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You Are In-The Banker Zone

WASHINGTON-Long-time GAC emcee Paul Berry told the more than 3,500 credit union faithful who descended on Capitol Hill for the meeting that he had had a very bad dream the night before the opening of the conference. "I woke up in the Banker Zone," he intoned, hailing back to the old science fiction television series, "The Twilight Zone." For GAC, CUNA produced a video that included VP Mark Wolff playing the part of Twilight Zone host and writer Rod Serling as a means of trying to convey a serious message (bank attacks) in an entertaining way.

For his part, Berry said he was able to banish such bedeviling nightmares with the realization that he was sitting on a potential cash cow. Noting the voluminous amount of documents CUNA produces leading up to and during the GAC, Berry said, "I know how I'm going to make my millions. I'm going to supply the paper for CUNA."

'Stamp Out' The Banks

WASHINGTON-In keeping with the postmark-like logo for CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference, one speaker exhorted credit unions to "stamp out" the bankers' negative messages about credit unions.

"It is important for us to deliver our message rather than allow the bankers to deliver their message about us," said Allan McMorris, vice chairman of the CUNA board and CEO of Oakland County CU, Waterford, Mich. "The banks think they can rant and rave about us and that we'll just take it because credit unions are so nice. The banks are Ozzy Osbourne, and we're the Osmonds" (see related story, page 16).

For Many, A Perfect '10'

WASHINGTON-Ten was the lucky number at the GAC this year, with a variety of 10th anniversaries being celebrated:

* The 10th anniversary of the credit union system's partnership with Children's Miracle Network.

* The 10th anniversary of Dan Mica's service as CUNA CEO.

* CUNA Chairman Juri Valdov's 10th wedding anniversary.

* It was 10 years ago that CUNA asked Mary Shipe of Alhambra CU to speak on a panel at GAC as a small credit union representative. Shipe is now chairman of CUNA's Small Credit Union Committee.

GAC Gets New Digs In 2008

WASHINGTON-Increasing demand for exhibit hall space will force CUNA to move its annual Government Affairs Conference from the Washington Hilton to the more spacious Washington Convention Center starting in 2008, CUNA officials announced.

The GAC, which has been held at the well-known Washington site for the past 30 years, grew to more than 4,100 paid attendees this year and has expanded beyond the available exhibit hall space, forcing some vendors to show their wares in a tent pavilion outside the hotel's main floor, a CUNA official told The Credit Union Journal. In addition, crowds were often standing room only in the main ballroom where the bulk of the meeting is held.

Plans call for rental of the much larger convention center for an exhibit hall and continued use of a core handful of hotels surrounding the convention center, as well as the Washington Hilton.

CUNA $1.5 Million In The Black

WASHINGTON-Bolstered by a strong performance by its CUNA Strategic Services subsidiary, CUNA at its Annual General Meeting that it finished almost $1.5 million in the black for 2005. The group's reconstructed services subsidiary earned a net of $1.3 million last year, 51%, or about $700,000 of which, went to CUNA, with the rest going to the leagues. Added to the association's bottom line was a $456,000 operating net, according to Tom Dorety, treasurer for the CUNA Board. Non-operating gains, including unrealized earnings on its investment portfolio, added another $1.1 million in net income.

"CUNA is in sound financial standing; sound financial condition, not only on the CUNA side, but for CSS, as well," said Dorety. Last year's $1.5 million in net income was up slightly from $1.4 million cleared in 2004, which included $153,000 on operating net and about $1.1 million in investment gains.

- Ed Roberts

British CUs May Start Own GAC

WASHINGTON-A group of credit union executives from Great Britain were on hand during CUNA's GAC looking to do a little research as they look to launch a similar meeting for the first time in their own countries.

"We're trying to learn anything we can here at GAC and from CUNA's 35 years of experience," said Donald Urquhart of Capital Credit Union in Edinboro, Scotland. "What we do (in lobbying) is quite fragmented now. There is no cohesive approach to tying our message together."

For Capital Credit Union, it has one big advantage in reaching out to the local legislators, noted Manager Marlene Shiels: the Scottish parliament is in its FOM.

Credit unions in Great Britain are considerably smaller than CUs in other parts of the world, in large part due to regulatory limits. Just 500,000 people in Great Britian belong to a credit union. "Because we are in Edinboro we need to do something, but on a smaller scale," said Shiels. "We need to keep our politicians engaged."

Added, Urquhart, "We are viewed as the poor man's bank. The government is very supportive of credit unions in serving the underserved, but we need them to know we need to serve the mainstream."

The British contingent was hosted by the Maryland/District of Columbia Credit Union Association and CEO Mike Beall.

Cheney Begins, Chatfield Retires

WASHINGTON-Bill Cheney officially started as CEO of the California/Nevada league, and Dave Chatfield officially retired from the same job, during GAC. Chatfield will remain on as a consultant to Cheney during March.

Cheney said he has been participating in league related meetings since December and has also attended several chapter events. "I've gotten out as much as I could while still (CEO) at Xerox (FCU)," said Cheney.

One change Cheney said he will not be making is a relocation closer to league headquarters in Rancho Cucamonga. Instead, he will commute approximately one hour in each direction.

When asked whether he had ever heard the old axiom that you should never follow any legend at their job, Cheney laughed and answered, "It's a huge, huge challenge and a huge, huge honor."

- Frank J. Diekmann

Banks Still Tops On Convenience

WASHINGTON-For as much as credit unions continue to wear the white hats and are well-liked by consumers, convenience is still king, and banks continue to beat credit unions when it comes to this all-important feature, according to CUNA's Richard Gose.

People like that credit unions are locally owned and operated, where most banks have long since ceased to be local, Gose noted, and the credit union philosophy resonates with people, "but they still love that there's a bank branch on every corner."

Message: 'Throw The Bum Out'

WASHINGTON-While credit unions need to talk with their legislators about CURIA and PCA, the overriding message lawmakers need to hear is: stop listening to banker complaints about credit unions.

"Setting aside what we are trying to accomplish and reg relief and PCA, the message we need to get across on Capitol Hill is...the next time a banker comes into your office, throw the bum out because his attacks on credit unions are inaccurate,'" said CUNA's Mike Schenk. "For them the issue of credit union taxation is minimal, but for us, this is a life or death issue, not just some minor adjustment."

Vendors See An Opportunity

WASHINGTON-Credit unions, Congress and NCUA aren't the only ones interested in how credit unions serve the underserved. So are credit union vendors.

"We are very interested in the serving- the-underserved issue and how we can help credit unions do just that," said said Antonio Hill of PSCU Financial Services. "We think reloadable cards are a good fit for this, and we plan to launch that initiative later this year."

The Ted & Marie Show

WASHINGTON-Other than speaking at GAC, what do former ABC "Nightline" Anchor Ted Koppel and former "Donnie & Marie" co-host Marie Osmond have in common? A rant against communication technology.

Both Osmond and Koppel talked about how all of the advances in instant communication around the globe, while generally considered a good thing, does have a negative side to it: it makes it too easy for the unimportant and banal to get through, making it harder for more important voices to be heard.

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