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Here are some observations on some credit union topics before 2001 becomes history: * As the controversial Community Action Plan (CAP) hits the front page again, on the eve of its dreaded effective date of January 1, 2002, it appears likely that it will soon vanish from the credit union radar screen amidst credit union cheers. So-called short-termer NCUA Board Member Goeff Bacino, a Democrat, is the hero. He has decided to put CAP on the mid-December NCUA Board meeting agenda, a bold and unprecedented move. Just based on this action, if credit unions had the power to convert Bacino’s expiring recess appointment into a full term on the board, he’d be a shoo in. Once on the agenda, it will immediately get a second from staunch CAP opponent, Chairman Dennis Dollar, a Republican, and thus the two votes needed to dump it before it gets off the ground. A decision to repeal CAP may even get a turnaround vote to kill it from lame duck Democrat Board Member Yolanda Wheat, which would make it unanimous. Wheat championed CAP because she wanted to see credit unions make a greater commitment to underserved, low-income communities. With CAP, she and former NCUA Chairman Norm D’Amours felt credit unions would be forced to put their money where there mouth has been in fighting CAP and prior CAP-like initiatives emanating out of the NCUA Board. Based on just released statistics from NCUA, her goal and that of D’Amours is being achieved without CAP. A record 12.5 million new potential members were adopted by federally-chartered credit unions expanding service into 231 underserved and low-income communities nationwide in 2001. This rate outpaces last year’s numbers by 10 million. * As credit unions were maturing in the `80s, and deciding want they wanted to be when they grew up, the old model credit union act was undoubtedly an important crutch. At the very least, it provided a place to turn as CEOs and their policymakers struggled with what a credit union should look like. Credit unions have come so far so fast that today I doubt if there is such a thing as a model credit union. Aside from the all-important basic not-for-profit structure, many credit unions in the new millennium are as different from each other as night and day. While credit unions were undergoing tremendous change, the model credit union act created by CUNA and the leagues remained the same for 16 years. If credit unions got along just fine without a current model credit union act all these years, why the big push to update and unveil a dusted off version in time for the 2002 GAC? Is it really needed any longer? * NCUA is also in the news for its annual budget which critics have termed “bloated,” despite Chairman Dollar-led efforts to bring it into the open and reduce it systematically. Ironically, one of the biggest critics of NCUA finances is CUNA which has been busy trying to put a positive spin on its own monetary shortfall, current and future. CUNA, like almost everyone else, puts much of the blame for coming up short this year on the events surrounding September 11th. After all, any trade association that has to cancel its annual convention (symposium) and a bunch of other meetings scheduled within the same time frame, is sure to feel an immediate impact in its bottom line. But $640,000? Whatever the amount of the projected loss, buying into these figures is much easier than those in the 2002 annual budget action taken at the most recent CUNA board meeting in Naples, Florida. Following that meeting, CUNA announced that it has budgeted a similar loss, approximately $600,000 for its fiscal year 2002. A loss has been budgeted? Is that how trade associations are supposed to operate? Especially trade associations with an annual budget that reflects revenues in excess of $41 million? CUNA bean counters can’t find a way to trim future expenses by $600,000, a mere pittance when weighed against over $40 million? You mean there is no fat in the CUNA budget? Perhaps Dollar and his crew can sit down with CUNA decisions makers and show them how budgets are reduced. It starts with increasing income and ends with reducing expenses. NCUA is accused of being overstaffed and over compensated. Is CUNA? In announcing its deficit budget in a personalized e-mail to the CU CEOs of the largest credit unions, CUNA president and CEO Dan Mica pleaded for more participation in CUNA money making events, products, and services. You can help, he said, “by participating in our educational programs and conferences and by patronizing our products and services, offered at reasonable prices and with the highest quality.” Recently I tried to purchase a “book” from CUNA. Because I am not a credit union, I couldn’t order it on the Internet as I tried, had to pay a 25% premium, was charged extra fees, and could not be given a shipping date. When it arrived, the “book” was little more than a manual. The cost? About $53.00. Reasonable prices? Another series of CUNA manuals cost $395.00 apiece. Not $3.95, but $395.00. Any association should never have to budget a deficit. Rather they should make the hard decisions in advance to eliminate it. * Throughout the year, credit unions changed names in record numbers. Some made sense. Some caused head scratching. Two credit unions in Wisconsin hooked up recently. Neither existing name seemed right. So they came up with a new name, Summit Credit Union. Not bad until you read their new tag line: “Banking from a different perspective.” Not surprisingly, the copy in Summit Credit Union’s newspaper advertisement announcing the marriage and new name used the word “customer” (We are owned by our customers”), rather than “member.” Any comments? 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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