Talking Turkey 2010

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.-It's been another tough year for credit unions and the country in general, but with Thanksgiving around the corner, Credit Union Journal asked credit union leaders what they are thankful for at their credit unions this year.

Despite (or in one case, because of) assessments and other major challenges credit unions are facing, executives were still able to dig deep to come up with reasons to give thanks-not the least of which is that their credit unions survived to see Thanksgiving 2010. Read on to see what credit union leaders are grateful for this year.

Giving Thanks For Hard-Working Staff

David Maus, CEO Public Service CU, Denver
I am thankful for the hard work of our staff and how we have been weathering this economic storm-how everyone is doing more with less. We have all had to economize. I am so thankful for the team and the togetherness we have.

Holding Heads High In Tough Times

Jane Willard, AVP, Public Service CU, Denver
I am thankful for how everyone at the credit union has held their heads high through these last, few, difficult economic years. Our new "Together, We're Better" brand campaign illustrates clearly what we have all believed in for many years.

Grateful To Work With Great Group

Steve Ferrero, VP marketing, Public Service CU, Denver
I have been with the credit union for a long time and I am thankful for having been able to work with a great group. Through these latest difficult times we have stuck together and recognized that what we are here to do what we are here to do is help our members. We have always known that, but the last few years have really emphasized the importance.

Thankful For A Better Year Than 2009

Dennis Dollar, principal partner, Dollar Associates, LLC, Birmingham, Ala.
While my personal spirit of thanksgiving is always centered around the blessings of my faith, family, and health, from a professional perspective I am thankful that the credit union industry, as a whole, is having a better year in 2010 than in 2009.

With some clarity now coming to the future costs of corporate stabilization, my credit union clients should be in a better position to plan strategically going forward. Yes, there are still some challenges to overcome, and-to use one of my favorite sports analogies-credit unions will not be able to throw our fastball at the same velocity we were able to throw going into this current financial and economic crisis.

However, there are still considerable opportunities in the marketplace and a growing awareness of credit unions as a not-for-profit alternative to the for-profit banking sector that is held in increasingly lower regard by the American consumer. Progressive credit unions are still investing, within their capital parameters, in an appropriate and balanced way to expand their footprint in the marketplace and seize upon many of these growing opportunities.

And while our fastball might not be of the same velocity it once was, if we are smart, our pitch location and variety of pitches can still keep us on the mound and winning games. We just have to be more innovative, not simply counting on our fastball of being a 'member owned financial cooperative' to blow everyone away with nothing but better rates. I'm not sure that was ever a smart strategy as our competitors have proven they can hit our fastball if we don't keep them off balance with more than a rate-driven service model.

This financial crisis, trying though it has been, has made us smarter as credit unions. I think that is something positive to bring out of a negative situation. If we can begin to minimize the impossible-to-budget-for hits from assessments, regulatory costs, and threats to non-interest income, the opportunity comes to strategically become better with our reduced resources. The day of the 1% ROA is over for most credit unions. We now must be smarter to serve our members better with a 60-basis-point ROA in a good year. That has challenge and opportunity written all over it. It is good to be in an industry with opportunities to match the challenges. All challenge would not give us much to be thankful for as an industry. Mercifully, that is not the case and I am hopeful that we'll be even more thankful a year from now.

Thanks, NCUA. Thanks A Lot

Evan Clark, CEO Department of Commerce FCU, Washington
I'm thankful for the NCUA's 26-basis-point assessment and the prospects of ten more years of assessments. I'm thankful for diminishing net interest margins. I'm thankful for an investment environment where there's nothing to invest in. I'm thankful for a slack member lending. I'm thankful for ever-growing deposits that are constantly putting pressure on our capital ratio. I'm thankful for a housing market that doesn't look to be cleaned up for at least four more years. I'm thankful for low interest rates that could be around for the same four years. I'm thankful for having to make tough staffing choices. I'm thankful for having to put together a budget, and if everything works as it should, the bottom line will be positive. I'm thankful for rising delinquency and charge-offs. I'm thankful for having to write a concentration risk policy. I'm thankful for all of these challenges because they keep me and my staff engaged and they make my professional life interesting beyond words.

At Least The Worst Is Over

Roy MacKinnon, VP, First Entertainment CU, Hollywood, Calif.
I'm thankful that as bad as everything got last year, it seems as though the worst is over. We survived, and generally speaking, consumers see us now, more than ever, as the "good guys." About 146 banks certainly could not say the same.

Debit Reform Worthy Of Thanks

Jim McCormack, President, Pennsylvania CU Association
I am most thankful for good health and happiness for my family, friends, and colleagues. I am also quite thankful that in the future items purchased with a debit card will be much cheaper, which is good for the American economy.

Just Happy To Be Recognized

Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, Travis CU, Vacaville, Calif.
We are thankful for the recognition we got this week for the community outreach program we have [from the California Credit Union League during the league's annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif.]. We have been developing these programs to meet the needs the community told us needed to be met: financial literacy and financial education. We emphasized the Hispanic market, foster youths and the unbanked.

Corp Grateful For Support

Thomas Bonds, CEO, Corporate America CU, Birmingham, Ala.
I am thankful for:

• The unflinching support of our existing members and fresh vote of confidence from so many new members.

• The degree to which our board takes their fiduciary responsibility seriously. Their ability to put members' interests ahead of the corporate's translated into support of our management of the investment portfolio and the decisions necessary to protect the members.

• Friends and family-to have so many and to count the above among them.

In Praise Of Teamwork

Randy Smith, CEO, Randolph-Brooks FCU, Live Oak, Texas
I am thankful for the great team of professionals and volunteers who continue to build a vibrant credit union movement.

Several credit union executives wished to remain anonymous when offering up what they are thankful for this year:

• Still being here when some are not.

• Being a much better organization than we were two years ago because of all the difficult times we've been through.

• Our members because they are great and they love us.

• Many credit unions are contracting but we've recently had a merger and opened up a new real estate department that will help us serve our members better.

• Our board and volunteers who are very supportive of our management team and help keep us ahead of the curve.

• The ongoing support from our members and from the league even during the economic downturn.

• Being able to get credit risk under control, having a profitable year and my board didn't freak out even when they had cause to.

• Our members, because we couldn't do what we do without them. If we are not thankful for them, who would we be thankful for? Also, our team members, which is what we call or staff-they have been through the same roller coaster we've been on.

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