Bad Boys, Advancing Women, And Poor Spokesmen

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I have no intention of again using this space to address credit union-to-mutual-savings-bank conversions, except...

If everything's on the up and up with conversions, as their proponents suggest, and if the conversion is purely to benefit all the members, why are the police seemingly always involved?

That question was raised by a long-time member of Community Credit Union in Plano, Texas, Martin Sisk, who has been attending CCU's meetings off and on since 1966. But last week Sisk told The Credit Union Journal that when he arrived at Community CU's recent annual meeting 15 minutes late he was turned away at the door and told he couldn't enter. "It was the whole tone of the thing. I got there and there were two police officers barring the door," Sisk said. "Let's just say it wasn't your typical, friendly credit union atmosphere."

While standing there, Sisk was stunned to see a member of CCU (Elaine Laroa) actually being escorted out of the meeting by security after she had attempted to distribute information. "By their own actions, they made me suspicious," Sisk says now. He ought to be suspicious.

Let's face it: typically, when the police are involved in a CU's annual meeting, it's because they're trying to drag people into the event. Yet cops getting involved when a credit union is converting is nothing new. Recall that last year all-the-members-are-equal, democratically-run Columbia Credit Union called the cops on some of its owners who were seeking to get fellow co-owners to sign petitions opposing that conversion.

How long before we tune into an episode of "COPS" some night and hear, "Bad boys, bad boys. Whacha gonna do? Whacha gonna do when they convert on you, bad boys, bad boys"?

On a much brighter note, CUNA will be hosting its first-ever Women's Leadership Summit at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego in about two weeks. The meeting follows by about a century credit union meetings that have largely been organized for men, i.e., every other CU meeting.

According to Jill Tomalin, senior VP-association services with CUNA, the idea has been percolating within the trade group for a few years and followed a workshop led by Tom Peters in which CUNA's education department was inspired to drill down further into who makes up its primary audience. It found that about 75% of the people taking one of CUNA's educational courses is female. It also looked at credit union management in general, and found a high percentage of women made up those ranks, as well. (What skews perception of male vs. female in credit union management ranks is that women largely hold the manager positions at smaller credit unions, while larger CUs tend to have male CEOs. As it's also larger CUs that can afford to attend most events, which why many credit union conferences could double as the membership meeting of Augusta National Golf Course.)

The touchy-feely agenda certainly has a different audience in mind and won't be confused with that of a meeting of CFOs. It begins with daily sunrise walks, and includes a session on "Investing in Laughter for a Lower Stress Life," a half-day on "Developing Your Inner Power through Self Awareness," and another on "Developing Relationships." The third day includes a panel discussion featuring female leaders within credit unions, including former CUNA Chair(wo)man Nancy Pierce.

Tomalin said the meeting will focus on team-building skills and that women such as Pierce who have held leadership positions will also be on hand to act as mentors for other women seeking to follow their paths. She added that CUNA staff used an informal group of female leaders as a sounding board in assembling the program.

"We want to retain the level of quality women we have in the industry," said Tomalin when asked why the Summit was assembled. "There are a lot of leadership conferences, but none for women in credit unions."

A second Summit has already been scheduled for May of 2006, but there's still time for this year's event, which is to be held beginning June 12. For info:

Many readers likely saw State Employees CU CEO Jim Blaine when he was interviewed as part of a piece on "60 Minutes II" on payday lending. In a very brief time, Blaine did an effective job articulating why no one should borrow from a payday lender. But frankly, Blaine took an unintended backseat to someone else when it comes to the negative side of payday lending: the industry's own spokesperson.

Perhaps in a demonstration of why the NFL doesn't allow just anyone to call an audible, former pro footballer Willie Green, who owns three payday lending stores and who is a director of the Community Financial Services Association of America, did more damage than anyone.

When correspondent Scott Pelley asked Green how he would feel if his wife came home one day and announced she had gotten a payday loan, Green seemed confident she wouldn't do something so stupid. "My wife wouldn't do it, because my wife, thank God, is in a financial situation where she wouldn't. Plus, she has a master's degree in accounting."

So there you have it: smart people know better than to go to a payday lender. Just ask the industry's spokesperson.

Frank J. Diekmann is editor of The Credit Union Journal. (c) 2005 The Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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