Sometimes I worry that state leagues defer to CUNA too much onvarious issues. I am a fan of the current CUNA, which has trulybecome a world-class trade association, but CUNA doesn't doeverything well. They have had a number of failures on the productside, an area CUNA should stay an arm's length from. CUNA also,even though it is integrated with the leagues on so many levels,doesn't know individual state issues as well as the leagues. Thisis where leagues shine. They are on the ground in their states.They know the issues. They understand the culture of their creditunions. They should be credit unions' first stop in any politicalor regulatory problem. So I clearly believe the role of leaguesshould increase, not decrease going forward. I want to comment onsome very intriguing league news that has broken recently thatmight offer a look into the future of leagues. The Colorado CUAssociation has updated its bylaws to allow out-of-state membercredit unions with branches in Colorado to have full voting powers.This isn't going to impact hundreds of CUs, but it is a veryinnovative move that other leagues should follow. The credit unionindustry is consolidating at all levels. More and more mergers willaffect multiple-states. Credit unions that have more than a tokenpresence in multiple states, and this means a branch presence,should have a voice in both leagues. What's the downside? I can'tsee any. Smaller CUs may be worried about large out-of-state CUscoming in and taking over, but that can all be handled withpolicies on board composition. So kudos to Colorado for blazing atrail on this issue. Others will soon follow suit, or be forced toby large CUs that suddenly have a presence in their state. Thiswill also lead to league consolidation, which I think is inevitablein certain regions and makes a lot of sense. You can't tell meNevada CUs aren't benefiting from the Nevada and California CULeagues merging. Another hot league news story breaking last weekis the merger of the Illinois CU Association with the MidwestAssociation of Credit Unions. This is also a positive developmentfor the league system. Illinois CUs shouldn't be expected tosupport two state-level trade associations. More than two-thirds ofthe state's CUs are under $50 million in assets. This group can'tafford to pay dues twice, especially credit unions who may want tobelong to both CUNA and NAFCU. The larger CUs in the state don'tneed the political headaches of two state leagues. The leaders ofMACU should be commended for recognizing the time has come to mergewith ICUL. The number of Illinois CUs continues to shrink. Thereare now less than 500 in a state that had over 700 just 10 yearsago. Again, as the industry consolidates, credit union leagues mustwake up to the fact that bigger can be better. MACU and ICUL willobviously gain economies of scale that will allow them to cut costsand be more efficient for its members. The departure of MACU isprobably music to CUNA's ears. A number of regional groups havepopped up over the years because they were unhappy with somethingin the CUNA/league world. The Missouri Credit Union Associationalso made headlines recently for its public awareness campaign. Theleague is working with a large public relations firm to try andspread the news about all the good Missouri credit unions do.Anyone who has read this column with any regularity knows I applaudefforts like this. Get out and toot the credit union horn – no oneelse will. Tell the story of credit unions helping people. The 48credit unions that have signed on to participate understand howimportant the credit union image is, and want to help shape it. Oneparticularly exciting nugget about this effort is they areassembling a group of credit union representatives who will act asliaisons to the media. Thus these are people that are comfortablein this role and will represent credit unions well. Hopefully theyare from all regions of the state and come from all asset sizes.Every state should have this! There is a “but” coming however withthe Missouri story. I hope they don't make the mistake of spendingtoo much time or money promoting the association itself. One of thestated goals is to strengthen the association's brand. What for?This is no knock against that fine league, but who really cares ifMissourians know who the league is, that should not be the message.I'd rather see them spend their efforts pushing some sort ofbranding effort for Missouri CUs in general. I hope I am wrong, butif they are pushing the association's brand, I think they are onlygoing to confuse people. You are asking the same people you aretrying to introduce credit unions to, to first learn about theassociation that all the CUs belong to. I can hear Missourians now,“How can I join the association?” And finally there is Gary Wolter,a man who has managed to lead the Alabama CU League for 40 years.Wow, talk about dodging the many trappings of association politics.There's politics and then there's association politics, andassociation politics are the most treacherous. Wolter has somehowdone it and kept the league strong on all levels. He deserves ahand. Bravo. Comments? E-mail [email protected]

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