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Here are some of the other news, views, and quotables from the PALS conference recently hosted here.

Why Aren't More People Joining?

* NCUA Board Member Debbie Matz, who along with Executive Board Assistant Steve Bosack organized the meeting, expressed concern over how fast members are joining-or not joining. "We're finding that the actual increase in membership is actually very low," said Matz. "It's about 2%. A lot of credit unions get these big fields of membership and assume they can put an ad on the radio or TV and people will come. But what they come to discover is that it's very hard to get people to change their allegiance."

What Are We Doing With Tax-Status?

* Florida league president Guy Hood said he believes, "We need to be able to answer the question what are we doing with our tax-exempt status." He added that the Sunshine State is also wrestling with "How do we get more people in our credit unions. There are five-million credit union members in Florida. Florida has had open fields of membership for state charters since 1982."

Why The Banks May Not Object

NAFCU President Fred Becker said that one thing that may help credit unions get regulatory relief is that "community banks are dying on the vine. The FDIC's Jack Rich has called it a national crisis. Small community banks are going to need some relief. And that may cause the banks to back off; they may realize that if you get something they may get something, too."

Why Opening The FOM Isn't Enough

* Georgia CU Affiliates President Mike Mercer noted, "People don't wake up in the morning thinking about what am I going to do with my financial affairs. The idea that the financial products we have our scintillating is probably pushing it a little far. The truth is that if you go out to the community to do business and try to reach out beyond extended family members, the nature of the game changes."

How One CEO Stays In Touch

* During a Q&A, Michael Hale, president of Andrews FCU, was asked how he manages AFCU's growing branch network. Hale's response: "At the beginning of the year I do a state of the credit union address, and we talk to all the employees about what has happened in the prior year and what we plan to do in the coming year. Once a month we open up 40 minutes late to give focused training to everyone at the same time. We hold a lot of telephone and video-conferencing, and we have regional vice presidents. We spend a lot of time talking about culture, but more of it than anything is making sure to hire the right people. There's no magic bullet."

Separately, Hale added that when it comes to indirect lending it is important to pay close attention to the margin on the loan, which he said is often smaller than many credit unions expect. Secondly, he noted many indirect loans never lead to relationships with the credit union.

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