One More for the Road: Times Is a-Changing: Editor/Publisher's Column
Heather Anderson took up the mantle of executive editor this week. With her keen intellect, wit and Midwestern work ethic, I know she’s going to do an excellent job of heading up the day-to-day editorial efforts at Credit Union Times. Her credit union background is invaluable to helping us further uncover exactly what credit union professionals want from the leading industry publication.
Anderson will be replacing Managing Editor Don Shoultz, who’s landed himself a cushy editorial consulting gig. I want to thank the CU Times’ resident curmudgeon for running a tight ship, and for his counsel, especially in my early days as editor.
I’ve been writing this column for more than five and a half years. I have graced (or not) this page approximately 275 times, second only to our founding publisher Mike Welch. This will be my last regular column in CU Times.
Now don’t you fret (or cheer), because I’ll still be here to stir the pot with occasional guest columns and online. I picked up the title of publisher in addition to editor-in-chief last year, and now I will be transitioning more into the publisher role, overseeing product and business development and sales. Expect great things.
So for old times’ sake…
Lobbying is essential to credit unions’ survival. It’s astounding that only 25% of credit unions have taken up the rallying cry in defense of credit union’s tax-exempt status. According to the trade groups, this is credit unions’ primary concern and raison d’etre for the trade groups. Are they wrong about this? Is it not that important to remain tax exempt? The trade groups are there to organize and lead the cause, but each credit union’s board and management needs to put in some legwork, too. Lobbying is fundamental to your work. You can’t bury your collective heads in the sand and hope Washington won’t notice that a $1 trillion industry is exempt.
- Credit unions still must hold the trade groups accountable. As you read in Anderson’s page 1 story, CUNA had a record-setting year so far in PAC fundraising, but what are credit unions getting for it? One CUNA professional says members are more interested in easing CFPB rules. I hear the same thing, but that’s regulatory so what does that have to do with the value of the PAC money? Protecting the tax exemption is another priority. Fair enough, but it’s in greater jeopardy than ever and because credit unions are rallied behind the issue on an annual basis, it seems that some are getting worn out. And credit unions cannot even obtain simple reg relief specific to credit unions in a reg relief bill for financial institutions. It’s possible something could be added in the legislative sausage making, but it simply demonstrates that credit unions are still an afterthought. Another CUNA executive pointed out that the NCUA reduced its budget mid-year, and took credit. Fact is the NCUA almost always reduces its budget mid-year because it overbooks itself. Last year’s reduction was $2 million as well, and has going back many years.
- The credit union community always raises a big stink about credit unions that want to convert to mutual savings banks. If credit unions don’t raise their voices collectively in support of maintaining their tax-exempt status, many credit unions−particularly the large ones that provide a lot of financial and technical support to the smaller ones–will be forced into a mutual savings bank charter.
- Converting to a mutual savings bank is not inherently evil. Sound business reasons exist for it. Sometimes the people involved can make the decision for the wrong reasons, but that does not mean it can never be the right move for continued service to the members. Credit union professional and proud of the work the industry does, and rightfully so, but that does not mean credit unions are always the best choice.
- Board directors should have the option to be compensated according to their contributions and abilities. Some credit unions may choose not to, and that’s fine. However, the complexity and risk of the modern financial institutions warrants some nominal stipend. Tie the compensation to something, such as typical pay for their technical training.
Thank you all for your support. It’s been a great ride, and we’re only heading toward the pinnacle.
Sarah Snell Cooke
Publisher/Editor in Chief