Diekmann: On New Leaders, Odd Facts, Ukrainian Travel & More

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It appears there is more interest than we might have thought in who will be named as CUNA's new CEO.

A recent column on considerations to be kept in mind as the trade association looks for a successor to Bill Cheney drew more reader feedback than any other column in quite some time, including a long and insightful piece by David Adams of the Michigan CU League.

There were strong and often emotional thoughts and opinions shared not so much on who the new CUNA leader ought to be, but instead on what CUNA needs, where the trade group fits in the CU community and the future direction its stakeholders would like to see.

A Gift Or A Curse?
Whomever gets the job is going to find a constituency pretty deeply engaged in the group. And once again therein lies the rub, as it's the 10 people in the room with 11 opinions that makes the job so difficult. Thanks for the feedback. Now, other notes from the notebook in absolutely no particular order:

  • Speaking of CUNA, at its recent GAC one vendor made an interesting observation in the trade show. He noted how credit union execs no longer ask or even care where his company is located, even though it used to be the first question asked. It wasn't that long ago a CU wanted a supplier who was local, or at least reasonably local. But now most don't consider physical location to be relevant, thanks to technology (both the technology that allows easy communication and the fact it's often technology solutions that are being hosted elsewhere, anyway).
  • Austin, Texas-based Malauzai Software recently released one of its Monkey Insights surveys and found that when it comes to mobile banking users, 66% of all registered end-users are on Apple's iOS platform, even though there are many more Android devices in the market. One interesting piece of trivia if you're looking to micro-target: The only time there are more Android end-users using mobile banking than iOS end-users is between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. There was no explanation why.
  • Credit Union Journal has recently run a series on CU volunteers as part of our analysis of where volunteers — a key differentiator for credit unions — fit in. It's impossible not to note the diminishing role of volunteers and their individual and collective voices in the CU community. So it was good to see last year when CUNA added a volunteer to its board and yet, perhaps fittingly, that person is in a nonvoting role.
  • The decline in the number of CUs has been well-documented, but it's not a unique trendline. The number of U.S. banks has dwindled rapidly over the last three years, too, and now also number below 7,000. Since mid-2010 the total number of banks has fallen by 11.4%, by far the largest three-year drop since the mid-to-late 1990s, according to the FDIC. While failures and mergers were contributors, the analysis found the real driver of the decline has been a lack of start-ups. The FDIC showed that no new banks have opened for business since mid-2011 and just 23 since 2008.

By contrast, in the five years leading up to the financial crisis, an average of 156 new banks opened each year.
There have also been few new CU charters. One other commonality with CUs: nearly all the banks that have disappeared have less than $1 billion of assets, which American Banker said is the "group that struggles most to comply with the Dodd-Frank Act and other new rules and regulations that have been added since the financial crisis."

That sentiment was echoed at NASCUS' most recent annual meeting by NAFCU President Dan Berger, who said, "Seven-hundred credit unions are gone since passage of Dodd-Frank. We tell this story to congressional leaders and it falls on deaf ears. Consolidation is going to continue to occur. Unfortunately I get a call a week from a CU of $100 million saying, 'I'm done, I just can't do this anymore. I'm working 15 to 17 hours a day and I just can't keep up with regulations.' "

Oh, The Horror

  • Here's an interesting scrap from the notebook that has absolutely nothing to do with credit unions. Business strategist Don Peppers told credit unions at a recent meeting that the question "Do you like horror films?" is the single most predictive question about relationship longevity, according to research by online dating site OKCupid.com.
  • World Council CEO Brian Branch likely travels more than any other person associated with credit unions. And that includes travel to some of the most dangerous places in the world, with recent trips to both Libya and Ukraine. When I asked Brian about the risks involved in traveling to such places, he responded, "Credit unions are often among the first to step into the breach in historical moments. After disasters they are on the scene to provide relief. In periods of transition and conflict they are one of the first places people go to put their communities and their economies back together again. We just try to keep up with them."

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at frank.diekmann@sourcemedia.com.

David Adams of the Michigan CU league

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