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Once again it is time to take a potpourri look around the credit union world at items worthy of comment. Like these: Doug Faucette, an attorney and a credit union director in the `70s, needs to enroll in a Credit Union 101 course ASAP. Speaking to a banker’s group recently he said, “.credit union members should be considered participants rather than owners” of their credit union. To explain his totally incorrect statement he went on to say, “.you or I could be members of a country club and use it every day and not own it,” an example which proves absolutely nothing. Credit unions don’t have a non-member category called participant. Nor are credit union services even available to non-members. Credit union members are definitely owners. Only they can exercise that ownership privilege by using their credit union as a member. First a person joins a credit union and becomes an owner. Then they can participate in the programs and services of a credit union. Country clubs don’t work that way. Credit union CEOs in Nevada finally got their day in the sun with the Nevada Business Journal. A tightly structured one and one-half hour roundtable was arranged by that publication’s editorial staff supposedly so credit unions could counteract similar one-sided affairs held annually every July for the past five years in which the banking industry used it as a forum for trotting out the same old anti-credit union rhetoric. Don’t hold your breath until the results of the credit union discussion appear in print in early May. If the loaded questions asked were any indication, expect credit union record-setting comments to take a back seat to banker spin. “Why should credit unions be tax-exempt,” and “Why should credit unions be allowed to engage in business lending” are hardly the type of objective and unbiased questions that should be expected to come from an objective publication. Wonder if the banker’s faced questions like, “How do you justify your record profits every year?” Or, “Why are your fees so high and getting higher?” Guess who does the most advertising in that publication? On the lighter side, about a year ago I mentioned in this space a reader inquiring by e-mail how to get in touch with “the good looking girl in the green sweater on page 29.” Naturally our editorial staff laughed and ignored him. Just recently the tables were turned. A young man shown prominently in a feature article in Credit Union Times shared with us an e-mail he received from a female reader that said in part, “.you’re definitely one good-looking guy and have a great smile. Actually your name should be Campbell because you look mmm-mmm good.” Guess we’ll have to open a dating service. When it comes to telephone contact, credit unions continue to engage in atrocious member relations. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. Try calling a credit union CEO without using his or her private number. It is almost impossible to get through the electronic answering “service.” I tried four consecutive times to reach a CEO by phone about a week ago. Although I followed every prompt, the automated voice kept asking for my member number. Finally “she” became disgusted with me and hung up. Every credit union CEO should be forced to call another staffer using the regular phone system at least once a week to appreciate what his or her members, but especially CU colleagues, go through on a regular basis. Somewhat related, why do so many people insist on, after a lengthy and detailed voice-mail message, racing through the call back number? Sometimes I need to listen to a message four or five times to try and pick up the phone number. No more. Anyone who races through a call back number in a voice-mail for me can expect no call back. NCUA recently reported that 92.1 million potential members were added to the fields of membership of FCUs. Interesting but I (and the banking industry) would find far more interesting the number that have gone from being a potential member to simply a member. The credit union industry has its share of acronyms. Here’s a new one: APWG. Anyone know what it stands for? I’m phishing for an answer. How much prestige is there in winning an award in credit union marketing competitions where approximately one-third of the entries receive a plaque or a trophy? Not much in my book. Bankruptcy reform continues on the fast track with the last stop to be the desk of the President of the United States who has already said he would sign it into law. As warned previously in this space, not everyone or every group thinks this new piece of legislation soon-to-be-law is all that wonderful. I have a bulging file of articles and columns of outspoken opponents who are finding a lot not to like about bankruptcy reform. Speaking of reform, deposit insurance is back on the front burner and bears watching. Credit unions could be swept up into this package, which includes merging government insurance agencies. The FDIC has announced more layoffs, this time about 300 staffers. This may raise questions once again about NCUA staffing levels. I recommend readers get a copy of the California Credit Union League’s list of “Banker Terms To Denigrate Credit Unions” which appeared in the February, 2005 edition of the league’s monthly member publication, Credit Union Digest. Competition just got tougher. According to press reports, banks are redefining the word convenience by opening in-lobby coffee shops, providing service seven days a week, going aggressively after student accounts, and building full-service branches seemingly on every street corner. Finally, many credit union spokespersons need to learn how an S-Corp works before blasting the increasing number of banks that have chosen to go that route. 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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