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As usual, there is a potpourri of news items and related developments taking place that deserve a comment or two. Like these: The Enron et. al scandals have led to new thinking in the corporate world that could spill over into credit union land. More specifically, there is growing sentiment for having boards meet without the CEO present. Doing this gets a bit tricky for most corporations because their head staffer is usually CEO and chairman which means he or she is a member of the board. Keeping a board member out of the room while the rest of the board meets can be very sensitive. As far as credit unions are concerned, the majority of credit union CEOs are not board members (as treasurer). Regardless, what if credit union boards decide to follow the lead of America’s corporations? Don’t do it, say most credit union CEOs, and believe it or not, so do most CU board members. Don’t do it say I emphatically! There are only two times credit union boards should meet without their CEO in the room. One is to discuss his or her compensation. The other is to make a decision to fire the CEO. Unfortunately even before corporate boards began looking for any way possible to prevent further corporate abuse, a miniscule number of credit union boards took it upon themselves to oust the CEO from board meetings on virtually any whim. That makes sense only if the board is willing to accept the consequences, namely, a credit union CEO who eventually packs his or her bags for a more trusting and professional credit union environment. Agree? Somewhat related, an eagle-eyed credit union CEO recently observed that while most credit union CEOs and their boards long ago bought into the title president/CEO rather than manager, and chairman of the board rather than president of the board, NCUA continues to be behind the times title-wise. In its standard call reports, NCUA still uses a hybrid of old and new terminology: manager/CEO and president of the board. Since NCUA will argue that many of the smaller credit unions still use the outdated monikers, probably the rationale behind the manager/CEO combo title, how about at least using CEO/manager and chairman/president of the board in recognition of the prevailing usage by the majority of credit unions? Banks don’t like to be bothered with home improvement loans. Credit unions are happy to make them. If you haven’t heard yet, so are Home Depots. They now aggressively market home improvement loans. Need lumber for a deck? Need money to pay for it? Just look for the nearest orange apron. For those who would rather make a loan than take one out, they need only check out the classified pages of Credit Card Management. There they will find all sorts of openings at Home Depot in the credit services area. Earlier this year the editors of NAFCU’s weekly UPDATE newsletter listed what in their opinion were the top 10 credit union news stories in 2002. Despite all the emphasis on bankruptcy abuse reform at the CU national level, the NAFCU editors ranked it no better than fourth. Of more importance, based on their list, were chartering/FOM proposal, California credit card lawsuit, and regulatory relief. In number 10 position was financial literacy/savings. The modern Catholic Church, as the old joke goes, is one that installs a drive in confessional with this signage: “Toot and Tell or Go to Hell.” What’s the next step in an ongoing effort to find a faster way to do everything? How about this: in some parishes the faithful can contribute by using their CU credit cards via an automatic payment schedule or by authorizing regular withdrawals from their credit union checking account. How convenient; just like paying recurring monthly obligations such as utility bills. Catholics who opt-in for this system will have one less check to write on their road to heaven. What do $3,822,864,560 and $236,435,029 have in common? Both are credit union asset figures that can be found on a Callahan and Associates listing of “America’s 100 Largest Credit Unions” dated June 30, 1989. Only 14 years ago, the nation’s largest credit union (Navy Federal of course) needed less than $4 billion to capture the number one credit union ranking. Today, at more than $17 billion, they are still king of the hill by about $7 billion. In 1989 a credit union could get on the top 100 list with less than $250 million in assets as the United Nations Federal Credit Union did. To be number 100 today takes $802 million in assets. Also, back then there were only five credit unions reporting over $1 billion in assets. Today the number is 66 and rising fast. Some credit unions have complained that their staffs are abusing the business casual dress code and beginning to look -there’s no other way to describe them-disgusting and sloppy. Do shorts, halter tops, and flip flops meet the intended definition of business casual? Has the casual look gone too far and is it about to go full circle? Some organizations (any credit unions?) have already instituted “Dress Up Friday” programs. Others have gone so far as to reinstitute a requirement that the men wear suits (not sport jackets), white (not colored) dress shirts and traditional ties (not bow) every day, all day. For the women, business appropriate dresses or skirts (with hose) and tasteful blouses are the new required uniform of the day. Amid howls of protest from employees affected have come threats by their union representatives that employees’ rights are being violated. Dress codes should be negotiated as part of the labor agreement they say. Stay tuned for more potpourri developments later in the year and some more thoughts on unions as well. 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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