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A look at the steady barrage of interesting credit union news items surfacing recently has inspired these comments: * CUNA’s low-income survey proved exactly what it was supposed to prove. Credit unions are reining in unprecedented numbers of low-income potential members and are having some initial success in replacing the word “potential member” with just plain “member.” Although those involved insist the survey was not done to make NCUA Board Member Deborah Matz happy, not many are buying it. No matter. She now has specific ammunition to help ward off critics, hers and those of credit unions in general. But in reality will they be convinced that credit unions are as long claimed doing a good job of serving all members including the so-called underserved? Probably not. * Bankruptcy reform is back on the credit union front burner and off to a rocky start with Congressional representatives. Right out of the gate, partisan politics raised its ugly head. Republicans support it; Democrats oppose it. Can irrelevant amendments once again be far behind? After all the years of failed efforts to get something in place, it must be tempting for reform advocates to throw up their hands and say why bother. Making laws has often been compared to making sausages. Maybe, except that making sausages is much neater and cleaner when it comes to bankruptcy reform. * Although no one involved has so far been willing to talk on the record, the apparent disaffiliation of giant Pentagon FCU from CUNA has not gone unnoticed. Not just because at over $5 billion in assets it is the country’s third largest credit union. And not just because getting them to affiliate was a personal challenge to CUNA CEO Dan Mica. More significant is the fact that Pentagon CEO Frank Pollack was hand picked to head up one of CUNA’s most important projects, its well-publicized Renaissance initiative. Was that choice pure trade association politics? It now appears that it was and that it didn’t work. What is the real reason Pentagon has once again thumbed its nose at CUNA at a time when CU unity is so important and CUNA under Mica is doing so many things right? It can’t be dues money. Does Pentagon feel all their trade group needs can be met by NAFCU? What other large credit union(s) can be expected to follow in Pentagon’s footsteps? Why? * After a couple of prior year false starts, the California Credit Union League staff and marketing volunteers have put together an ambitious advertising program on behalf of member credit unions. Using a multimedia approach, the ad campaign aims to clear up widespread public misconceptions about credit unions, especially in regard to products and services offered and who can join one. The good news is that this time they got the necessary funding, hired a nationally respected advertising agency known for creating ads that get results, and they came up with a creative theme sure to get noticed. The bad news is that the creative theme is sure to get noticed. Which leads to this question: Is this the right time to be shouting from the credit union roof tops that anyone can join a credit union? Parting shot: like so many other successful things the California CU contingency does, banker attacks aside, would this ad campaign make more sense for CUNA to do it nationally to replace its bogged down “Where people mean more than money” national advertising effort? * A reader who also was at CUNA’s recent GAC claims I did NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar a disservice when I said that he missed a golden opportunity to lay out his to do list before his term on the board expires. In re-checking some GAC notes, he’s right. In fact Dollar ticked off nearly a dozen initiatives that he has high hopes of moving further along or getting off the drawing board before his personal D (departure)-Day. They include FOM, PCA, and MBL updates, overseas branching, revised investment and corporate rules, further progress on RegFlex and incidental powers, and several risk based approaches to credit union exams. Obviously the NCUA Chairman intends to go out the same way he came in, namely, at full speed. * Speaking of the GAC, kudos to Chairman Barry Jollette for taking a novel approach to putting bankers in their place. His digital debate with a full screen, computer-generated banker that was the focus of his general session chairman’s report was creative and leading edge. It was an entertaining way to tackle and defuse banking industry charges against credit unions. I loved it, which is more than I can say about the typical credit union meeting read-word-for-word chairman’s report. Perhaps CUNA can loan it out to leagues to spice up their official proceedings? * Ever since CUNA decided to call its annual Fall gathering a “Symposium,” I have been on a one-man crusade to get them to abandon the inappropriate symposium name and call the annual gathering what it is, a convention and exposition. Well, they finally dumped “Symposium.” The new name is “Future Forum.” My one-man crusade will continue. Now instead of one bad word they have two. The future can’t be ignored, but most people go to national meetings to deal with what’s going on right now not sometime down the road or in the future. And “Forum?” Like “Symposium,” it is a very limiting word. It conjures up a small group of people in possibly an academic setting debating a single theoretical issue. Sounds a lot like a symposium doesn’t it? By the way, WesCorp already uses the “Future Forum” moniker for its members’ meeting. To end on a positive note, everything else about the new Future Forum sounds terrific such as all the interactive sessions planned to discuss pressing issues. 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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