Bank, CU Harmony in Hawaii Unfortunately Not the Model Everywhere, CUs Reminded

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Even in paradise, there are snakes.

Though CUNA CEO Dan Mica tried to avoid bashing banks, in keeping with the Aloha Spirit of the host city of CUNA's Future Forum, Mica still felt a need to issue yet another call to arms to credit unions to gird themselves against the seemingly ceaseless bank attacks.

After pointing out a congratulatory ad to "our credit union partners" posted by the Bank of Hawaii and lauding the state for its, relatively speaking, utopian relations between banks and credit unions, Mica couldn't quite keep himself from taking more than a few jabs at banks and urging CUs to take "the most well orchestrated, well organized" attacks from the banks in the long history of the feud.

He wasn't alone during the meeting. CUNA Chairman and Texas CU League President Dick Ensweiler also stuck it to the banks, relating one of the most recent ploys in the battle. A major tennis tournament was slated to be held in Houston, so a number of Houston-area credit unions pooled their money to cut a $50,000 sponsorship check for the event, he related. But the CUs were surprised when the check was sent back to them uncashed. "It turns out that a bank was the major sponsor of the tournament," Ensweiler explained, "and the bank said it would pull its sponsorship if the credit unions were allowed to be a sponsor."

Still, CUNA's Future Forum wasn't all about doing battle with the banks. With a theme of innovation, there was much talk of the need for fostering new ideas within the movement-and following through on such creative thinking with actual implementation.

"There's no question that's been a primary topic of conversation here," Filene Research Institute Executive Director Bob Hoel told The Credit Union Journal. "There's a real buzz about the need for innovation."

To help get credit unionists into innovation mode, CUNA created an Innovation and Energy Center with three distinct areas designed to educate and inspire.

The first section, intentionally kept a little dark and slightly cramped, was dedicated to the history of movement, showing how credit unions got their start leading up to the present. "This room is kind of small because it represents how many credit unions got started-in a small back room with a group of people deciding to pool their money and work cooperatively," the CUNA docent said.

The next session was a little brighter and airier with a number of computer kiosks. Dedicated to credit unions' present, the central kiosks ran video clips about the way two credit unions have "thought outside the box." Sunmark FCU's portable mortgage was featured as an innovative product that took an existing product outside of its conventional boundaries to better serve a more mobile membership.

New England CU was lauded for its "Innovation Room"-a twist on the traditional conference room, it has no boardroom table but instead a variety of seating areas, snacks, toys and other features to put people in the mood to create.

Number of Ideas Extolled

But there are some old ideas that still work well, noted one Future Forum attendee. "My board asked me about converting to a community charter, and I just don't think that's the right move for us," said veteran CEO Jean Yokum of Langley FCU, which serves the military. "I think having a selective membership is a good thing. When the board asked me about the community charter, I said, 'If we opened up our membership to everyone, do you think we could continue to serve our members as well as we do now?' They said no. And I said, 'Well, when you think we CAN serve the whole community, come back to me then.'"

Other Hot Topics

  • Storytelling. It has often been said CUs have a great story to tell, and CUNA brought in St. Louis Community CU's Patrick Adams to do just that, relating the story of Hawaiian Air Depot FCU, which was destroyed during the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. "Ninety percent of the passbooks were destroyed and had to be reconstructed entirely from memory," he related. "Not a single member refused to sign new notes on loans when the paperwork documenting those loans no longer existed."
  • Leadership. Calling himself "an unabashed fan of credit unions," renowned executive coach Gary Heil outlined what it takes to be an effective leader. "What we need to do is ask our leaders to be the leaders they have in their minds," he said. "We all of us have in mind who some of the world's great leaders are, and we know what it is about them we most admire. We just have to be the leaders we have in our minds."
  • Outreach. Armando Cavazos, chairman of CU ONE in Michigan and chair of CUNA's Hispanic Outreach Task Force reported on that group's progress on creating a roadmap for reaching out to the Hispanic/latino market. As the nation's demographics shift, CUs must do a better job of serving New Americans, the underserved and other largely untapped markets to bolster lagging membership growth.
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