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As you're all too aware, we are approaching the happiest and most joyous season of the year-by that, I mean, of course, college bowl season. What you may be less aware of is that a credit union is the title sponsor to one of those bowls: the Poinsettia Bowl, which is properly known as the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, even though the credit union name part of that is often dropped from the sports pages and the TV listings.

This will be the third year San Diego County CU has been the title sponsor, which makes sense, since the Poinsettia Bowl (named because the nearby Paul Ecke Ranch in Encinitas produces about 70% of the flowers in the U.S.) itself is just three years old. The game will kick off the bowl-game season on Dec. 20 when an 8-4 Utah team goes up against an 8-4 Navy team. (This is good news for CUs that have been pursuing the Utes market.)

Fans at the game will find plenty of signage related to $3.9-billion San Diego County CU, including its name on the scoreboard, and its management team is involved in numerous activities related to the bowl. But CEO Irene Oberbauer says the real reason SDCCU has taken on the high-profile event is as a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, with which the CU is heavily involved throughout the year. A dollar from every game ticket, for instance, goes to Make-A-Wish. "We do a lot of things with them throughout the year, but this really puts a bow on it," Oberbauer said. Last year's game raised $46,000 for the charity.

Obermauer said there isn't any precise way to measure the exposure the credit union gets from the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. "It positions us as a strong community leader. But if anything, it has increased the national exposure for all credit unions," she said, adding the bowl also contributes to San Diego's economy. Members of the CU are not offered any ticket discounts.

The Poinsettia Bowl is actually managed by another San Diego-based college bowl, the Holiday Bowl-sorry, make that the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl (Arizona State vs. Texas, Dec. 27). Oberbauer is on the Holiday Bowl's board, and joins with other board members in greeting and hosting the teams during their stay in San Diego. "Any team that comes to San Diego will tell you the hospitality is second to none," said Oberbauer, who will also be on the field for the opening coin toss.

This is the second time Navy will play in the game, having also played in the inaugural contest. It's not coincidental; the Navy has a huge presence in San Diego, not just with active duty personnel but retirees, as well, and the Navy football team has a contract with the Poinsettia Bowl that gives it first dibs. San Diego County Credit Union is well aware of market demographics, as San Diego is one of the most competitive credit union markets in the U.S. (and that includes Virginia-based Navy FCU, which also operates in town).

Oberbauer said she's not bothered when the "San Diego County Credit Union" part of the name is dropped in press reports. "We know it's a mouthful," she said. "But we also know the people who follow the teams are aware" of the credit union.

* The World Council of Credit Unions reports it is keeping a close eye on developments in the Caribbean, where some countries, such as Jamaica, Belize and Barbados, are moving to "regulatory superstructures" and/or supervision by the central bank. That's due in part to the fact some countries have no domestic banks, and credit unions have captured respectable marketshare. "We just want to make sure regulators understand the differences between banks and credit unions," explained WOCCU's David Grace, who recently visited several of those countries. While there are commonalities, said Grace, the regulators must understand how CUs raise and build capital, for instance, and that this is a critical differentiation.

Some of those nations, he noted, have deployed the PEARLS monitoring system WOCCU has developed (not to be confused with the Black Pearl from Pirates of the Caribbean). And keeping those CUs healthy is critical to avoid a panic in the Caribbean, as most countries have no deposit insurance scheme. "That's one thing we have been lobbying for," said Grace, adding there is hesitation over deposit insurance not just among governments, but credit unions, too.

* In a column in the Nov. 26 issue, I noted how nearly every conference includes at least one inspirational speaker who claims that the Chinese symbol for "crisis" is a combination of symbols for "danger" and "opportunity." I facetiously added that I've often wondered what the Chinese symbol is for "we'll have to take your word for it." Now one reader (see Chinese symbol for "skeptic") notes that we shouldn't take those speakers' word for it at all, and has sent along a link for a site that calls this a "widespread public misperception." Take a look for yourself at

Frank J. Diekmann is editor of the Credit Union Journal and can be reached at fdiekmann (c) 2007 The Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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