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Apparently there are no standard criteria for serving as a credit union league chairman, at least based on the current line up of photos and accompanying data that appeared on pages 88-90 in the 10/1/03 issue of Credit Union Times. In theory, the most qualified individuals should be elected by their peers to serve as the top elected official of the state level credit union group. In reality, many other factors often come into play. They range from something as simple as who’s turn is it to be chairman, or perhaps a geographic consideration, to deciding that the post should be filled with someone from a certain size and type credit union, or a person wearing a particular hat, such as a CU CEO or volunteer. Take a closer look at the current crop of 51 league chairman. It obviously is an advantage being a male for those with aspirations to chair a league board. Today there are 39 men and only 12 women league chairpersons. Just looking at the assembled mug shots, it appears that most chairmen are in the mid-point or twilight of their credit union careers. There are no youngsters in evidence. Nor any minorities. Nor any data available on how long the typical chairperson has been serving. Too bad; that would have been interesting, too. It also would have been revealing to compare position perks such as the chairman’s suites in hotels, number of VIP dinners, limo rides, receptions, head tables, travel (first class?), exposure through publicity in league publications (chairman’s column?), speeches and reports, expense allowances, secretarial support, and plaques, trinkets, and farewell gifts. The type of credit union they represent fits no clear cut pattern. They come to the top elected credit union post in their state from credit unions that reflect somewhat the types of credit unions found across the just under 10,000 CUs that make up the credit union industry today. Current chairmen come from credit unions that are industrial based, community, state employees, educational, city and county employees, military, postal, co-op, and health care. The proportion of federal and state charters in any given state also seems to be irrelevant. They are also all over the map based on asset size, ranging from a small $7.9 million co-op credit union in Wyoming to an $11 billion asset state employees CU (second largest in the nation) in North Carolina, as are the annual revenues of the leagues they chair. As though to debunk the theory that only persons from large credit unions can make the time commitment to do justice to their league chairman responsibilities, the largest and most influential state league, the California Credit Union League, is chaired by the president/CEO of the second smallest credit union among the 51 chairpersons. Pat Wagner, the dynamic and articulate president/CEO of $8.6 million asset New World FCU, actually brought in another person to help run her credit union while she is away tending to league affairs. Contrast that with one of the smaller leagues, the North Carolina Credit Union Network, which is chaired by Bobby Hall, a senior executive vice president of $11 billion asset State Employees Credit Union. Across the board, league chairmen come from credit unions of all sizes. There are three from CUs under $10 million in assets; 16 in the $10 to $50 million asset category; 12 that range from $50 to $100 million in assets; 15 that weigh in between $100 and $500 million; and five that tip the asset scales somewhere over $500 million in assets. It is also interesting to note that among the 51 state organizations, no one name fits all as in years past when all were called credit union leagues. Today there are four associations, three networks, five systems, and three affiliates (the same moniker used by CUNA as in CUNA and Affiliates). By far, however, the most common name remains credit union league. A total of 36 states have stuck with the familiar designation of who they are and what they do. Perhaps what is most significant about who is sitting in the top policymaker chair in every state is what they do when not attending to league business. There are 43 credit union CEOs serving as league chairmen. Add to that total three credit union management staffers and one retired CU CEO. That leaves a mere four volunteers heading up the state groups. Why so few volunteers serving as chairman? Could it be that they don’t have the exposure to get elected to the board and eventually move up to chairman? That they don’t posses the leadership skills? That they don’t have the support network? Or that they just aren’t interested in making such a major commitment of time and effort? Or? Why are so many CU state groups chaired by CU CEOs or members of their staffs? Could it be credit union full-timers are better qualified? More interested in contributing? Can afford to be away from the job for substantial periods of time? Have more at stake regarding league decisions? Have a better handle on how the game is played on the political front? Are elected by their peers? Or? A final observation: Which of the current chairmen are actually making a difference during their term? Undoubtedly, a few will step down eventually leaving the state group as a better organization because of what they contributed as chairman. But sadly most will have come and gone without much really changing, or having done anything but go through the motions. Which leads to the final question: Does it really matter much who serves as league chairman? If not, then it also doesn’t matter if the chairperson is male or female, comes from a small or large credit union, or is a credit union CEO or a volunteer. 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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