Government Creativity And A Surprise In The Night

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A couple of columns back I shared (actually, tried to start) a rumor that Discovery Channel was launching a new series called LoanShark Week. Not to be outdone, the state of Pennsylvania's Treasurer, Rob McCord, tried to draw attention to his department's unclaimed property database (about one-in-10 Pennsylvanians have unclaimed property, with $1.9-billion waiting to be claimed) by highlighting every Shark Week-related name his department could identify that had unclaimed property.

While there are no Pennsylvanians with unclaimed property who go by the name Great White, there are 25 Greg Whites, for instance. Other names the department highlighted included Wells Fin, Enid Biter, Carrie Shark, D. Tooth, Gwendolyn Gill, Roland Ocean, Ernest Dive, Rochelle Nurse, Albert Bull, Carol Tiger, Joseph E. Seal, Candoria Cage, and Kathy Chum.

I'm not sure how successful the effort was, but the department deserves credit for the creativity.


* I'm not sure it's possible to tally all the professional disciplines and careers there are in this country, or the various associations (and obscure trade publications) that serve them. At the various credit union shows, especially those in large venues, I've always enjoyed sitting in when time permits on sessions and subjects about which I know nothing, learning two things in the process: 1) the narrower the thread of knowledge or expertise, the deeper it runs, and 2) while security guards insist on a name badge to get into shows, it apparently doesn't have to be a badge for that show.

During NAFCU's recent annual meeting in Nashville, for instance, among those also gathering in the sprawling city that is the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville was the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. At the same time CUs were discussing their own narrow areas of expertise, the Anti-Drug folks were holding their sessions, including one titled "Considerations for Addressing Medical Marijuana" (personally, I would have titled that session, "Here's My Point, I Need A Joint"), but maybe this group doesn't roll that way (get it!!!).

I was struck by something else, too, and that was how these two seemingly disparate groups (credit unions and anti-drug organizations) have something in common. The credit unions should have gone before the Community Anti-Drug Coalition and simply demonstrated all the redundant rules and regulations related to compliance with which they must deal every day. Because if ever there was a consideration for addressing medical marijuana, that's it.


* And speaking of the NAFCU meeting, here's one of the oddest if not creepiest experiences I've had in a while. Around 5:30 or 6 in the morning, I hear a slight scratching at my hotel room door (and no, not from someone trying to get out). A minute or so later, the same thing, and then again a minute or so after that, before it stops.

An hour later, I open the door to find the convention name badge of a man named "Thomas" who was with the aforementioned Community Anti-Drug group hanging on the door knob. His last name was there as well, as was an identifier saying he hailed from Syracuse, N.Y. And then there was the semi-creepy part-a man's necktie, I assume Thomas', hanging on the knob, too.

My theory: he's in the bar the previous night and bugging a woman for her room number. She either makes one up, or, given that the Gaylord Opryland has repetitive room numbers that also require knowing which building the number corresponds to, Thomas got the right room but the wrong building.

My only regret: not getting up when I heard the scratching, pulling the door wide open and giving him a big "Well, hello, sailor!"


* It is a tradition at Credit Union Journal to feature retiring CEOs' viewpoints as part of our "CUJ Exit Interviews" series. CEOs accumulate vast amounts of what's sometimes called institutional knowledge that they take with them upon retirement, and our goal is to share as much of that, plus lessons learned, with other CEOs before it is lost.

Every Exit Interview has a gem or three of insight, but if you missed the advice shared by Ed Speed in the Aug. 13 issue, then you missed a gem shop. Among the observations shared by Speed, the retiring CEO of Texas Dow Employees Credit Union:

* "The biggest barrier to growth is inconsistent messaging from the board and senior executives. Once a growth mentality is part of the culture, construct the balance sheet risk profile and set the financial 'guardrails.' Once that is in place, run the credit union as hard and as fast as possible within those parameters. Be unrelenting."

* "Don't waste money on surveys asking your members to rate you compared to other banks and credit unions. We ask our members how we stack up against their favorite restaurant, department store, vet, hairdresser, etc. Beat those and you'll have more business than you can handle."

* "Don't get fancy with the décor. Spend the money on employees. A poor service experience will still suck while sitting on an art-deco chair sipping a latte."

* "There will be a bright future-a true renaissance-for credit unions provided we get over our movement's paralyzing inferiority complex."

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at

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