Banks One-Up CUs On PR In Utah

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There is a phrase that rattles around in my head on occasion that I heard as a child during the Vietnam War: "We are working to win their hearts and minds." I had heard that statement, or statements to the effect, many times during that conflict and over the years that followed.

There are also times where I have had to wonder if the credit union movement is dead, or at least on life support. The real question is, why do we make it so easy for our "feared enemy," the bankers, to gain advantage over us?

What I am referring to is The Credit Union Journal article for 12/17/2004 titled "Utah Bankers Save Tiny Utah CU." I would guess that just about every credit union in the nation is aware of the continuing attacks the bankers have been assaulting the credit union industry with, especially in Utah.

So why does the credit union industry allow the very same people who are working so hard to limit, some say kill, the credit union industry, the opportunity to be a hero in the eyes of so many?

By making such a modest contribution to that tiny little credit union, the bankers gained a very real advantage and a positive public relation position. Now they can stand up and state to the world that they are not anti-credit union-"see, we just helped a credit union out of the generosity of our hearts...". They will also hold this up as a defense against claims that they are trying to hurt credit unions or the movement, they are simply "trying to create an even playing field."

With so many large credit unions in Utah and throughout the nation, there should be no need for another credit union to look to our primary competitor, the bankers, for any assistance.

The bankers are experts in working in the commercial "for-profit" market place. They can, and will, leverage every advantage they can find to their benefit. They are not being mean or evil; they are practicing "good business."

By donating this money to the tiny (read underdog) credit union that "occupies a single room in the Utah Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired offices" (doing really good things for people most in need), the bankers are "wining the hearts and minds of our members and their state legislators." What an excellent public relations opportunity to prove that the bankers are not the bad people we CU types would like to make them out to be.

I also have to wonder if any Utah CU members or potential members may be wondering why other CUs didn't help out this fellow credit union in their time of need. After all, isn't that what most people perceive are a part of a credit union's mission, helping those most in need?

If the credit union industry is going to survive, we need to start thinking in the competitive, commercial marketplace and start playing by the same rules the bankers are using. The industry needs to be aware of situations that are ripe for banker exploitation and not only do we need to prevent the bankers from exploiting them; we need to begin to exploit them. For example, picture this imaginary local newspaper headline; "Credit Unions Band Together To Save Small Credit Union for the Visually Impaired"

It's time for us, the credit union industry; to begin re-winning the hearts and minds of our members, potential members, and elected officials; after all it is good business.

Lester Warby III, VP/CIO

Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union


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