CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference serves as an annual rally cry for credit unions. Like a good sports coach, it’s there to pump up the team, provide direction and do a little cheerleading minus the short skirts.
Gathering all of the players in one room is great for bolstering that cooperative team spirit to approach Capitol Hill with the centralized mission of protecting credit unions’ future viability. Some will focus on enhancing credit union powers through expanded business lending or supplemental capital, while others will highlight the need for regulatory relief. Still others will demonstrate the need to maintain credit unions’ federal tax exemption.
Advocacy pulses through the veins of Thomas Renz of Commodore Perry FCU, the credit union recognized by Credit Union Times for Outstanding Political Action. When the credit union perceived unjust treatment from its NCUA examiner, Renz spearheaded the full-court press to try to make it right.
The aim of the GAC is political advocacy, but it should also reinvigorate credit union professionals with the cooperative nature of the industry. When the future scares large, for-profit competitors like Verizon and AT&T enough that they’ll work together on a project like Isis, you know there’s something to the cooperative philosophy beyond a hollow tagline.
If thousands of credit union professionals can gather in Washington to lobby for their futures, think what can be accomplished if credit unions large and small work more closely together on operational issues as well. DDoS attacks are a perfect timely example. If credit unions would cooperate on developing defenses, it would bring everyone’s costs down and provide solid industrywide security.
Take for example CU Times 2013 Trailblazer CFO Scott Waite of Patelco CU. Waite has contributed to the credit union industry far beyond his credit union. He regularly consults with the NCUA and other regulators on accounting and other issues and how rulemakings will affect all credit unions. He shares his knowledge as part of the CUNA CFO Council and one on one with others in the industry.
After the corporate meltdown and the downfall of credit unions selling bad participations, it can be difficult to trust each other again. However, credit unions won’t survive any other way. On the flip side, credit unions can’t only do business with CUSOs and each other, because it leads to the concentration risk we saw in 2008.
And stop trying to keep members out of the democratic process. The, um, marketing that is done to recruit board members might meet regulatory requirements. It’s crucial that nominating committee members be active in the community or field of membership that the credit union is trying to recruit from. Volunteering is a lot of work, as Carroll Beach, CU Times Volunteer of the Year from Elevations CU, will attest to.
Unfortunately, some credit unions seem to be moving away from their cooperative and democratic roots. Joe Brancucci, CEO of GTE Financial and CU Times CEO of the Year, caught an earful when the credit union rebranded without the FCU. He did what he felt was necessary to keep the credit union going, but the controversy among credit unions seemed to raise nearly to the level of a mutual savings bank conversion. GTE Financial gave up the “credit union” name, not the credit union philosophy.
It’s important to study individual credit unions and the community overall to reimagine it all. Our 2013 IT Trailblazer of the Year, Chad Graves of Ent FCU, looks at the credit union in its entirety rather than through technological blinders. His goal is to keep up with trends rather than being reactionary–an intelligent philosophy for the credit union community as a whole to adopt, although lately so much is happening in technology, regulation and other areas, it’s hard to keep credit union heads above water without some scale.
The $90 million Shreveport FCU manages to do it though. The CU Times 2013 Trailblazer for Service to the Underserved took on a partnership with a center that tries to assimilate prison inmates back into society. Not many financial institutions of any size would tackle this group’s financial needs, but they can’t be fully rehabilitated without being able to manage their finances. Shreveport FCU stepped up almost without hesitation and has made good business of it.
Collections is often a neglected part of credit unions’ lending operations, but not at Grow Financial. Dona Svehla recognized the importance of collections over the last few years, particularly in Florida. Pushing the previously back-burner issue to the forefront is what made Svehla CU Times Lending Officer of the Year.
Critical to success in each of these areas–lending, taking on a challenging FOM, technology strategy and the rest–is clear communication. This is the hallmark of our 2013 Marketing Executive of the Year, Kristen Mashburn of Listerhill CU, who sees communication across departments and with members as the challenge and the key to meeting and exceeding goals.
Now, read these folks’ inspiring stories in our Feb. 27 print edition or online, quit riding the pine, advocate, cooperate and re-imagine the future of credit unions.