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<p>Reactions to these weekly columns cover the entire spectrum of responses from “you hit the nail on the head,” to “you’re absolutely wrong.” Much of this feedback is documented in the generous space Credit Union Times allots in each issue to letters to the editor. However, I also receive a lot of candid feedback by way of personal e-mails, letters, and handwritten notes and in phone calls, voice mails, and a number of face-to-face conversations. There are so many examples on so many different subjects that I would like to include here, but space restrictions don’t permit it. So here are just two, representative of many, from recent columns: A veteran chairman of a good-sized credit union out East told me in a lengthy voice mail that he didn’t much like the idea of term limits for board members, or what I had to say about them in connection with the pending regulatory relief proposals. Not one to beat around the bush, he put it this way: “I’ve been on our board for a long time and I can tell you that term limits stink!” He went on to explain why. “The real reason for wanting to have only three consecutive three-year terms is so that the credit union CEOs can control the board and the credit union. It is obvious to me that is why they are all for it. That’s no way for a credit union to be run. Pretty soon there will be no practical experience on the board.” To make certain his main point wasn’t missed, he added this: “Those folks for term limits can’t get what they want through the ballot box. Those against term limits are happy with what they’ve got!” He left a phone number so I attempted to call him back to discuss his views further. The number was that of the credit union. The person who answered the phone said she never heard of the caller even though I identified him by name and pointed out that he was the CU’s chairman. Sorry. Trying to be helpful, she connected me to the HR department. They couldn’t help me either. Obviously, this long-time chairman has made quite an impression, at least on the credit union’s staff. My recent column stating that small credit unions were not the backbone of the credit union industry inspired a two-page, single-spaced response. Its tone throughout was emotional and accusatory, but it was also very interesting and provided much food for thought. It was written by the CEO of a small ($14 million) FCU out West. Despite the fact that he thoroughly took me to task in a dozen or more areas, (he was obviously upset when he sat down at his computer), the man backs up his strong feelings with blue chip credit union experience. He is a CU CEO who has been involved with credit unions for over 30 years. He has experience as a regulator, as a supervisory committee member, and as an independent auditor. During his career he managed three different credit unions. Although I personally responded to his e-mail with one of my own, addressing his points and defending mine, and although I invited him to put his thoughts into a letter to the editor (no response), I’ll let him speak for himself: “I agree with your opinion that small credit unions are not necessarily the backbone of the credit union movement. But your column doesn’t stop there. You go on the attack of small credit unions implying that maybe the reason we are still small is because we are failing to serve our members. What does small have to do with serving our members’ needs? In many instances, small or large has only to do with fields of memberships.” He went on to explain that small credit unions have no control over sponsor cutbacks while many credit unions have grown primarily because their sponsor (for example, government agencies) have grown rapidly to the obvious benefit of the credit union. As for my comment that the CEOs of some small credit unions treat them as their private preserve, he said, “Boy, you are more nave than you sound. That kind of smallness went out of style many years ago.” About half way through the e-mail, his strong small versus big CU feelings surfaced: “.how do I defend a $20 billion credit union with about $2 billion in reserves not having to pay taxes? In my opinion, the billion dollar credit unions that do not pay any income taxes have become an eyesore to the credit union industry.” A couple of paragraphs later, he re-emphasized his dissatisfaction with large credit unions: “.why don’t the billion dollar (credit union) giants move on to other pastures and not hang around like vultures attempting to save us small credit unions by continuously implying that our time is short and small credit unions are a dying breed?” Lest comments like these give the impression that this individual is anti large credit union, he sets the record straight in his concluding paragraph: “.for the record, I am not anti large credit union. I just do not like what they look like in general. What is the difference between a $20 billion credit union and a $20 billion bank? The small credit unions may not be the backbone of credit unions, but in my opinion, without the small credit unions the movement would not have a bone in its back to stand tall and be counted as an industry with credibility!” Like me, not all readers will agree with everything these two individuals are saying, but I would never fault them for being passionate about their beliefs. As proof, this column continues to serve as a forum for exchanging ideas on timely topics including those too controversial for other CU publications to touch. Thanks for the important feedback. And keep it coming. 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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