CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference serves as an annual rally cry for credit unions. Like a good coach, it pumps up the team, provides direction and does a little cheerleading minus the short skirts. Gathering all of the players is great for bolstering that cooperative team spirit to approach Capitol Hill with the central mission of protecting credit unions’ future. Some will focus on enhancing credit union powers through supplemental capital, while others will highlight regulatory relief. Still others will demonstrate the need to maintain credit unions’ tax exemption.
Advocacy pulses through the veins of Thomas Renz of Commodore Perry FCU, the credit union recognized by Credit Union Times for Outstanding Political Action. When the credit union perceived unjust treatment from its NCUA examiner, Renz spearheaded the full-court press to try to make it right.
The aim of the GAC is political advocacy, but it should also reinvigorate credit union professionals with the cooperative spirit. When the future scares arch enemies Verizon and AT&T to work together on a project like Isis, you know there’s something to the cooperative philosophy. If thousands of credit union professionals can gather in Washington to lobby, think what can be accomplished if credit unions large and small work more closely together on operational issues. DDoS attacks are a timely example. If credit unions would cooperate on developing defenses, it would bring everyone’s costs down and provide solid industrywide security.
Take for example CU Times 2013 Trailblazer CFO Scott Waite of Patelco CU. Waite has contributed to the entire industry. He regularly consults with the NCUA and FASB on issues affecting all credit unions. He shares his knowledge as part of the CUNA CFO Council and one-on-one with others in the industry.
After the corporate meltdown and bad participations, it can be difficult to trust again, but credit unions won’t survive any other way. On the flip side, credit unions can’t only do business with CUSOs and each other because it leads to the industry concentration risk we saw in 2007-08.
Stop trying to keep members out of the democratic process. Recruiting efforts might meet regulatory requirements, but it's crucial that nominating committee members be active in the community to find good candidates. Volunteering is a lot of work, as Carroll Beach of Elevations CU, CU Times Volunteer of the Year, will attest to.
Some credit unions seem to be moving away from their cooperative and democratic roots. Joe Brancucci, CEO of GTE Financial and CU Times CEO of the Year, caught an earful when the credit union rebranded without the FCU. He did what he felt was necessary, but the controversy seemed to raise nearly to the level of a mutual savings bank conversion. GTE Financial gave up the “credit union” name, not the credit union philosophy.
It’s important to study individual credit unions and the community overall to reimagine it all. Our 2013 IT Trailblazer of the Year, Chad Graves of Ent FCU, looks at the credit union in its entirety rather than through technological blinders. His goal is to keep up with trends rather than being reactionary–a wise philosophy for credit unions to adopt, although lately so much is happening in technology, regulation and other areas, it’s hard to keep heads above water without scale.
The $90 million Shreveport FCU manages it though. CU Times 2013 Trailblazer for Service to the Underserved took on a partnership with a center to assimilate prison inmates back into society. Not many would tackle this group’s financial needs, but they can’t be fully rehabilitated without being able to manage their finances. Shreveport FCU stepped up almost without hesitation and has made good business of it.
Collections is often a neglected part of credit unions’ business, but not at Grow Financial. Dona Svehla recognized its, particularly in Florida over the last few years. Pushing the previously back-burner issue to the forefront is what made Svehla CU Times Lending Officer of the Year.
Critical to success in each of these areas–lending, challenging FOMs, technology strategy and the rest–is clear communication. This is the hallmark of our 2013 Marketing Executive of the Year, Kristen Mashburn of Listerhill CU, who sees communication across departments and with members as the challenge and the key to meeting and exceeding goals.
Now, read these folks’ inspiring stories on pages 17-27, quit riding the pine, advocate, cooperate and re-imagine the future of credit unions.