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Time for a potpourri look around the world of credit unions with comments on a variety of topics including a couple more on CUNA’s recent Reno meeting. Add the word flexible to the many used to describe popular NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar. In keeping with CUNA’s stated goal of getting the audience more involved at its recent Future Forum meeting in Reno, lame duck Dollar agreed to do his thing as part of the CUNA Annual General Meeting, “to liven it up a bit.” He also agreed to forgo any type of formal presentation in favor of a wide open Q&A session. Despite some obvious planted questions, it worked well with lots of audience participation. I suspect his ratings were near the top as always. A favorite mental gymnastic exercise in Reno was deciding which of many rumors to believe about Dollar’s next job. Not one to miss an opportunity to speculate, my take is that shortly after he is replaced on the NCUA Board (probably by year end) a new credit union consulting firm will emerge. It’s name? Dennis Dollar and Associates. Speaking of Reno and audience involvement, a diversified panel of consumers provided lively give and take as it became clear that the ordinary person not only doesn’t have a clue what a credit union is or how it differs from a bank. Worse, many think they do and have the exact wrong answer. Admitting that I am prejudiced, a better take on just what a wide cross section of the general public thinks or knows about credit unions, banks, et al is the cover story in the October 1st issue of Credit Union Times entitled, “Do Consumers Understand the Credit Union Difference?” The answer is a resounding “no.” A final Reno note: Kudos to immediate past CUNA Chairman Barry Jolette. Throughout his term of office he was one of the most accessible chairmen CUNA has ever had. And probably the best speaker in terms of both subject matter and delivery. He never let the position go to his head as several of his predecessors did. After almost no thought, I decided that the chutzpah award of the year should go to credit union nemesis and American Banker Association chief economist Keith Leggett for his comment after the NCUA Board approved a toned down version of the original member business loan proposal: “we will be monitoring their behavior closely.” Like who cares? What nerve! In the “what am I missing department,” I fail to see why all the excitement over the announcement that part of a new $100,000 Ford Foundation grant will be earmarked for starting a credit union, a bank, and a mortgage company in Hawaii. I don’t know about Hawaiian banks and mortgage companies, but I do know first hand that some of the best credit unions in the country already exist in Hawaii. Probably any one of them could put the money to better use helping Hawaiians, and faster, too, than a credit union started from scratch. According to a recent story in USA Today, a consumer survey showed that credit unions and banks are considered to be most trustworthy when it comes to keeping personal financial information confidential. For some strange reason credit unions and banks were lumped together by poll takers. Credit unions alone would probably have scored much higher than the combo rating of 64%. By the way, the surveys run regularly on this publication’s Web site cover a wide range of topics and consistently get a good response rate. A healthy number of new and interesting topics are always in the on deck circle waiting their turn to run. However, readers should feel free to suggest poll subjects at any time in any credit union related area for Editor Paul Gentile’s consideration ([email protected]). If readers would assume that one of the most ambitious publications put out by an individual credit union would come from the country’s largest credit union, Navy Federal, that assumption would be on target. Called appropriately enough, “From the Bridge,” it is a colorful, 28 page quarterly that goes to all current and retired CU employees and elected officials. It is created in the Training Branch, Human Resources Division and has heavy emphasis on Navy Federal people and their achievements. The entire magazine is worth a look see, but CEO/President Brian McDonnell’s “President’s Message” on change is definitely a timely read. Sometimes the simplest (and cheapest) ideas pay the biggest dividends. While everyone is concerned about the meteoric rise in identity theft, Hudson Valley FCU is doing something about it. It donates paper shredders to senior citizen centers as well as provides seniors with a check list of dos and don’ts. Almost any credit union could do the same in their backyard. How about donating CU-imprinted stationery along with some postage stamps, things seniors often need? Any other ideas? A new credit union marketing campaign that goes head to head against the banking industry (“14 Ways Philadelphia FCU Is Better Than Your Bank”) has generated a lot of attention in credit union circles. The $460 million asset CU calls the campaign, “Better Than My Bank.” There is no question that this creative and hard hitting campaign has generated a lot of buzz. As for results, it is still too early to tell. Hopefully it won’t backfire on the credit union and other credit unions as well. It is always very risky for David to take on Goliath. Besides, don’t credit unions have enough positive things to sell without holding up banks as a standard that they can beat? Then there’s the matter of timing as the banking industry looks for more examples of credit unions going after the general public. Time will tell. 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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