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NEW ORLEANS – Your board meets on the first Monday of each month. The agenda includes reading of the minutes of the last meeting, old business, new business and other items evidently etched in stone. Speaking on “It’s Not Easy for CU Boards in the Post-Enron World,” Sandra Hughes asked attendees at the breakout session during the Education Credit Union Council Conference annual conference how many met 12 times a year. A forest of hands went up. That’s too often, Hughes – a Sarasota, Fla.-based consultant to non-profit organizations – declared. “Look at the amount of work you’re putting on the staff. Cut down on the number of meetings you have. You all have great staff. Trust the staff and get to know what the board’s role is.” Hughes urged credit unions to e-mail information to boards rather than duplicating massive packets before each session. She also suggested dumping the same-old, same-old agenda for a consent agenda. “Too many board meetings are as predictable as a church, synagogue or mosque. `A hymn, a prayer and you’re out of there,’” she declared. Lump together routine items that can be sent to board members ahead of time, such as the minutes of the last meeting and the CEO’s report, Hughes suggested. Vote on them at one time on the basis that if nobody objects, the items are approved. Then, she continued, use the time saved to deal with meatier issues such as what the credit union can do to help people in the community or how the credit union can gain more visibility. “It really is a new day for board meetings,” Hughes declared. Oh yes, and while you’re at it, consider asking young people under 18 to join the board. There’s no law prohibiting that, she said, although they might not be able to vote on some issues such as the CEO’s contract. She noted there are even seven organizations in the U.S. that teach young people to serve on non-profit boards. Hughes also stressed the importance of adopting and following a conflict of interest policy. “The Enron board voted to suspend their conflict of interest statement. The rest is history,” she said. She expressed approval when almost all boards represented in the room indicated they have a conflict of interest policy in place. Hughes gave credit unions in general positive marks for: *Strategic planning. Seventy-seven percent of credit unions do strategic planning and many do scenario planning. *The size of the boards. It ranges from 7 to 13, and most include 9 or 7. *A familial or team approach. *A commitment to board development, including a line item for such activity in the budget. *Attention to fiduciary oversight and understanding finances. *Strong CEOs. That said, Hughes went on to cite some areas needing improvement: The majority of credit unions have no term limits for board members. The average stay on the board is from 11.7 years to 22.8 years. “That’s a tad long, everybody,” Hughes declared. “You need two or three generations on the board. Create something like a Founders Council to keep people involved.” *Eighty-two percent of credit unions offer board orientation. But it focuses on the credit union business, not how to be an effective board member. *Little use of task forces. *The relations between the CEO, the staff and the board. *Micromanagement. *Visionary, strategic thinking and values. -

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