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Can anyone really argue that 2009 will be remembered as the year of missed opportunities for the credit union marketplace? By the spring of 2009, the word “bank” had become a four-letter word in the eyes of most Americans. Just as credit unions were set to have a generational moment of opportunity, our “allies” and “advocates” at many corporate credit unions and the outdated commercial lending limits imposed upon credit unions snuffed out any real renaissance. Late in the year, I received an e-mail from CUNA touting a white paper on “youth marketing.” I laughed out loud. A white paper? What is this 1999? That followed the news that smaller corporates met in Las Vegas to discuss what is wrong with them. They edged out of the realm of hubris into the undeniable realm of stupidity. If there is any real renaissance occurring, it is in the sub-billion dollar credit unions that have figured out that the bloated world of CUNA, the NCUA and the corporate credit unions has served to slow rather than propel the credit union movement forward. Here at Chetco FCU we are coming off a second outstanding year in spite of, not because of, our corporate credit union, the NCUA or CUNA. We have a youth immersion strategy that started in the early 2000s to deliberately and intentionally engage Gen Y and their parents. We don’t issue white papers. This spring we will have our second round of concerts for financial literacy that we invented at Chetco FCU and then took nationwide to high schools and colleges. You can read a white paper if you prefer, but we are going to put on live rocking musical events that stress our brand and financial literacy. Gen Y turns 30 in 2010 and credit unions all over the country continue to talk, read and brainstorm ways on how to lower their median age. Chetco has cracked the code, and we are willing to share our success with other credit unions. AmeriChoice FCU, Mechanicsburg, Pa., will be having its fourth concert for financial literacy produced by Chetco FCU and Eloquent Online this February. I promise you on that day in February, Americhoice, another sub-billion dollar shop, will have the rapt attention of more Gen Y’ers than any other credit union in the country . Thankfully, smaller, forward-thinking credit unions are still out there innovating and adapting to a new marketplace and a new type of member who will never own a checkbook or read a newspaper ad. At Chetco FCU, we are already contemplating what we call “Chetco 2020.” It is our plan to be ready for the next new decade when the Karate Kid is in his 50s and white papers (and possibly CUNA) are a thing of the past.

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Peter Westerman

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