Dan Mica, CUNA's very successful and highly respected CEO andPresident, has set many lofty personal goals in his ongoing effortsto make the industry's largest trade group a "world class tradeassociation." He has made a remarkably high percentage of hisgoals. There is little comparison between CUNA pre-Mica and CUNAtoday. Yet, he will never achieve one of his most sought afterpersonal goals, something that continues to bug him, namely, amerger between CUNA and NAFCU. He still holds out hope that one daythere will be one super trade association representing the nation'srapidly declining number of credit unions. But it's not going tohappen. Nor should it. It's no secret that Mica wants very badly toorchestrate a merger before he decides to ride off into the sunset.He has said so, although very subtlety, on every occasion(including several times recently) he gets to speak or write aboutthe need for credit union unity, cooperation, speaking with onevoice, needless duplication, overlapping memberships, and economiesof scale. After being rebuffed numerous times by NAFCU's leadershipover the past several years, at times quite vigorously, CUNA'sBoard decided to back off. They realized that if a merger were evergoing to happen, the best window of opportunity was when formerNAFCU President Ken Robinson announced his retirement. At thatpoint, NAFCU's Board not only said emphatically no, but said "hellno" to the aggressiveness of a Mica-led CUNA proposal to fold NAFCUinto CUNA. Instead, they went out and chose an excellent CEO andPresident by the name of Fred Becker from among a number ofoutstanding candidates willing and able to lead NAFCU into an evenbrighter future as a stand-alone credit union trade associationrepresenting FCUs. However, although the CUNA Board saw thehandwriting on the wall, it apparently gave Mica the green light tocontinue to carry the merger banner. But only as long as he made itclear every time he brought the subject up that he was not speakingfor the board, but himself. Anyone who has ever worked for avolunteer board knows that is not a good situation for the CEO.Eventually any board will grow weary of their chief executiveespousing an initiative in which they obviously do not feel nearlyas passionate about as their CEO. That's one reason why Mica shouldback off and continue to concentrate on making CUNA even betterwithout obsessing on how great (in his mind) a combo group couldbe. There are other reasons. NAFCU on more than one well-documentedoccasion took an official stance on an important issue that was theexact opposite of CUNA's position. Like David and Goliath, NAFCU'sposition ultimately became the credit union industry position whenCUNA was forced to do an about face. What if there had not been thechecks and balances provided by NAFCU? Even without the big CUNAnumbers, NAFCU has proven to be effective among politicians andlegislators. One example of many: The NAFCU Board sits down face toface with Alan Greenspan and his Federal Reserve Board once a yearto talk credit unions. The Fed obviously considers the input fromNAFCU's leadership to be very important. Although CUNA has thesupport of its state leagues and a credit union membership thatmoved into the 90-plus percentile under Mica's leadership, NAFCUstill puts on the best attended national annual conference, onethat consistently gets high marks from CU CEOs, management staff,and directors in attendance. Mica seems to overlook the fact thathaving multiple associations to serve the advocacy needs of thesame basic constituency is more the norm than the exception. Look,for example, at the alphabet soup of separate banking associationsserving that industry. All have their own agendas, but all alsorealize that there are times when cooperation between them becomesparamount. Like attacking credit unions. Like pushing the expansionof Sub Chapter S Corporations. Like warding off California'sattempt to implement damaging rules for handling credit cards. Bythe way, on this one, NAFCU, seeing the danger to credit unionsalso joined the fray. CUNA reluctantly joined the fight much laterbecause of political conflicts. There is something to be said forthe fact that a CUNA/NAFCU coupling would allow the credit unionindustry to speak with one voice and not expect legislators andregulatory agencies to play referee between warring credit unionfactions. But is a merger the only way that can be accomplished?Absolutely not. The merger idea needs to be shelved once and forall by everyone including Mica. Instead, despite the fact that thetwo not-for-profit groups do compete in many obvious ways for thesame dollars, the need to find ways to cooperate should be exploredmore fully. Not more coordinating councils that meet veryinfrequently if at all, and are more show than go. But realcooperation. Like jointly establishing a comprehensive list ofcredit union industry-wide priorities. And what's the downside ofgiving each group a presence at the other's leadership meetings andmajor conferences such as CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conferenceand NAFCU's Congressional Caucus? How about the two CEOs speakingat each others annual "conventions?" How about serving on eachother's committees? How about an annual joint board meeting? Also,how about joint staff meetings as the issues dictate? How aboutjoint public relations and advertising programs? How about coveragein each other's publications? Don't theses ideas make more sensethan either ignoring, or at times even bad mouthing each other infront of credit unions that support both associations? The time toforget about a merger that will never happen is here. The time tosit down together and develop a long list of ways to work togetherin meaningful ways is here. The time to represent credit unionswith a single voice without being a single organization is here.Doesn't this just make sense? Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext.15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected].

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