Leagues Planning Greater Emphasis On 'Communication'

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Credit union leagues in several states are reporting they plan to place heavy emphasis on stressing credit union uniqueness this year.

As reported in The Credit Union Journal Jan. 10, a number of leagues in western states have been consistent in their messages in both political advocacy and mass media.

In The Evergreen State

The Washington CU League will be "branding the credit union difference" in an effort to attract more members, said Stacy Augustine, the league's senior vice president of policy and public advocacy. The effort will include a new consumer website to help people understand the difference, she said.

Washington's state legislature convened Jan. 10. Augustine said the league will be working with a coalition of financial institutions to get legislation passed to protect financial institutions that share information about former and prospective employees.

"Often, employers hire someone else's problem because past employers are uncomfortable sharing information because they don't want to get sued," she explained. "The USA Patriot Act gives some immunity to financial institutions on employer references, but it only applies to FDIC-insured banks."

Another bill the coalition is sponsoring would preempt municipalities from legislating financial services. Augustine said this would ensure laws and regulations are uniform statewide.

The Washington league's other focus in 2005 will be on tomorrow's leaders. Augustine said the state's CUs have had succession problems. In some cases, CUs have had to merge because they cannot find qualified candidates to take over for retiring CEOs.

"We want to keep talented people in the credit union system," she said. "We have created a networking program that will give them management tools, advocacy tools and other resources."

Finally, the Washington league is working towards developing a cooperative advertising campaign. Augustine said it probably would be a regional effort at first.

In Alaska, education will be the focus. Alaska CU League chair/president Robert Teachworth said with so many miles between credit unions, outreach efforts are vital.

"We have a newly re-elected senator, Lisa Murkowski. We are looking forward to working with her," said Teachworth.

Arizona And New Mexico

Austin De Bey, governmental affairs specialist for the Arizona Credit Union System, said the No. 1 priority is to increase political advocacy at the state and federal level. To achieve this goal, the ACUS plans to provide legislative and educational opportunities through programs such as the state governmental affairs conference scheduled for mid-March, and "Hike the Hill."

"We are developing stronger communication avenues to provide our member credit unions with important legislative information," said De Bey. "To do this, we will be utilizing our political captains to disseminate information to their peers, increase our visibility at political events and provide political action information at all chapter functions throughout the year."

"Our credit unions are developing relationships with their lawmakers by inviting them to credit union grand openings and providing them with an opportunity to speak at their annual meeting," he continued. "Credit unions have been actively pursuing new ways to generate additional PAC funds by promoting Deduct-A-Buck and attending political fundraisers."

The Credit Union Association of New Mexico adopted a new vision statement: "We are member driven," and mission statement: "We are a proactive association that addresses member needs through services, products and advocacy," said Jodi Garber-Simon, communications director.

"The association has adopted specific goals to support the new vision and mission statements," she said. "In addition, we plan to continue working with our credit unions to reach out to New Mexico's Hispanic and Latino communities, especially new Americans. We will continue to encourage our credit unions to offer IRnet's wire transfer services to their members, and we hope to sign a partnership agreement with Alianza, a federation of credit unions in Mexico."

The CUANM's board of directors voted to pledge $1 million over five years to the University of New Mexico's Children's Hospital for construction of a new pediatric emergency wing, she added.

"The association and our credit unions will begin working this year to make that pledge come to fruition," said Garber-Simon.

Colorado & Wyoming

John Dill, president of both the Colorado and Wyoming CU Leagues, said the two groups designated two long-term goals in 2004: unifying the CU movement, both in the two states and nationwide, and providing better service to the area's 181 credit unions (147 in Colorado, 34 in Wyoming).

"In 2005, we will pursue new strategies to reach those goals," he said.

To strengthen governmental affairs advocacy and communications efforts, the Colorado and Wyoming leagues introduced the "legislative liaison" program. Each CU in the two states designates one staff member as its legislative liaison. That person works with the league and other legislative liaisons, and gets to know the local state and federal representatives.

The two leagues will be working to address the education needs of their members, Dill said. This effort will include assessing the needs of the member CUs, online training, and partnering with organizations to improve training. For example, the leagues are working with the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training on a certificate program for tellers.

In addition, the leagues will refocus on for-profit businesses, such as CU Resource Group. This new initiative, which is designed to help small-to-medium sized CUs in Colorado and Wyoming, will be launched this quarter.

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