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My feelings towards anonymous letters are well-known. I think they show cowardice on the part of their authors. If someone feels strongly about something, they ought to be willing to publicly defend their position. Also, by hiding behind a shield of anonymity, they remove an important element of evaluating the credibility of the opinions that are being expressed. Knowing who wrote a letter helps put comments expressed in perspective. A letter from Michael Jordan about basketball is very credible and has to be taken seriously. A letter from Michael Jordan about global warming is just one more letter on the subject. His opinions on that topic are no more important than the next guy’s. An anonymous letter received recently at Credit Union Times was addressed: “Letters to the Editor.” However, the first sentence read: “You may not print this letter; but I am sending it anyway.” Although anonymous, and despite how I feel about such letters, this one was difficult to ignore. For one thing, the letter writer claimed to have “been in this business for 40 years.” There’s the Michael Jordan credibility element. Someone who has been involved with credit unions that long surely must have a pretty good understanding of credit unions, past and present. Yet, the letter was loaded with misconceptions regarding what a credit union was in the early days in comparison to the letter writer’s views on what credit unions have become. It is almost like Michael Jordan was complaining that today’s pro hoopsters are trying to put the ball in the basket better and more often than their predecessors and thus have lost sight of the purpose of the game. Over the years, credit unions have experienced tremendous growth in members and assets, dramatically changed product and service offerings, and greatly improved delivery systems. It is these very changes that caused the writer to make reckless accusations. Many of the charges and complainants sounded familiar, like a banking industry lobbyist wrote the letter. Our anonymous letter writer prefaces his inflammatory remarks by explaining why he sent the missive: “If nothing else, I am releasing my total frustrations with the credit union industry (with some exceptions, like myself).” He or she may be frustrated but certainly doesn’t suffer from being humble. Speaking of being frustrated, so am I. I’m tired of hearing this same old stuff over and over from not only the banking industry lobbyists, but worse, from a disgruntled credit union minority that refuses to accept change whether or not it benefits credit union members. Sometimes even irresponsible statements have to be addressed, anonymous or not. This is my attempt to do just that. The letter writer said: “The credit union movement is totally out of control.” No it’s not. Credit unions have never been more in control of their own destiny. Others have tried to dictate what credit unions can and can’t do for years. Now they are finding that to be almost impossible. “When I started, a credit union was for a specific business or entity.” Wrong. From day one a credit union was for members. “.to service those employees who were in a financial bind and had to borrow money.” Right as far as it goes, but a credit union has always had a far greater purpose than lending money to employees in a bind. Like saving for productive purposes. “It also served as a place to save with payroll deductions. The employer benefited as he or she did not have to give payroll advances or loan money to employees. I believed then and I still believe this is what a credit union was meant to be. If the credit union leaders wanted us to be a bank, they would have started a bank.” Apparently those credit unions that do not offer payroll deduction for the benefit of benevolent sponsor companies, are not really credit unions. If credit union founders thought that was the only difference between a bank and a credit union, it is unlikely they would have invented credit unions. “We continue to expand.” Guess credit unions should have tried harder not to outgrow the cigar box in the back of the factory? .”build large empires.” Bankers in overalls where art thou? “.increase fees, etc., like a bank. Where’s the difference now?” Same place it always was, in the not-for-profit structure of the credit union. That hasn’t changed one bit. “Thanks to all the `empire builders,’ they are going to bring on taxation and eliminate the `credit union’ business entirely.” Or, credit unions could simply stay the way they were in the good old days and avoid taxation by disappearing off the face of the earth. “I wish we could go back to how credit unions are supposed to operate.” Don’t they still operate for the benefit of their members? “.but it has gone too far! I think the bankers are right! Bring on the taxes! We’ve gone too far now; we might as well face the obvious! We can’t go back!” To which I can only say thank God! It is scary to think that there are individuals out there who have been involved with credit unions for so many years and still don’t get it. Yet, I can’t help wonder if this person makes his or her own clothes, lives in a log cabin, rides a mule to check on his or her payroll deduction at the factory credit union that is open during the lunch break, and sits down every evening to a dinner comprised of food he or she has grown or raised themselves. Am I being too harsh? Probably. Nevertheless, I would still like to meet this letter writer to ask them how they feel about the advances in housing, food processing, medical care, transportation, education, entertainment, technology, as well as financial services. Credit unions are not the only thing that have changed in the past 40 years. Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected]

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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