The Illinois CU League recently passed an amendment to its bylaws prohibiting volunteers outside of the credit union industry from serving on its board.
While many credit unions across the country rely on volunteers who are lawyers, accountants or just interested members of the credit union and community who invest time making important credit union decisions, Vicki Ponzo, the league’s senior vice president of member services, said it just makes sense to only have credit union professionals as board members.
The amendment prohibiting volunteers is part of a larger change to the ICUL’s bylaws, much of which pertains to measures approved in 2009 to reduce the size of the league’s board and revise the way directors are elected.
“We debated it for quite a while and in the end it just made sense,” she said. “When we took a final vote I think there were only two votes against. It’s really not a big deal.”
Three Illinois credit unions contacted about the vote declined comment.
Susan Mitchell, CEO of Mitchell, Stankovic & Associates, a board governance consulting firm in Boulder City, Nev., sees this as a trend.
“Perhaps increased expectations will drive a need for transition,” she said. "As the credit union model becomes more complex, the need for specific experience will be needed. Driving income will be more of a focus and strategic initiatives, such as off-balance sheet products and services will require special backgrounds."
Ponzo said that the issues presented to the board on a regular basis are intricate, and that those outside of the industry often have a difficult time grasping the situation of running a successful credit union.
Another reason is that at this point all of the volunteers in Illinois that were not in the credit union industry have since retired, she said, and the ICUL has not had any volunteer board members outside of the industry in more than three years.
“Honestly, we really have not had much of an interest in people becoming volunteers who don’t work for a credit union,” she said.