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ROME, Italy – Bank like, or not bank like, maximizing profits, or maximizing service these were some of the credit union values bantered around the stage at the 2005 WOCCU Conference. Jim Blaine President of State Employees Credit Union in Raleigh N.C. and Rob Nicholls CEO of Australian National Credit Union Ltd. both represent the second largest credit unions in their countries and often had differing opinions on what a credit union should be regardless of size. Liam O’Dwyer was the sometimes moderator and sometimes instigator of the debate. The kickoff question was what would it take for either of them to quit. O’Dwyer joked their boards wanted to know. For Nicholls it would be conversion, because he does not want to work for a profit-bank. For Blaine it would be doing something he didn’t believe in. While Blaine considers much of the business terminology “horse feather” saying they didn’t bother with mission statements and the like, he did admit that if there were a mission statement, it would be to do the right thing.Nicholls is more into the business school approach of running his financial institution using the buzz words. Although they did not say it the same way, Blaine did not disagree when Nicholls said the most important thing to him is his family and he sees credit unions as his family as well. While Nicholls talked about the strategies of friendliness, Blaine asked if there was ever a strategy of rudeness? What they didn’t disagree on was meeting member needs as a priority, making sure there was trust both with members and staff, and relationships were of major importance, even if they are harder to maintain as a credit union grows. At the end Blaine brought out an apple and an orange. He said there were similarities – seeds, juice-potential, edible, etc. He handed Rob the orange. “This is a credit union.” Blaine kept the apple. “Oranges are unique. Think of one word that rhymes with orange. Take your time.” His point was credit unions were unique despite bank similarities jibing at Nicholls who saw more overlaps between the two financial institutions than Blaine. Then Blaine took a big bite of the apple. Nicholls sat silently for at least a minute and bit into the orange to the cheers of the crowd. Not to be outdone, Blaine took a second bite. Nicholls instead of taking a second bite squeezed the juice into his water glass. “Don’t squeeze your members,” Blaine said to the roar of the audience. That was a value both agreed on. [email protected]

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