<p>Although I agree with most of what publisher Mike Welch said in his April 17 column, “A definition beats a clich any day,” I have a different perspective regarding the role of our volunteers, and why the fact that they are unpaid is important in differentiating credit unions from for-profit financial institutions. I will concede that some directors do receive compensation for attending board meetings, but I don’t believe receiving a fee for attending a meeting would color in any way, their role of helping to direct the policies of their credit unions toward anything other than the benefit of all the members. What other benefit (regarding the creation of policy) could be gained by a credit union volunteer, that doesn’t apply to the entire membership? The most difficult decisions a volunteer credit union board makes is how to fairly balance the interests of the member savers against those of the member borrowers, and those members who utilize the fee services the credit union offers. The key to that decision-making is the word “service.” Now, compare that to the roles of the salaried directors of a for-profit financial institution. First, I think it might be a safe bet to believe that most directors are also stockholders. Do you think it’s a stretch to believe they might not spend considerable time at their meetings, searching for ways to fairly balance the interests of their major customer groups? Let’s venture another guess. If it’s possible to take that 21% credit card and tack on some balance transfer or cash advance fees, (and still avoid usury violations) do you think any consumer interest is taken in to consideration? And do you think any of these stockholding bank directors have ever met a new fee (on anything) they didn’t like? I truly believe, as Welch does, that the old clichs are wearing thin, but the role of a volunteer director in setting the “for service” philosophy and policies of their credit unions is a vital element in making credit unions unique, and one of the “hard facts” that we’re looking for, in differentiating ourselves from the for-profit financial industry. Bob Bianchini President/CEO Oklahoma Credit Union League Oklahoma City</p>

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