Diekmann: The Bacon, The Buzz, The Snow & The Irony At GAC

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In seeking to get the crowd engaged at last week's Herb Wegner Memorial Awards dinner, emcee and host Denise Gabel sought to rate the popularity of various things by applause. Not surprisingly, "Bacon," got a good reaction, but its sizzle was quickly drowned when Gabel asked about "wine and spirits."

Also about as surprising as traffic when you're in a hurry was that "CFBP" answered the eternal question about what is the sound of one hand clapping. But what was surprising was the reaction when Gabel said "risk-based capital." I didn't expect NCUA's proposal on that issue to be the "eggs" to the earlier "bacon," but I also didn't expect it to rate the same response as barbed-wire earbuds.

There was no applause, not even one lone credit unionist willing to stand up at the annual credit union prom and say, "I want to polka, darn it." And I suppose that speaks volumes about credit union reaction to the agency's risk-based capital proposal.

Getting Buzzed
During GAC, several people asked me what I thought the "buzz" was at the meeting and–beside the obvious that CUs have made mortgages on homes smaller than a number of booths in the trade show — I said there was little buzz this year, even though the meeting was taking place at the same time a tax reform plan was to be announced and there were fears the CU exemption would be at risk (it isn't).

Instead, what did get folks buzzed just a bit was the risk-based capital plan (see related story, page 1). CU CEOs are pretty opposed to much of the plan, but what really gets their bacon is the piece giving examiners the discretion to set capital levels. My guess: that piece, among others, will be drained like grease from the pan.

In other items out of the biggest credit union meeting of the year:

  • In a bid to get the bad news out of the way first, CUNA had a representative of the aforementioned son of Dodd Frank kick off its Tuesday morning agenda. In GAC's least-applauded statement, Steve Antonakes of the CFPB said, "We hold that credit unions, banks and non-banks should be held to the same rules if offering the same products and services."
  • Members of the House and Senate fall all over themselves to show their affinity with CUs. One member of Congress proudly told GAC "I am one of you," right before pronouncing it "COONA" and then referring to credit union "customers." You may not be all the way in, congressman.
  • n Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY) acknowledged Congress isn't getting a lot of Facebook likes right now. In fact, said Maffei, in the rankings of the unpopular there are the Kardashians, below which are used car salesman, below which are roaches, and then below that, Congress.
  • On the first day of GAC at which many members of Congress were on the agenda, it began snowing heavily. Coincidence?
  • And the Herb Wegner Award for Fiscal Discipline goes to... For years the Wegner Awards and the accompanying dinner has been known for its inspiring stories of extraordinary career achievement and contributions by CU leaders, as well as an evening of renewed friendships and camaraderie. What is less well-known is that the dinner and award ceremony has, for many years, been the CAMEL 5 of events, losing money for its sponsor, the National CU Foundation. No more. An increase in ticket prices helped erase the deficit, with new NCUF Executive Director Gigi Hyland saying this year's event netted $120,000.
  • In accepting his Herb Wegner for Individual Achievement, former Generations FCU CEO Tim Haegelin, often called the "Father of CUs For Kids," began, "I'd like to thank my director, my screenwriters... I've always wanted to say that." More seriously, he then added, "Most people go into work every day, give it their best shot, and go home. But what makes it different for us is our great days are someone else's great days." Wegner winner Gary Oakland, ex-CEO of BECU, added, "It was always gratifying to go to work knowing you were going to be helping someone."

Board Notes

  • CUNA's new board exec committee has a few coincidences and ironies given one of its new chairman's announced areas of focus. That new chair, Dennis Pierce, CEO of CommunityAmerica Credit Union in Lenexa, Kan., told the meeting his priorities include examining the value proposition of CUNA and the state leagues. That follows the recent decision by the country second-largest CU, State Employees (SECU) in North Carolina, to disaffiliate over its objection to the requirement CUs must join both the league and CUNA.

Other table officers include Vice Chairman Susan Streifel, CEO of Woodstone CU in Federal Way, Wash.; Secretary Rod Staatz, CEO of a different State Employees CU, this one in Baltimore; Treasurer Patrick Jury, CEO of the Iowa league; and at-large member, Maurice Smith, president of the Local Government FCU in Raleigh, N.C., which has a strong and enmeshed relationship with SECU, which provides LGFCU with back-office processing, member access to SECU's statewide network of branches and ATMs, and more.
Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at frank.diekmann@sourcemedia.com.

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