There are three unrelated topics in my potpourri file on which some observations may be of interest: * First topic: Kudos to all those responsible for obtaining the new Internet designation, dot-coop, or more correctly, .coop. Obtaining a new domain is no small task. It has been estimated that there are nearly 50,000 cooperatives in the USA, including approximately 10,000 credit unions, that could take advantage of the newly approved .coop domain. Despite all the positive vibes in having a separate not-for-profit Internet identity, however, it appears that many credit unions are greeting the .coop availability with a big yawn. Which raises a couple of interesting questions: Now that it is readily available, how many credit unions will actually sign up for .coop? And why wouldn’t all credit unions take advantage of a more appropriate designation than the currently prevalent .org or in some cases, the for-profit designation, .com? Many credit unions have explained that they feel a change in their Web address at this point would be both expensive and confusing. They have spent money and effort to get members to recognize, for example. Switching to would be difficult. Some say more difficult than the initial challenge of getting members familiar with the credit union’s first-ever Web address. By going to .coop, members would have to first unlearn the current address and then learn a new one. Had .coop been available from the outset, probably many credit unions would be using it today. Even though an apparently significant number of credit unions are reluctant at this point to change Web addresses, all credit unions ought to move as quickly as possible to lock up their personal .coop designation before someone else snatches it up. The modest cost and effort would allow a credit union to have its .coop address in its back pocket for possible future use, or at least to protect it. * Second topic: Since I’ve previously stated my negative views towards the much ballyhooed succession planning for credit union CEOs, the following comments should come as no surprise to longtime readers. A number of speakers on the credit union meeting circuit have recently been addressing the subject of disaster planning. There is no doubt that the subject began showing up on the front burner after this country’s most horrific disaster of all time that occurred on September 11th. These platform presenters tick off a list of natural disasters that credit unions need to have a plan for, such as fires, floods, explosions, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. and also as a reason to have a CEO succession plan in place. But they now also indicate that not having one when the current CEO may be in the wrong place at the wrong time and is killed or maimed in an equally serious man-made disaster is a serious mistake. Of course I disagree. Today’s savvy credit union CEOs have a senior management person ready to step in if something permanently or temporarily happens to the CEO. In many cases, this person could make the transition to full-time CEO if necessary. At the very least, he or she can steer the ship until a new CEO can be hired. If the board decides a new CEO must be hired, especially now, most credit unions can have the pick of the litter. There is an abundance of qualified potential credit union CEOs ready to step into the corner office. Not having a CEO succession plan is nowhere near as disastrous as the headquarters building disappearing in a puff of smoke. Even the best credit union CEO in the land is not indispensable. Losing a top-flight credit union CEO would certainly be a major disruption and cause a certain amount of board and staff heartburn. But a “disaster?” Let’s keep things in perspective. * Third topic: Although this publication’s recent listing of association sponsored credit union meetings scheduled for 2002 totaled over 250 separate events, there is one national-level meeting that hasn’t been scheduled that should be. Another credit union meeting? Yes! A one time meeting devoted to a very specific topic. There is an obvious and urgent need to bring together credit union people to discuss the aftermath of the September 11th tragedy. More specifically, credit unions from around the country could do what credit unions do so well, network and exchange valuable information to help each other. Except for the commendable and successful effort by the New York Credit Union League to hold such a meeting, there has been no forum to date for credit unions to zero in on the massive societal, humanitarian, and business changes brought about by the terrorist attacks and the resulting U.S. led global war against terrorism. Unlike the typical national credit union meeting, the agenda for such a meeting should not include any of the usual pomp and circumstances. Nor should there be any elaborate and time-consuming meals, banquets, audio-visual presentations, VIP involvement, or any reports by credit union officials. Instead, such a meeting would concentrate solely on real-life, practical considerations and concerns. It would have a format that would provide maximum opportunities for audience interaction. For example, who better to discuss anthrax attacks and disaster planning and follow-up than those credit unions that have recently been directly impacted? Lots of open forums and panels make sense. There is an urgent need to have a face-to-face opportunity to talk about the economic impact not only on credit unions but credit union members, many of whom are now jobless. And about real-world security issues, staff and member safety, surplus funds, investment strategies, ways to support staff and members called into military service, the CU ramifications of just-passed anti-money laundering legislation, and much more. All nuts and bolts stuff. If such an emergency, single-purpose meeting were quickly put together, with a rock-bottom registration fee, in a central location, hundreds of concerned credit union people would probably show up. Would you? 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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