CUs' Day Of Reckoning Is Here: Are We Up To The Challenge Of Rebuilding The Industry?

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There Will Be Blood.

That's the title of an Oscar award-winning 2007 movie. Who would have guessed that a year later that bold title would describe the state of our credit union industry?

We've been watching banks fail and merge in an economy falling even faster than consumer confidence in it. Now our own day of reckoning is here. The U.S. Central multi-billion dollar investment shortfall is a big wake-up call for everyone in our industry.

The Destruction Of The Corporate Brand

The U.S. Central loss will change the face of our industry forever.

Corporate credit unions and the regulatory agencies were the "parents" of our industry. We trusted them to set boundaries and serve as our financial safety nets. Now that trust is broken.

Brands are built from bonds of trust. Repairing faith in U.S. Central and in the Corporate CU concept will take a long time and a lot of work and success is not assured.


It's interesting that the leaders of industries slammed by the downturn (banking, auto, real estate and more) talk about the tsunami-level economic meltdown as an act of God - a Hurricane Katrina hits Wall Street scenario.

What's sadly missing is accountability. Now we need to ask ourselves: "Should we trust the same people and systems that got us into this mess to get us out of it? Especially since they don't seem capable of accepting they played a role in creating it?"

The U.S. Central senior management team and board need to embrace accountability and we need to hold them accountable. The 8,000-plus credit unions bailing out U.S. Central's flawed management decisions deserve to know what safeguards are now in place so this won't happen again. The entire economic meltdown is not their fault but they need to acknowledge their role in it.

If we don't admit our failures we'll never understand how to prevent them from happening again.

The Future

It's time to reconsider the role of corporate credit unions and we need a transfusion of new blood and fresh perspectives in our industry leadership.

This meltdown isn't temporary. It's a waving red flag that our old systems and safeguards no longer work. Now we must work together to rebuild a more relevant, flexible and effective credit union industry.


Paul J. Lucas is a national marketing and branding consultant. For info:

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