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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Dealing with change is never easy, which makes it all the more noteworthy when an organization comes through a period of organizational and management changes not only with relatively few bumps, but also still managing to have several achievements to show for it. What with a change in administration and an overhaul of its staff, 2003 looked to be a challenging year for the New Jersey Credit Union League. But reviewing the League’s list of accomplishments, members had plenty of reason to celebrate at their Annual Meeting and Convention, held Nov. 21 and 22 in Atlantic City. “We accomplished a lot this past year, and our aims for next are just as ambitious,” said Chairman John C. DiNofrio. Under the guidance of President and CEO Tom Shaughnessy, the League has undertaken several far-reaching initiatives, from offering lower-cost health insurance for credit union employees to the creation of a toll-free helpline and Web site for regulatory-compliance inquiries. NJCUL members spent much time increasing the exposure of credit union issues to legislators in Washington, D.C. this year through four “Hike the Hill” campaigns. And, as a result of major changes in New Jersey’s state legislature, the League will have an increased local presence. “The election was a definite shocker,” said Evan Childs, director of Governmental Affairs. “This is the first time in 70 years that a [New Jersey] Senate co-president lost re-election. We’re very excited to work with the new legislature, and we think we can accomplish a lot of things. At the same time, it’s a challenge for us to have a new legislature because we have an obligation to educate them. From the ground up, we want to make sure they know who we are and what our issues are.” Another area of concentration for the League this year has been its strategic planning initiative through which the League helps individual credit unions develop long-term goals, as well as offering guidance on how credit unions can evaluate their staff and leadership. Since January 2003, the League has conducted 22 strategic planning sessions, and it expects to complete three more before the end of the year. “The credit unions who really need this are those with assets of $50 million and below,” said Mary Lee Kleinkauf, vice president of Strategic Planning Services. “Many of them don’t understand what planning is. They’re talking about loan rates; they’re talking about the day to day and the month to month. They’re not talking about where they’re going to be in three or four years. “So far, we’re seeing some phenomenal things in terms of bringing the vision of the board together. Key, too, is that we’re taking a very personal approach and tailoring everything to each credit union’s needs assessment. It’s been a marvelous personal experience and something good for the League.” To further increase exposure of credit unions in the public eye, the League has initiated the NJCUL Advertising Cooperative. While still in its infant stages, the Advertising Coop has signed up more than 30 credit unions to participate, with each donating funds based on the level of their assets. The group meets monthly, and the next steps include analyzing the funds raised so far and brining in advertising agencies to help coordinate efforts. “Advertising cooperatives in other states, such as California and Arizona have million-dollar budgets,” said Angela Triano, vice president of marketing for Proponent FCU, who has taken a very active part in the project. “We are way behind in New Jersey.” Lastly, the League has reinvigorated its efforts to promote shared branching among its members, identifying dedicated staff people to oversee the initiative. Currently, 22 shared branching locations are up and running; the League expects to have 27 during the first quarter of 2004. “If a credit union cannot afford to open a new branch in order to serve a new or existing SEG, shared branching gives them a chance to reach out to these members through a service center,” said Stefanie LiVecchi, director of Association Services. “No matter where the service center is located, each time a member approaches a teller, it is just as if they are performing the transaction in their own credit union.” In his keynote address, CUNA Chairman Dick Ensweiler praised the NJCUL for its many efforts. He also encouraged credit union leaders to focus on the big picture and create a united front for promoting credit union issues. “We have too much to do working together as financial partners to continue fighting each other,” he said. “We have too many things in common we should be working toward. If we put our shoulders to the wheel, we can accomplish those things. “We’re the kind of builders who can make this CU movement stronger than ever before and even better than the one we inherited.” -

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