I recently read a white paper that was published by our bond broker, Performance Trust in Chicago. The gist of the paper was that there are many companies out there that offer products and services that ostensibly “help” us, while their main objective seems to be putting us out of business. Who might want to put us out of business, you might ask? The obvious answer is commercial and community banks, our primary competitors. There is a war being waged against credit unions right now by the American Bankers Association. Yet at the same time, their members willingly take our business (and our money), which allows them to turn around and compete and lobby against us. I spent a few minutes thumbing through a recent issue of Credit Union Times and found that many of our direct competitors advertise and are sometimes even endorsed by those in the credit union movement. I am not here to say that my credit union is not guilty of enriching the competition. We have a minor relationship with U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual, who all compete in our market. We are looking at each of those relationships to determine what other options we might have. Remember the Aesop’s fable, “The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing”? The wolf has a difficult time catching sheep due to the vigilance of the shepherd, so it disguises itself as a sheep and enjoys a hearty meal under the watchful, but ignorant gaze of the shepherd. The moral of the story is that appearances can be deceiving. I see banks, financial service companies, mortgage companies and investment brokers trying to sneak off with some of my members every day. They use billboards, television, newspapers and radio ads and a lot of other clever marketing methods in their effort to devour my customers’ attention and business. Later, wearing sheep’s clothing, these same firms call on me to see if I will buy bonds, do correspondent banking or sell my credit card portfolio to them. They tell me that they offer superior service, the best prices and immeasurable convenience. Like it or not, you are a shepherd guarding your flock from the wolves who prowl in your marketplace. How many wolves dressed as sheep do you have inside your institution? Randy Gunderson Vice President, Chief Financial Officer Verity Credit Union Seattle, Wash.
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