It’s time once again to take a potpourri look around the world of credit unions with some comments on a crazy variety of unconnected topics. In an apparent attempt to assist those actively engaged in identity fraud do a better job, a publication that shall remain nameless to protect the guilty, enclosed a subscription card in a regular issue that makes one wonder if its editors are living in a cave. It is a self-mailer, no postage required, business reply card. In addition to the typical information requested such as name and address, a box is provided for listing a credit card number, expiration date, a line for the cardholder’s signature, and boxes to check for the type of credit card. They must be kidding, right? Credit union spokespersons using hospitals as an illustration of other not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt in an effort to defend credit unions would do themselves and credit unions a favor by using other examples of the million or so entities that are tax-exempt. It was an n-f-p hospital that lost its tax-exemption by turning away poor people in need of medical care that triggered House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) to say that n-f-ps need to be looked at. His including a mention of credit unions in his comments is what has caused the brouhaha among CUs. Too bad there isn’t a dope of the week contest. Sure to be nominated would be the public relations representative for a large Florida bank. Credit Union Times editors (by name) received an e-mail from her recently that said in part: “I’m quite sure you have been following the progress of how two of the largest credit unions in South Florida plan to launch lending programs that include business loans. As you know, regulators have allowed credit unions to remain exempt from federal and state income taxes. The Florida Banking Association and many local banks met with members of Congress to recommend lifting the federal tax exemption for larger credit unions.” No kidding! Guess she has never seen a copy of Credit Union Times, or hasn’t figured out that as the premier credit union publication, our editorial staff has been all over bank attack stories since day one. For sure she doesn’t know that the credit union tax-exemption does not come from any credit union regulator. But wait, there’s more. She ended by offering to set up an interview between one of our reporters and the CEO of the bank she represents so that he might explain to us the negative impact credit union business loan programs will have on local Florida banks. Right! Kudos to the California Credit Union League for coming up with their very effective, “Four straight quarters! Three straight years! RECORD PROFITS!” ad just in time to counteract the nasty “Quacks like a duck” advertisement run by American’s Community Bankers to reach politicians as the group held its conference in D.C. Why isn’t this type of campaign a national effort? Speaking of ducks, which bankers on the attack are certainly fond of doing, wonder how they would like this comparison? “If it looks like a pig, oinks like a pig, walks like a pig, and acts like a pig, it must be a bank.” Ouch! Does it strike anyone else strange that state and national credit union trade groups are eligible to compete in credit union level marketing competitions, but CUs can not enter marketing competitions for CU trade associations? Speaking of credit union marketing, here’s a slogan spotted on an outdoor board that will probably increase membership in the sponsoring credit union as well as give banking lobbyists more ammunition: “If you know somebody who knows somebody you are eligible for membership.” The long-awaited “checkless, cashless society” never arrived in this country, but is alive and well in Cuba. On a recent visit to that country we learned that no one trusts banks and for good reason. Credit unions? No one ever heard of them. A country with no credit unions? Sounds like heaven to banking lobbyists. The average Cuban citizen prefers to keep the little money they have hidden away so the government can’t take it away from them. Cuba operates on an underground economy fueled by United States dollars. What little money they have is used to pay cash for what little they can afford. Talk about a place where credit unions are needed. The March 3rd issue of Credit Union Times carried a must read opinion piece on page 16 for any credit unions interested in reaching young people more effectively. It was written by Bryan Sims, the sharp, 20 years young entrepreneur, and publisher of Brass/CU, a money magazine that helps credit unions connect with their young adult members. In the piece, Sims ticks off some common mistakes that older folks make when trying to communicate with his generation. For example, don’t talk down to them and learn to respect them. I would only add that many younger adults need to put the shoe on the other foot when trying to communicate with seniors. For example, don’t talk down to them and learn to respect them. How to communicate effectively with credit union members regardless of age is something that one credit union did extremely well in its 2003 annual report. In a first class piece full of solid information, WESCOM Credit Union, a billion dollar shop in Southern California, showcased a number of its members with interesting copy and outstanding color photos. The message that the credit union tried to convey that it may be big, but still understands the financial needs of its members is top priority came through loud and clear. Finally, it is interesting to note the rash of releases from multiple sources that have sprung up claiming credit union membership growth is booming after all. Apparently the doldrums were of short duration 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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