‘Bailout’ Headlines Lead To Few Calls From Members

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HARRISBURG, Penn. – The Wall Street Journal story that has raised industry eyebrows with the headline “Credit Unions Bailed Out” has not grabbed the attention of many CU members, according to CEOs who talked with Credit Union Journal.

Greg Smith, CEO of $3.7-billion Pennsylvania State Employees CU, had his finger on the pulse of his membership Monday – the CEO has an e-mail he shares with his members. The inbox had three inquiries. “That is out of 400,000 members,” Smith said.

Smith noted the messages were from members who were not misinformed about NCUA’s actions. “The members simply asked what I could tell them about the corporate story,” Smith said.

The CEO expected member inquiries and communicated with staff via e-mail some key points about the credit union, such as PSECU does not have any money within the corporate system and was not involved in the subprime mess. “And I said if any member wants any information independent of PSECU, they can go to Bankrate.com, where we carry four stars as a sound institution.”

At BECU in Tukwila, Wash., PR Manager Todd Pietzsch said the credit union “received a small number of calls on Friday. We put a message up on our website to answer any questions members may have. Our contact center did not get any inquiries on Saturday. It is safe to say that so far we really have not had much of a reaction from our members.”

Wayne Vann, CEO of Army Navy FCU in Corpus Christi, Texas, Laida Garcia, CEO Florida Central CU in Tampa, Fla., and Jeff Disterhoft, CEO the University of Iowa Community CU in Iowa City, Iowa, also shared that none of their members have expressed concern. At the Pennsylvania CU League, SVP Mike Wishnow reported that one credit union called asking if the league was proactively addressing the Wall Street Journal article. “I mentioned that CUNA had already addressed the matter and that the article, outside the headline, was pretty well balanced.”

That fact, and the resulting low number of members reaching out to PSECU, convinced CEO Smith that it is not wise to send an e-mail to members about the WSJ story. “In this case, it’s best to let the story go and not give the thing more legs that it might already have.”

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