Be Careful: The Undead Are, Indeed, All Around You!

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In Credit Union Land, April showers may have brought, um, warnings of higher capital standards, the shutdown of a CU alleged to be a front for online gambling, and a full-scale blitz from all sides related to debit interchange, yet of all the mail I received from readers during May the No. 1 issue was, as you most likely expected, all about Zombies.

Most of the letters went something like this:

Dear Frank:

I regret that in all our planning, other pressing current events have caused our credit union to overlook the fact May is/was Zombie Awareness Month. We are afraid of this oversight for a lot of reasons and want to do better next year, as we are always looking to better serve our FOM. Can Credit Union Journal share with us what other credit unions are doing?

(A Living) CEO

I can already hear what many of you are thinking. Darnit, I've been so busy I didn't even know it was Zombie Awareness Month. Indeed, it is/was, as declared by an organization calling itself the Zombie Research Society, or the ZRS as it's known to so many in the field. (You just know that somehow this group is getting a multi-million-dollar grant from the federal government every year, and we're paying for it.) And if you're saying you didn't even know there is a Zombie Research Society, well, it may be time to get out more. Just not at night.

But We're Still Skeptical

Still, unlike the progressive CEOs who contacted the Journal, such as the letter-writer above, many others may still be skeptical. "Zombies don't exist," they might scoff. "We don't have any Zombie members," they will claim. Ah, the more worldly among you respond as you shake your heads, how can some credit unions remain so naïve?

The Zombies are right there in your member files and records: Dead Accounts. Most likely a foggy, dark cemetery full of them. They are the stars of the credit union remake of Night of the Living Dead Accounts. Sure, they walked among us at one point-living, breathing members who came in and opened a membership. Signed a signature card. Made a deposit. And then, over time, they disappeared. Perhaps they died.

And just maybe a a certain number of these members didn't make it to that Great Refurbished Lobby with Unlimited Internet and Coffee in the Sky. Some remained behind, and on certain nights when the moon is full and the sky cloudless, they reappear. Sometimes in the branch-think now, you've seen them. Maybe an online banking transaction. A single ATM visit a year. They are a Dead Account, and yet, still alive in your database.

The Undead, as the most experienced of CU managers know, move among us. And it's not pretty. Oh, I don't mean the ragged, inappropriate clothes and vacant stares-those are the Gen Y and Gen X members so many CUs are salivating over. No, I'm referring to the Dawn of the Dead Accounts members who come back to haunt supervisory committee meetings. These are the members who took that big mortgage on the house that's now worth half what it once was-maybe you've seen these Undead in the movies, arising from the bottom of a inky-black lake and crawling upon the shore. These are the Underwater Zombies. Too many of these types of loans on your books, and as those predicting the coming Zombie Apocalypse warn, "Victims of zombies may become zombies themselves."

It isn't just members. "Zombie" is defined as "a hypnotized person bereft of consciousness and self-awareness, yet ambulant and able to respond to surrounding stimuli." Admit it. You've hired a few of these folks over the years. Another definition includes a corpse that has been reanimated: in other words, for some of you, your corporate.

"The monsters are usually hungry," warns one website dedicated to Zombies. And now that you think of it, that candy bowl in your lobby is almost always quickly emptied. And if you've ever seen what board members can do to a buffet at the league annual, well...

What Is A Credit Union To Do?

But what can we do?, credit unions ask. You could try to kill a Zombie (Google it and you'll get 34 million-plus responses, including several instructional videos), but you might want to first check with CUNA Mutual regarding what your insurance covers. The better bet, say knowledgeable veterans, is to bring the Dead Accounts back to life. Contact them. Zombies need love, too, so try some relationship pricing. If that doesn't work, you could consider the approach taken by bankers' (talk about Zombies!) and kill them with fees, but it really isn't wise to anger the Undead. The better strategy is to gently steer them out the door and down the street. It's a co-op, after all, not a crypt.

Still skeptical? Still believe you haven't seen a Zombie? That you have had no close encounter? According to the experts at the Zombie Research Society, a Zombie has a disheveled appearance. Is unresponsive to communication. Has pale, often clammy or decomposing skin. Seems to have no concept of personal boundaries. And the Zombie's sole motivation is to eat the brains of the living.

Ah ha! You've have seen one, haven't you? So remember to be nice to that examiner.

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at

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