Credit unions have plenty to be thankful for this Thanksgiving holiday. I’d like to point out just a few “thankful” things that top my list, while also giving some “turkey” awards to those who just don’t get it. Credit unions should be thankful the industry has such a strong lobbying presence, both on the federal and state levels, to combat the ever intensifying banker attacks. Lobbying stock isn’t built up over night, it takes years, and the industry has put in its time. So as you carved your turkey with a nagging feeling that bankers are closing the gap, maybe they are, but they have a long way to go. My first turkey award goes to America’s Community Bankers. The ACB has submitted proposed legislation that would not tax credit unions if the following two criteria are met: (i) the credit union has assets with a value of $25 million or less; or (ii) 75% or more of the income of the credit union consists of income earned from providing loans and deposit services to members of modest means. Twenty-five million? Are they kidding? They could have made a more respectable argument with Congress by setting a much higher asset threshold. Credit union employees and members should be thankful that credit unions rarely layoff employees. It’s a testament to how well-run most credit unions are and how much they value their human resources. Contrast that to the vendor side where unfortunately layoffs are part of doing business. CUNA Mutual is already 400 layoffs in this fall (though it’s adamant it will strengthen the firm) and Centrix Financial sliced its payroll by 100 last week. It could be worse, just look at Ford Motor Company. The next turkey award goes to Marv Umholtz. (I know, too easy.) But this is not what you think. I don’t give Umholtz the turkey award for being a change coat and joining the Coalition for Credit Union Charter Options, I give it to him for staunchly claiming he is advocating charter choice, and not coming clean that he is in favor of bank conversion. Come on Marv, you’d love to see a new credit union convert every day! Credit unions should be thankful for the corporate credit union network. If you haven’t looked at corporates lately, you’ll find they are sophisticated, efficient institutions that are continually innovating to serve their member credit unions. They have the economies of scale and capital to bring new products to the table. This will be a gift that keeps on giving. A turkey award to all those credit union leagues who’ve yet been able to get any of their members of Congress to sign on to the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act. Support for this bill has never been more important as a show of force for the credit union lobby. I’m confident this will change. Be thankful the NCUA Board is returning to full strength. Gigi Hyland and Rodney Hood appear to be great selections. This is important for the industry’s image. A one-member board just doesn’t have the legitimacy of the full-complement. If it goes too long with one member, it makes you question NCUA’s worth in the government landscape. A juicy turkey award to conference circuit speakers who urge credit union leaders to do this and that to better their credit unions, yet if you look at their own credit unions, the numbers are less than impressive. Maybe more time minding the store and improving their credit unions would give their speeches more merit. Everyone should be thankful for how the industry has come together in the wake of this year’s devastating hurricanes. Stories of individual and institutional heroics abound. The credit union industry is still showing why it is different than banks – it will do whatever it takes to help members, without the fear of shareholder reaction. A turkey award to all those credit unions that will dole out enormous member dividends at year-end. There’s nothing wrong with giving back, but if the dividends are too large it’s indicative of the credit union holding back and not paying members the best rates throughout the year. Members need your best all year long, not in a lump sum gift. Credit unions should be thankful for their vendor options. This is not a kiss-up to vendors, it’s a recognition that more and more have woken up to the expanding credit union industry and are courting credit unions. This gives credit unions more opportunities to find technology products, investment offerings, and other wares to better serve their members. The heated competition among vendors ensures credit unions are getting the best deal. A turkey award for the former Community Credit Union’s official metamorphosis to a bank and the unveiling of its new name, ViewPoint Bank. Speaking of bankers, another turkey to them for crying foul about credit union expansion, yet FDIC’s just-released third quarter stats show bank earnings at record levels. Third quarter net income of $34.6 billion is $492 million more than the previous record set in the first quarter 2005. No one begrudges their success, but don’t try to pad profits more by beating up credit unions. Finally, I end with a mixture of “thankful” and “turkey” all in one. Texas credit unions should be thankful that their esteemed league leader Dick Ensweiler is committed enough to jump out of a plane solo for the first time in his life to raise money for the league’s political action committee (See page 6.). On the other hand, Ensweiler gets a turkey award for opting to do this feat alone, and not on the back of an instructor. I don’t think Texas CUs want to see Ensweiler risk life and limb at a time when his leadership is so important. We’re all rooting for you Dick. -Comments? e-mail [email protected]

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