There are always a number of topics that although worthy of a comment or two, do not warrant an entire column. Like these: * It’s no secret that many of the top credit union CEO jobs are going to former bankers. For the most part, this development has worked out well for credit unions. On the operational side of the business, bankers are experienced pros who understand the business end of managing a financial institution. On the philosophical side, ex-bankers have turned out to be among the strongest advocates of credit union philosophy. Sort of like reformed smokers. The next chapter in the form of banking trade group staffers is now unfolding. Attorney Ann Graham left a top staff position at the Texas Bankers Association to join the Texas Credit Union League as a senior vice president. Several months ago J. Leon Peace, Jr. left the American Bankers Association to take on a key position with CUNA. Are these two individuals, and others sure to follow, traitors? Not at all. In trade association parlance, they are hired guns. Their considerable skills are transferable between associations basically engaged in the same type of activities. As long as these ship jumpers believe in the principles of those they represent, no problem. Peace has already passed muster. Graham is expected to do likewise very quickly. * Speaking of bankers, they and the publications they subscribe to and publish insist on incorrectly referring to credit union members as credit union customers. Since they refuse to change “because it would confuse our readers to call credit union customers, members,” I suggest CUs turn the tables. From now on, let’s refer to all bank customers as members rather than customers “so that CU readers won’t be confused.” * Little by little single sponsor credit unions are becoming the CUs of the past. There is only a handful remaining. The primary reason for their demise is big problems at their original sponsors. Latest to see a need to expand outside of its primary sponsor group is Motorola Credit Union-West in Scottsdale. They join a long list of credit unions that saw the handwriting on the wall (think Eastern Airlines becoming Eastern Financial) and took steps that would allow them to survive even if their sponsor tanked. Ironically, Motorola Credit Union-West played a key role in organizing a group for single sponsor credit unions. They will be dropping out. A number of single sponsor CUs, completely dependent on the fortunes of their sponsor, continue to be cocky and deny that such a fate would ever befall them. Care to bet? Watch for more announcements. Including from credit unions that tend to snub their noses at multiple SEG and community CUs. * International Credit Union Day is rolling around again, this year on October 17th. Once very popular, as were the zillion other national and international observances that fill our calendars, it now seems to be greeted each year with a giant CU yawn. The President signs a proclamation, a few credit unions run a canned story in their newsletter, and the CU trades issue news releases that most publications toss. If credit unions don’t jump on the ICU Day bandwagon because they don’t feel they have the budget or expertise, they are overlooking CUNA’s Web site. It is an excellent resource. Yet, to ask the obvious question, are any credit unions bothering to “celebrate” International Credit Union Day this year, or has ICU Day outlived its usefulness? * Add this to last week’s column on actions by credit union CEOs that make me scratch my head: I know of several CEOs who shopped their credit unions to larger colleagues when their retirement date drew near. In return for greasing the skids for a merger, the surviving credit union created a cushy, lucrative, executive position for the disappearing credit union’s CEO to make the transformation into the rocking chair considerably more comfortable than if they had just walked away from their thriving credit unions. The reasons they give for the merger (“to make sure my staff is taken care of”) are laughable. * In my 17-plus years as CEO of CUES, one of my proudest accomplishments was the significant role that organization played in making it possible for credit union general managers and managers to be called president and CEO and the top elected official, chairman. Today, those more accurate titles are virtually universal among all credit unions. How ironic that thanks to recently uncovered high level shenanigans in American businesses, any individual carrying the CEO title is looked upon with suspicion if not downright contempt. In some circles, CEO has become a dirty word. Hold on. There are CEOs and there are CEOs. Credit union CEOs can and should continue to carry that title with pride. * Is anyone else tickled by the banking industry’s current push to get check truncation privileges for their “members?” What a great idea. Maybe that’s why credit unions instituted truncation on the very day many years ago when they launched share draft accounts, now more commonly referred to as checking accounts. Do credit union interests care if banks are allowed to truncate? No, but if the credit union thought process worked like that of banking lobbyists, credit unions would oppose the bankers’ initiative on the grounds that truncation should only be available to not-for-profit financials. * A claim has been made that the larger a credit union, the more likely it will be a member’s primary financial institution (PFI). So far so good. It was further stated that this is because large credit unions tend to have full-time marketing professionals on staff. Wrong! It is because larger credit unions offer more of what members want, from products to delivery services, making it possible for those CUs to be PFIs. 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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