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As the year 2004 winds down it means it is time for me to fess up on how I did on the predictions I boldly made way back on January 7th. For starters, credit unions did achieve impressive results in mortgages, member business loans, and with the new kid on the block, namely, trust account services, as predicted. But my optimism regarding huge membership increases was off the mark. As NCUA Board Member Debbie Matz frequently points out, there has been a big slowdown in membership growth despite the granting of huge new FOMs, especially in low-income areas, something I did correctly predict. My prediction that total industry asset growth would continue strong with the biggest gains coming from credit unions over $100 million in assets would play out. It did, as did my prediction that many more new products and services would be introduced. They were. But never when I predicted major improvements in technology did I expect the number to be so large. The number of credit unions did decrease due to mergers and liquidations, but short of the 400 number predicted. More mergers involved larger credit unions as also predicted. Member satisfaction, although still impressively higher than any competitors, improved slightly rather than decline as predicted, but bears continued watching since many credit unions still don’t seem to have this important area on their radar screens. As for NCUA, as predicted an unknown Republican was nominated by President Bush. Nothing much happened after that and eventually the nominee took himself out of the running leaving the NCUA Board with only two members. Jo Ann Johnson was bumped up to chairman as predicted after former chairman Dennis Dollar stepped down after months beyond the expiration of his term, as also predicted. Dollar did form a Washington-based consulting firm, as predicted, which appeared to be going great guns by year-end. Yet, I stick with my further prediction that this is not a long-term proposition, but will position the popular chairman for greener pastures. As predicted, UBIT (Unrelated Business Income Tax) seemed to come and go as a major issue during the year even though a lot of credit union resources were earmarked to work with those states already targeted by the IRS. Close but no cigar sums up my prediction regarding the top 100 credit unions. I said it would take $1 billion to make the list by year-end. With 95 billionaires on the list it now looks like it will be early in 2005 before it will take a billion dollars in assets to make the list. Stepped up conversions to community charters and charter switches from state to federal did happen as predicted, as did a bogging down amid controversy of credit unions wanting to become banks. And as also predicted, no large credit unions followed the lead of Patelco CU in dumping NCUSIF in favor of private primary insurance coverage. I was on the money that banking industry lobbyists would swarm all over credit union specific proposed legislation, but missed the mark when I said they would try to re-craft the credit union initiatives to fit their own goals rather than attempt to kill them. Unfortunately I was dead on with my prediction that the banking industry would put in high gear its efforts to attack credit unions on a state-by-state basis. Fortunately, I was also on the mark with my added prediction that because of diligent efforts by credit union trade groups and massive grassroots efforts bankers would see little if any success. A changing of the guard in the corner office at the ABA (American Bankers Association) did unfold, but credit union nemesis Howard Headlee, CEO of the Utah Bankers Association, is still firmly ensconced in his office. For now at least. Some predictions take longer, but do eventually play out so stay tuned on this one. Over at NASCUS, the final CEO selection was not a surprise as predicted, but staff changes that followed quickly after Doug Duerr was booted out did occur as predicted. A slam-dunk prediction that despite credit union trade group optimism bankruptcy reform would again not see the light of day was accurate. My prediction that about-to-retire credit union CEOs would set themselves up for cushy jobs as part of a merger deal with a larger credit union was partially correct; there were just fewer that went this route than predicted. Cases of embezzlement and robberies did increase as did violent crime perpetrated against credit unions as predicted, a trend that appears to be on a steady upward curve. A little closer to home, my prediction that more than two dozen vendors would debut as advertisers in Credit Union Times turned out to be far too conservative as financial industry suppliers are discovering the lucrative credit union market in record numbers. CUNA’s Future Forum in Hawaii did draw a record number of participants, for them, but the annual event didn’t come close to approaching the huge numbers NAFCU draws every July for its Annual Conference and Exhibition. I had predicted a much higher number for CUNA and was way off the mark. One prediction that I make every year is that credit union boards seemingly without warning will unceremoniously dump a number of high-profile credit union CEOs. Every year I am correct. However, never would I have predicted that the CUNA Mutual Group CEO Mike Kitchen would be fired over an alleged union transgression, especially since he had established such an impressive track record in getting the credit union colossus in the black. Nor would I have predicted the announced early retirements of credit union industry heavyweights Bob Rose, CEO of CO-OP Network and Les Muma, CEO of Fiserv. Watch for 2005 predictions in this space in the next issue. Happy Holidays! 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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