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PINEHURST, N.C. – The message from Larry Johnson, the departing president/CEO of the North Carolina Credit Union League, was clear and hard-hitting: the industry’s outlook has never looked brighter despite the sharp decline in CU numbers and the trend toward “regionalization.” The 62-year-old Johnson steps down as president and CEO of the North Carolina Credit Union League at yearend but in a thoughtful, wrapup speech at the recent annual League conference, he urged credit union executives to appreciate industry achievements and the new-found public esteem across the U.S. “Always keep in mind the issues that we fought for in the battle over H.R. 1151- to allow us to provide greater access to our members and thus assure our very survival,” declared Johnson, stressing that objective is being achieved on a daily basis. Sure, membership in the North Carolina League with 157 affiliated members is down from the 360 back in 1980, but the state’s CU population has soared from 700,000 to more than 2.5 million members while assets have climbed from $1 billion in assets to $17.5 billion. Meanwhile, the move of some state leagues to combine products and services on a regional basis should not be viewed negatively but as a sign of the times. But what really counts, Johnson told the League meeting, “is not what we do, how we do it, or how we serve, but why we are here that is important” said Johnson, emphasizing that how well the job is done ensures the industry’s future existence. “Life is not about achievements but about relationships,” he concluded. The latest struggle with bankers in many states and their penchant “for mischief making,” he said, simply reflects poorly on that industry as it “walks all over the interests of consumers” and sullies its own reputation. “The bankers simply don’t get it and I think that is proven,” said Johnson, based on Gallup Poll numbers which show their poor standing as compared to CUs. The banking industry “ought to spend more money” on doing the right thing to improve their image instead of picking a fight with CUs. What is clear, he said, is that the banking industry has underestimated the resolve of CUs to “stay and fight” by making their case to the public. While the banking industry “puts up a faade over its record and they are irritable to us,” over time CUs will overcome the attacks. Johnson, who has been doing League work 36 years, the last 25 as NCCUL president, announced earlier this year his plans to retire and in formal ceremonies was honored at the annual meeting here last month. He joined the North Carolina trade group in 1972 as executive vice president after serving as first time manager of First Carolina Corporate Credit Union. In the League job, Johnson is being succeeded by John Radebaugh, president and CEO of the New Mexico Credit Union League, who becomes president-elect of the North Carolina League in October. [email protected]

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