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<p>It’s easy to criticize various credit union individuals and groups, but there comes a time to pass out well-deserved kudos too. Kudos to the folks at the California Credit Union League responsible for the program at the league’s annual Big Valley Educational conference scheduled for next March 14-16. Among the hundreds of credit union program planners, including all those working for the national CU organizations, only California staffers have so far demonstrated that they have plenty of intestinal fortitude. They did so when they reached into the lion’s den, a.k.a. the American Bankers Association, and grabbed one of ABA’s most outspoken critics of credit unions and put him front and center for a good old fashioned, knock down, drag out debate. No fear of the kind of controversy here that other credit union groups typically avoid in putting their programs together. Keith Leggett, ABA’s senior economist, is basically a good guy, except when he’s talking or writing about credit unions, a subject he has difficulty understanding. But give the man credit. He’s willing to defend his anti-credit union views in front of hundreds of CU die-hards. And he’ll show up armed with lots of research that he feels make a good case for the challenging statements he surely will make. Give Leggett further credit for his willingness to not only show up to debate the issues always present between the banking industry and credit unions, but also for the fact that he’s willing to take on one of the sharpest and most experienced and knowledgeable credit union staffers one on one. Bill Hampel, CUNA’s chief economist and a long-time senior executive, knows his stuff. He too will come armed with solid facts and figures to make the credit union case. Thanks California CU League for getting the banks versus credit union argument out in the open for a change! Kudos to all the credit unions (the number is growing rapidly) declaring substantial bonus dividends for their credit union’s members. Not only are more credit unions doing so, but the amounts being returned to members have become quite substantial. What another great way to clearly demonstrate the credit union difference. What a great way to build member loyalty. What a great way to turn thousands of members into players on a credit union’s marketing team. Nothing beats word-of-mouth advertising. Kudos to the more than 600 credit unions that have so far locked up almost 1,000 new dot coop names. They may never use “abcfederalcreditunion.coop” but it’s available if down the road they decide to do so. And they have protected their name from some scoundrel using it for other than honorable purposes such as “abcfederalcreditripoff.coop.” More kudos to the California CU League. This time for its Match Up Web Site (howtojoinacu.org). That Web address stands for “how to join a credit union.” What a terrific idea. Others have tried it but none have all the easy-to-use features found in the California League’s version designed to help consumers find a credit union to join in their backyard. Check it out, especially if you are one of the growing numbers of U.S. citizens who live in two places. Match Up allows users to enter their city, county, ZIP code, the name of their employer or occupation and the city where their employer is located. They can even enter such identifying factors as groups they belong to, ethnic background, and religious affiliation if they so chose. At its current expansion rate (4,250 CUs in 15 states and growing) it shouldn’t be too long before Match Up becomes a national CU locator program. A question that begs asking is why wasn’t such a program developed by one of the national credit union trade groups instead of a single state organization? Belated kudos to California Coast Credit Union’s senior vice president of member services who can be seen tooling around town in a BMW convertible. When mentioning that a credit union representative walked off with the top prize (also a luxury automobile) at the most recent BAI Retail Delivery Conference, we overlooked the fact that that made it two years in a row that CUs captured the top prize. Is there a credit union three-peat on the horizon? Is that what it will take for BAI to formally acknowledge the growing credit union participation in its annual event? Kudos to Richard Rays, President/CEO, Paragon FCU, New Jersey, for having the courage to address a very touchy topic: the name credit union, a subject that has also been addressed in this column. In some circles both the words “credit” and “union” can have negative connotations. Rays brought up the subject for discussion because of what he feels may be the reluctance of some potential SEGs to become part of a credit union because they misunderstand the word “union.” Just ask CUNA Mutual Group’s PR veteran Chuck Eikel. His late father, the legendary CUNA Mutual founder and CEO, “Charlie” Eikel, was threatened with bodily harm when early in his CU career he attempted to organize occupational credit unions. “They thought my dad was a union organizer,” said the younger Eikel. Rays offers these alternatives for consideration: cooperative association, financial association, and financial cooperative. What do you think? Kudos to the Utah League of Credit Unions for a “no-holds-barred” TV and radio campaign designed to educate Utah’s citizens about all the restrictions on credit unions in that state. Surprise. The Utah bankers don’t like it. The “in-your-face” campaign is a direct result of league research that showed that Utah consumers want greater access to CUs. There are many more credit union individuals and groups deserving of kudos. Unfortunately, they’ll have to be featured in future columns. And they will be! Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected]</p>

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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