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The California/Nevada Credit Union League is making plans this month to marshal higher levels of CU cooperation to sharply reduce credit union costs across a broad front, from legal and payroll to benefits and vendor expenses.The effort being orchestrated by a newly formed collaboration committee of the league represents what is being described as a serious co-op program of reducing costs during a time of financial turmoil.Plans for the collaboration panel were disclosed by Diana Dykstra, former chairman of the league and president/CEO of San Francisco Fire CU as part of a discussion of generating more CU cooperation to stop the closing of branches and cutting staff.She spoke on the subject of CU collaboration during the annual National Directors Convention recently in Las Vegas. Joining her in helping create the collaboration committee was Gary Perez, president/CEO of USC CU of Los Angeles, who was named chairman of the panel.Dykstra said formation of the committee arose from the financial strife that many California CUs have borne this year and in 2008 from the recession and the need “to stop talking about collaboration and really start doing something concrete right away.”The league panel, which held its first meeting in July, expects to draft proposals on a variety of concepts ranging from creation of a bank of professional employees available for hire to a co-op legal team. Also to be looked at are units on shared compliance and employee benefits.“We are struggling trying to figure what we can do to keep going, but just think what we can accomplish if really start cooperating,” said Dykstra, noting that several members of the league staff have been assigned to start working on what she hoped would be innovative and far reaching cost-cutting proposals.In her talk to the directors in Las Vegas, Dykstra, a former director of WesCorp., touched on the NCUA corporation expense and said CUs need to stop “the blame game of what went wrong and halt the bickering and recriminations.” She maintained the industry is wasting valuable time and resources in trying to assess what went awry.In a separate speech at the convention, Stephan Winninger, president/CEO of the $850 million NuUnion CU of Lansing, Mich., said CUs like his that are struggling with write-offs ought to consider altering calculations on handling allowance for loan losses to start using a 12-month rolling average instead of 36 months.A CU can show up with “some very good months, but it is better to protect against problems later on” by using the 12-month average, said Winninger.The Lansing CEO also said NuUnion has managed to show 5% loan growth and a small increase in membership to 90,000 despite a rather grim economic environment with 15.4% unemployment.He said attention to member needs has paid off for NuUnion by sticking to good underwriting standards and distinguishing “between extending a $250,000 RV loan to someone who has been laid off and helping some guy with extra cash to feed the kids.”Winninger told attendees, “Don’t be afraid to use some capital accumulated in better times to help members through tougher times.”–[email protected]

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