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This being the last issue of Credit Union Times for the year, it is once again time to see how I did on my predictions for 2003. My final prediction for 2003, made almost 12 months ago, was that this year would be an absolutely fabulous year for credit unions. It was! No matter what measuring sticks are used, industry-wide successes in all important categories were outstanding. One of many examples: I predicted that industry assets would approach $600 billion. Although a born optimist, turns out I was too conservative as total assets soared past that figure weeks ago and will finish the year well above it. Also, with all the FOM expansion initiatives, conversions to community credit union charters, and commitments to serving low income areas, the total number of credit union members (but especially potential members) increased substantially. The total number may be around the predicted 85 million, depending on who’s counting method is used. The billionaires club, those credit unions with at least $1 billion in assets, expanded beyond the number predicted (from 65 to 77) to a record 82, an increase of 17 in just one year. With the large number already approaching $1 billion (number 100 is already over $900,000), soon it will take at least a billion in assets to make the list of the 100 largest credit unions. The number of credit unions decreased, but even faster than predicted as mergers increased including the merger of two credit unions in the $500 million range. A substantial merger was predicted. Another even larger merger was announced during the year which involves a billion dollar credit union and another large CU, both in Oregon. It fulfills a prediction made two years ago which at the time did not happen. However, in a follow-up prediction I said it still would happen only later than predicted. My prediction that NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar would still be Chairman by year-end is on target, but my related prediction that he will eventually emerge in another high-profile credit union leadership position has yet to play out. My predictions regarding various types of charter conversions were pretty much on the money. However, I did not predict that the pendulum would swing back to state-to-federal switches somewhat thanks to the banker-instigated situation in Utah that brought former large state charters into the FCU fold. But the predicted swing towards community charters and at the same time name changes did happen as predicted. I ended up in left field with my prediction that at least a couple more large credit unions would follow Patelco Credit Union’s lead and jump ship from NCUSIF coverage to private insurance. Didn’t happen. Despite numerous defeats, bankruptcy reform legislation continued to be of utmost importance to credit union trade groups but, as predicted, couldn’t generate enough votes to be enacted even though personal bankruptcies continued to rise nationwide. Corporate credit unions, as predicted, made lots of news in 2003. They became a lot more competitive, but also found more ways to work together through joint ownerships and cooperative marketing agreements. As a group, however, they became a lot more aggressive in developing and promoting products and services for natural person credit unions, as predicted. They also became more involved politically especially in regard to U.S. Central, something I did not foresee. Only one corporate disappeared via the merger route, not the three predicted. However, one merger is still pending and two others went nowhere after initial discussions looked promising. In general, the musical chairs I predicted among CEOs of credit unions and CU groups did happen. For example, seven league CEO jobs changed or are in the process of changing with Utah’s Scott Earl among being the most recent. On the national scene, long-time NASCUS CEO Doug Duerr abruptly “resigned” thus fulfilling my prediction that a well-known national CU leader will step down catching most credit union observers by surprise. My prediction that banking lobbyists will pull out all the stops in 2003 including stepped up legal maneuvering even involving NCUA did happen. However, the predicted clear cut failure of these efforts is still playing out. But the predicted lack of success in both the courtroom and in the court of public opinion will definitely occur. As also predicted, credit union support of carefully selected politicians increased and met with a number of successes. At the same time, representing a slam dunk prediction, the banking industry continued talking out of both sides of its mouth with the predicted loss of credibility among political leaders. Some other predictions: credit union trusts did grow in number and popularity with several new and ambitious entities being put in place during the year. No-surcharge ATM networks did grow as consolidation continued. The release of the GAO study, as predicted, was greeted pretty much with a yawn although regulators and trade groups are going through the expected follow-up motions to keep political peace. Banks continued to convert to Sub Chapter S corporations at a fast pace as predicted. Predictions regarding the dwindling number of single-sponsor credit unions also hit the target. FOMs are being expanded although in some cases very subtlety and names are being changed to reflected a changing or gone-sour relationship with the original single sponsor. Also, credit union volunteer led efforts to get volunteers more involved and recognized at the national level, such as being on national CU group boards, pretty much went nowhere as predicted. And credit unions and the organizations that serve them found many more ways to create alliances as predicted. Finally, despite well-orchestrated campaigns and a change in their overall strategy in their decades old battle to keep credit unions tiny, ineffective, and non-competitive, the banking industry could only watch as credit unions continued to prosper throughout the year. As predicted. So what do I see for 2004? Stay tuned. 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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