The mid-year numbers just released by NCUA continue to prove that the rapidly declining numbers of credit unions are doing extremely well. The reasons why could fill a book. A very large book. Yet, there are times that I can't help think that overall credit union industry successes have come about despite some credit union CEOs and boards, albeit a relatively small number, doing things that, frankly, sometimes make a long-time observer of the credit union scene like me scratch my head in disbelief. For example, I see credit union CEOs who have managed the same credit union for many years exactly the way they managed it 20 years ago. Competition? What competition? Their credit union offers the bare minimum in products and services to its membership which has been static in number or declining. I wonder why. Do they care? Obviously not. Convenience? Technology? Innovation? Competitive rates and fees? Change? Forget it. These words are foreign to some very comfortable CEOs waiting patiently for retirement day. These are the types of CEOs banking lobbyists would love to see grow in number. Yet, a number of these same CEOs seem to be qualified and have plenty of time to hold demanding state and national elected positions. Still others expend most of their energy and enthusiasm on outside activities that produce no benefit to their CU or its members. Managing their credit union has almost become a part-time job or a sideline activity. Fortunately for such CEOs, their boards apparently think this is par for the course. The losers? Members. I also see credit union CEOs from credit unions with bad numbers who nevertheless appear to have plenty of time to spend a good part of every day in the office sending out e-mails to lists containing hundreds of names, including mine. These e-mails run the gamut from humorous to patriotic and from motivational to sick. They could do me a big favor by deleting [email protected]. Sometimes it appears that the balance of their day is spent writing long, convoluted, angry letters to the editor that take everyone from trade group executives to other credit unions to task. They especially attack progressive credit union CEOs and the credit unions they manage. Their theme is always the same, namely, that every new member service those other credit unions introduce is basically harming credit unions and will eventually cause CUs to lose their federal tax-exemption. Not surprisingly they point out that they are the only real credit unions. I see credit union CEOs who think they are the sole owner of the credit union. They expect their board to approve everything the CEO suggests. The only thing that has changed in the last dozen years is their compensation (up), the size of their office (larger), and their travel budget (bigger). Some of these CEOs actually intimidate their boards to the point where the board comes to the CEO seeking approval. I also see members of credit union boards who routinely show up at regular board meetings and at expensive planning meetings completely unprepared. An unopened board packet is not unusual. That doesn't stop them from making a comment, sometimes even a recommendation, on every topic that surfaces. Or from trying to trip up the CEO or any of his or her staff that is making a board presentation. Many of these same directors do most of the traveling on the CU's nickel to "get educated so that they can do a better job as a volunteer." But they bring back nothing of value from countless credit union conferences and seminars except a healthy tan and a suitcase full of souvenirs. These are the directors who read almost nothing about credit unions, their own, or the industry in general. Nor can they answer the most basic questions regarding credit union policy. They are also not conversant with the major issues and challenges facing credit unions that most definitely would affect their own credit union. At some credit unions, this pattern has existed for dozens of years. No one, especially the CEO who values his or her job, ever has the courage to speak up. On the other extreme, I've seen directors who attempt to micromanage the credit union. They drop in on the CEO unannounced frequently. They want to know every little detail. They spring surprises on the CEO at board meetings because they know the long-time but weak chairman won't call them out of order. They expect everything about the CU to be as they think best. Worse, recently a couple of this type of director received national recognition for, in my opinion, attempting to do the CEOs job. When will credit union types stop evaluating the worth of volunteers by the hours they put in? And guess what? Important decisions like charter switches, name changes, and CEO retirements do involve more than the CU chairman and his or her board of directors. For the record, I can put a name and face with every example above, but of course I won't. Believe me, however, there are credit union CEOs and board members out there who fit these examples to a tee. The good news is that despite a few bad apples, the credit union industry is thriving. I'm not just referring to the good NCUA numbers either. Besides that important measuring stick, credit unions are serving all of their members in more and better ways, providing great careers at all levels, taking an increasingly active role in their communities, and providing outstanding leadership opportunities. And much, much more! Not to worry about those credit union CEOs and board members who insist on doing things the way they've always done things. There's one statistic that they need to keep their eyes on; the declining number of credit unions. It's my prediction that their credit unions will eventually be part of that number, probably a lot sooner than they realize. Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected].

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