Inspired By The NFL, Credit Unions Look To Draft Talent

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The scenario: Inspired by the high-profile and widely watched NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, where TV breathlessly broadcasts every detail, young men become instant multi-millionaires, and cities devote far more attention to the outcome than any school board race, credit unions opt to hold their first-ever Credit Union Draft, which not even the local cable access channel is broadcasting, young men and women learn there is very little paycheck difference between "intern" and "employee," and cities only notice when there's a municipal deposits bill up for a vote.

The scene: A conference room in a Holiday Inn Express near Madison, Wis., chosen for its room rates, free breakfast, free parking, free wi-fi, and an absent-minded maid who often wanders away from her cart allowing guests to grab a few extra of those little bottles of shampoo and conditioner.

On-Hand: A moderator from Madison Toastmasters.

Moderator: If I could have everyone's attention, welcome to... (the room remains noisy and unfocused)...I said, welcome to...( still noisy and chaotic). Please, everyone I want to... (the credit union execs on hand continue to pay no attention. A seasoned CU association leader whispers some advice into the moderator's ear.) We're here to talk about disclosing CEO compensation to members and about term limits for board members... (the room goes silent). Thankyou, everyone. Actually, I want to welcome all of you to the first-ever Credit Union Draft, where we will select the next era of credit union leaders. As was already agreed to by an apparently interminable number of task forces, committees, subcommittees and consultants, we will begin with our poorer-performing credit unions selecting first, before moving on through all the interested parties in reverse order of performance. As I know everyone wants to wrap up in time to get to the lobby for those free happy hour mini-snacks this afternoon-I see you all brought baggies, too-let's begin. U.S. Central and WesCorp, you are now on the clock.

U.S. Central and WesCorp execs attempt to stand up and speak for themselves, but an NCUA rep orderes them to sit.

NCUA Rep: On behalf of U.S. Central and WesCorp, for which we are currently conservator, we draft the management team at Goldman Sachs.

The room buzzes-it's a bold pick-especially for a federal agency, and it's one another agency, the SEC, should have been aware of. Alas, it's the SEC.

NCUA Rep: (looking to the U.S. Central and WesCorp execs) Somehow Goldman Sachs seems to make either boatloads of money or yachtloads of money in all markets, up or down. On behalf of the NCUSIF, we're praying for the yachtload.

The U.S. Central/WesCorp execs look relieved. Leading up to the draft the rumor was NCUA would draft a St. Jude statue.

Moderator: And the first pick is complete. Sand State Credit Unions, you are now on the clock!

The Sand State Credit Unions are clearly divided over who to pick: the Navy's Underwater Rescue Team or the producers and sponsors of ABC's "Extreme Home Makeover" TV show. The Sand Staters engage in a heated discussion, and tension, already high from everyone sleeping in the same room to cut costs, is evident.

Moderator: One minute remaining.

Sand State CUs: We select...(looking at each other). Really?! (Voice rises.) Then fine. Let's go with the compromise pick. We select those guys on the TV show "Pawn Stars." And let me just say while we've got the mic, we've got a lot of merchandise we're looking to move. Houses. RVs. SUVs. Watercraft. Entertainment centers. Make us an offer!

Moderator: Thank you, Sand State CUs. America's small CUs, you're on the clock....Umm, where are they?

Assistant Hotel Manager: Um, I'm representing them as they couldn't afford to be here and are calling in. (He places cellphone to his ear.) Well, yes, OK, I will accept a collect call...Yes, I'm here. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. America's Small Credit Unions select Bill Gates.

Moderator: Uh, it was decided in the committee meetings already that no one can select Bill Gates.

Assistant Hotel Manager: (into his cell phone) No, apparently you can't take him. No, not Warren Buffett either. Or the Google guys. Uh, huh. I see. (to the crowd) All right. America's Small CUs say they will take Mr. Phil Losophy.

Moderator(digging through his notes, then looking around the room): Who's Phil Losophy?

Assistant Hotel Manager: I'm sorry. Apparently it's Credit Union Philosophy. (He listens again to voices on other end of cellphone.) They say CU philosophy is 1) all they can afford, and 2), all they need and if they can stick to it they may remain small, but will survive.

And so the day went as others made their selections. MBL Cap Relief was picked, despite many injuries and an iffy future. Mid-size Credit Unions traded up in order to select Compliance Help. Several others made their selections, and then merged.

Moderator: Thank you everyone for participating in this historic, first-ever Credit Union Draft. Have a good afternoon. Um, does anyone know who I talk to about my honorarium? Hey, where's everybody going?

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at

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