I’m going beg just a bit of patience for one last bit of your holiday spirit, inspired after reading Shari Storm’s Motherhood Is the New MBA, for there are many parallels that can be drawn between the holidays and the everyday lives of credit union executives.
For example, I find life is more like a bar of fruitcake than a box of chocolates: The general concept is pretty good, but it comes with nuts and there’s that one ingredient that pinches your palate and turns you as green as whatever that is. Being a credit union executive has been a challenge for all of the last couple decades, but an enjoyable one, until perhaps the last couple of years. Even those credit unions that moved away from the corporate network have had to take a bitter bite from the NCUSIF assessments. And, of course, you had executives like Bob Siravo grinning like a Cheshire cat just before the Queen of Hearts demanded WesCorp’s beheading.
Then the in-laws come knocking and drop their baggage on your doorstep. After the entryway hug, your mother-in-law looks around to see if the furniture’s been dusted as your father-in-law comments that the Christmas tree is on the scrawny side. This scene may be familiar, both at home and at your credit union’s examination time. But just as your spouse’s parents, you smile as you explain that things are under control. There’s some dust around but only because more important things, such as one child’s flu or, for your credit union, a sponsor downsizing, took precedent. However, you’ve taken steps to mitigate these issues with antibiotics or adding SEGs. In the end, what’s important to remember is that everyone wants what’s best in the long run.
In the meantime, you’ve taken everyone’s wish list and checked it twice. You perform your basic holiday due diligence of balancing your budget with the requests. Bargain shopping was not just lip service this year and neither should it be for your credit union and local companies. If your credit union is SEG-based, adding more SEGs allows those companies to market the credit union membership as an employee benefit, which could save the credit union money in adding new members in turn.
Though the secular song says that gifts received are determined by who’s naughty or nice, that’s really reserved here for loan approvals. Credit unions must determine who has been responsible with their credit, or at least who is a good risk, and who does not deserve a loan. Keep in mind that borrowers, like children who sneak a peek in the present-hiding place, should have the opportunity to redeem themselves. Offering to help with budgeting, a savings plan or credit counseling can make any day joyous.
Some credit unions have begun offering gift cards for their members to purchase. This allows the recipient the freedom to buy what they really want and save their members time and money. This concept should be applied ubiquitously in your everyday life. Gift cards are for a designated amount and often for a particular store; give your employees this same opportunity for freedom within certain boundaries.
In addition to its members, credit unions should apply these principles to themselves. Credit unions generally have been not been naughty like the big banks have, so why should the banks receive a $700 billion gift while credit unions get nothing but the lumps of coal-new restrictive overdraft protection requirements wrapped in CRA and topped with a red ribbon (tape) of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Instead, credit unions should get some of the items on their wish list such as expanded member business lending and alternative capital authorities.
After all is said and done, the relief and elation you feel when all the crumpled wads of gift wrap have been bagged up and tossed out, all the hard work has paid off. The memories you take away will not be of the kids bouncing off the walls in anticipation or rearranging your family’s sleeping situation to accommodate out-of-towners. You will only recall how your father-in-law occupied the kids while your mother-in-law made her special dish to help you with the meal and how you were just as excited as the kids for them to open their gifts.
Then comes New Year’s Eve, where the late night will only prepare you for others to come-take it from a reporter who cut her teeth on Y2K.
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