia. The blaring, nonstop attacks of the candidates on each other were completely obnoxious. I couldn’t have been happier to return to Maryland, which is a not considered a swing state in this election. During this season marked by expensive, negative and continuous campaign ads and hyper-inflated rhetoric, waxing political seemed appropriate.
When CUNA plans a leave-behind campaign, it doesn’t fool around. Brochures? Nah. Coffee mugs? No way. CUNA is dedicating playgrounds to hospitals in the cities where the national conventions are taking place while the national conventions are in session. Playgrounds for sick children–what’s more politically correct than that?
The practice is a smart one. Not only does it raise awareness of credit unions’ generosity among the party leaders, but also it captures the good work credit unions perform every day and packages it up with a bow for the pols. The PR residuals locally and nationally have great potential and have proven themselves in the past. Like a pregnant cat, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
While not as titillating as my June 6 column regarding a credit union’s uncharacteristic use of a very revealing neckline in its advertising (which caused a cleavage among the membership–I had to go there), I’m plunging into another politically incorrect subject.
I’m talking about the use of “credit union” in credit union names and branding. I recently wrote a blog posted to CUinsight’s CU Community applauding GTE Financial’s name change from GTE Federal Credit Union. Why tilt at windmills? Check out the discussion at CUinsight.com.
At Credit Union Times, we invited GTE Financial CEO Joe Brancucci to write an opinion piece explaining the strategy behind it, which you can find at CUTimes.com/Brancucci-GTE. Denise Wymore, vice president of member loyalty at Del Norte Credit Union, has been invited to argue why it’s insane to take the “credit union” out of the credit union at CUTimes.com/Wymore-GTE. This issue is one of high interest that’s also highly emotional for those within the industry. CU Times always strives to provide both sides of the issues. Even when I know they’re dead wrong.
As election season crescendos over the next few months, credit unions and their employees and their management teams, as well as their PACs, are being bombarded with political campaign advertisements and requests for support. NAFCU has taken a strong stance and said no one who voted against NAFCU and its members on interchange will get a dime from the NAFCU PAC.
At the same time the Massachusetts league contributed to Elizabeth Warren, the mastermind behind the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It apparently caused a bit of a stir for the league but not too much fuss. Massachusetts is a very Democratic state, so the backing isn’t that surprising. However her opponent for the senate seat, incumbent Sen. Scott Brown who previously received funds from credit unions, also voted against delaying the implementation of the interchange rules under Dodd-Frank. Neither is a good pick and given Massachusetts’ penchant for blue, the league made the best choice it could have. When Warren wins, hopefully she remembers who helped bring her there.
Every time a credit union looks to convert to a mutual savings bank, the industry gets in the debate over whether it’s being done for personal gain or it really is the best deal for the membership. Sometimes the membership actually does exercise its democratic right as in the case at Technology Credit Union in California.
The credit union has the right and obligation to explore the possibility. The membership has the right and obligation to vote it down if they don’t want the credit union to convert. Bravo to the protesters for taking a stand and making their voices heard.
However, a whopping 15 protesters isn’t going to block it. And if it is the decision of the membership to convert, then the industry should not be standing in the credit union’s way—the will of the people.
Industry folks often bemoan the slant of the statements converting credit unions provide. In this case, the credit union also shared the unchecked slant of those opposed to the conversion. Both sides made their cases and now it’s time for the members of Technology CU, not the credit union industry, to decide.
CUNA and the state league made some noise at the announcement of the conversion attempt, but NAFCU nimbly sidestepped the issue. Everyone should realize that most–if not all–of the billion-dollar and many smaller credit unions have just such a conversion plan in their back pockets should the desire or need arise.