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LAS VEGAS – The “Big Brother- Big Sister” concept of large credit unions offering financial assistance to smaller peers to steer them into front-line public advocacy campaigns became a prime topic during the California/Nevada Credit Union League convention. “For those who come from large credit unions like mine, it’s hard for us to approach you on something like this, but I ask you to be bold,” implored Mary Cunningham, president/CEO of the $650 million USA FCU in San Diego during a convention panel session. The San Diego CU executive made reference to the lobbying reticence of small CUs who out of fear or shyness are reluctant to ask larger CUs for financial aid to participate in face-to-face meetings with federal or state lawmakers in Sacramento, Carson City or in D.C. Leaders within state leagues and CUNA contend the issue of broad grassroots support has become paramount in recent months amidst heightened banker attacks. “You have the powerful, personal stories to be told” in public forums, declared Cunningham noting the willingness of large CUs in California and across the U.S. to pony up travel expenses of small CUs so the industry’s message from the smallest CUs can be heard. CEOs of large CUs, she said, realize the importance of the small CU voice in lobbying because of close ties with consumer issues, an area closely identified by legislators. Falsely, she said, some small CUs fear offers by larger CUs amount to an attempt for a predatory merger, but that premise can be quickly dispelled. For the most part, larger CUs with no designs on smaller CUs are “more than happy” to pay for airfare or housing expenses and “would do it in a heartbeat” if they knew the CEO was willing to make the trip. Prior to making a `Hike the Hill’ trip, Gloria Lopez, president/CEO of the $3.4 million Knudsen FCU in Santa Clarita, said she had many trepidations including an understanding that “only the big boys and league staff” make those Washington visits. But once in D.C, league staff and lawmaker staffers made her feel comfortable – “like a walk down the yellow brick road” adding she was impressed by the organization and efficiency of the operation. Now, she said, she is a convert to the notion of CEOs of small CUs speaking out more forcefully because she realizes the banks “are out to get us after they go after the big ones first.” Jon Hernandez, the new chairman of the Shapiro Group Advisory Committee, which put on the convention panel session, said he intends to take several steps next year to improve the “comfort zone” of CEOs of small CUs in public advocacy. For one, he is insisting that the small peer group needs to stick together and gather for meetings and dinners to share ideas. Always grouping them with larger CUs can be a mistake, said Hernandez who also is CEO of the $20 million South Bay Health Services FCU in Torrance. [email protected]

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