New Year Starts As All New Years In CU Land Should: Divided

Welcome to 2008. Let me be the first to also say, “Happy 100th Birthday, U.S. Credit Union Community!” Let me also be the first to say, “Happy 99th Birthday, U.S. Credit Union Community,” as I like to cover my bases.

In any vibrant democracy there should be a visible difference of opinion. So, naturally, as the story on page 1 in this issue details, credit unions are divided on whether this year marks the 100th anniversary of credit unions in the United States.

One would think that St. Mary’s Bank would be the arbiter of this decision and that credit unions would follow its lead. St. Mary’s, the first credit union in the United States, was up and running out of a house in Manchester, N.H. in November of 1908 (today, the house is America’s Credit Union Museum). St. Mary’s Bank (perhaps it’s fitting that the first credit union has “bank” in its name, setting the stage for all the divisions that were to come in the century after it opened) has launched a multi-media campaign that seeks to leverage its history as part of a membership/awareness building effort. (If you think your credit union has trouble differentiating itself, by the way, imagine having “Bank” in your name–We’re sorta like a bank, we’re called a bank, but we’re not a bank.)

But, alas, St. Mary’s lead on this is not being followed by the bigger players in credit unions, particularly CUNA, which says that 1909 is actually the 100th Anniversary of Credit Unions in the United States. CUNA is basing its decision on the enactment of the first Credit Union Act, which was passed by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1909. Massachusetts was, of course, home to credit union pioneer and champion Edward Filene.

For their part, America’s Credit Union Museum and St. Mary’s are straddling the line on this. America’s Credit Union Museum will launch formal activities tied to the Anniversary in late 2008. St. Mary’s new campaign, which includes three TV commercials, will run in both 2008 and 2009.

The Credit Union Journal, which has always prided itself on providing reporting on the heritage and history of credit unions, will certainly play an active role in celebrating the anniversary over this year and next. In this issue, the Journal kicks off a “Postcards from the Past” series on page 3 that highlights random moments in credit union history. We want to thank the very helpful folks in CUNA’s Research Center in Madison, Wis. for their assistance in delivering this series to our readers.

* Before we get too far into 2008, by the way, we want to thank readers and advertisers for driving all the growth Credit Union Journal enjoyed during 2007. Last year marked the Journal’s own 10th anniversary, and the newspaper enjoyed its best year ever in terms of both advertising and subscribers. As we hear in reader letters, anecdotes and in person, there is now widespread recognition that the Journal is the best-read, freshest and most innovative newsweekly serving credit unions. This newspaper is dedicated to helping credit unions grow and prosper so that credit unions, in turn, can help their members to do the same. During 2007 our editorial content was refocused on profiling leading credit unions of all asset sizes, and we will continue that focus in 2008.

To build on that legacy and mission, this year we are also introducing “The Grow Show,” a conference aimed at just one thing: helping credit unions to grow. You’ll find details of this exciting new conference at right, on page 12, and at cujournal.com.

And a reminder to credit union decision-makers, the Credit Union Journal also has a host of other tools available to you at cujournal.com, including the ability to search any topic by keyword or phrase, along with up-to-date graphs and charts showing the very latest in rates being paid on deposits and charged on loans across the country. These excellent tools are available at no charge to all Journal subscribers.

* Finally, please take just a moment or two and share your memories and recollections of the passage of HR 1151, the Credit Union Membership Access Act. While the issue of whether credit unions are 99 or 100 years old is open to debate, what is certain is that 2008 marks the 10th Anniversary of President Clinton’s signature on that historic legislation. As the only credit union publication in the Oval Office that day for the ceremony, the Journal is now inviting readers to share their memories of efforts to get that bill passed. Specifically, we’re looking for personal anecdotes: meetings with government representatives, brainstorming campaigns on messages, getting members to sign petitions, marching on Washington, and so much more.

Just one caution: you have just 200 words to do it. Click on the “Letters to the Editor” tab in the left-hand navigation bar at cujournal.com and send along your submission. The Credit Union Journal will be highlighting the 10th Anniversary of HR 1151 in a special issue to be published in conjunction with CUNA’s GAC in early March. We want to hear from you.

Frank J. Diekmann is Publisher of the Credit Union Journal and can be reached at fdiekmann<at>cujournal.com. (c) 2008 The Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.cujournal.com http://www.sourcemedia.com