Offering Some Different Views On 'Once-A-Century' Events

I was at a meeting last week in Orlando when someone observed that the front page of that morning's USA Today was all about one topic: risk management. There was coverage of the damage from Hurricane Ike competing with coverage of Tropical Storm Credit Market Meltdown. It was hard to decide who was further under water.

Also hard to decide for any leader of a credit union was (and is) what to do with it all, especially the latter. How to react? What to tell members? How to position the credit union when people don't know where to turn? Where to turn with your portfolio when you don't know when to turn?

As is so often true when the questions are profound and complex, the answers are simple and straightforward. You turn back to the basics and what's true. When things are most uncertain, the uncertain turn to core values, and in that every credit union should find some encouragement and positives. You see, and it needs no explanation here, the concept behind credit unions is as core value as they come.

Were I a credit union marketing director-and in the name of honest disclosures, I acknowledge no one is offering the job-I'd roll out a campaign with a headline that reads something like: "We're Boring. We Admit It."

Copy would explain, "We're a credit union. A union of people extending credit to one another. People like you and your neighbors. No exotic loans in foreign countries. No investments in big Wall Street firms. No subprime. Just loans in our community. For cars and houses and education. For you.

"It sounds boring and old-fashioned, and it is. But during times like this, aren't old-fashioned values like our credit union just what we need?"

By the way, Credit Union Journal still has some statement stuffers to help credit unions speak to their members about their own worries, and you can find a copy at www.cujournal.com by clicking on the green box on the right-hand side of the page.

* Credit Union Journal is proud that over the past 10 years we have been affiliated with a number of exciting, unique ideas in partnership with the CU community, such as our annual Day in the Life of Credit Unions project, free balance sheet assistance from experts for struggling CUs, and conferences, such as Grow Show, aimed at helping credit unions prosper and expand.

But perhaps no project is cooler than what we have planned for Nov. 24 in Manchester, N.H. As the Journal reported last week, we will be joining with the first CU in this country, St. Mary's Bank, to recreate the very first transaction at a U.S. credit union exactly 100 years to the day after it occurred. Thanks to the sponsorship of CO-OP Financial Services, we will be bringing actors dressed as folks would have in 1908 to re-enact the transaction that got everything started, and it will all take place in the very same office and building (now part of America's Credit Union Museum) where it originally occurred.

Credit Union Journal is most excited to be able to join with St. Mary's Bank in bringing video of this event to our website, and plenty of photo and editorial coverage to the weekly print issue. Stay tuned as we provide additional details and help to launch the celebration around the Golden Anniversary of credit unions in the United States.

* The crisis in the credit markets may not directly involve credit unions, but a number of analysts believe CUs will be swept up in the fallout. Specifically, a host of new, risk-related regulations are being anticipated that will also apply to credit unions. "I think this will probably be the year of risk," said JR Clemons, president of Harland's Risk Management & Compliance unit. "Everyone in the organization from top to bottom must be focused on the issue of risk-credit risk, operational risk, portfolio risk. I think you can expect a big raft of new regulations and compliance to come down the pike. In today's financial institution, everyone is a chief risk officer. Credit policies are going to be pushed lower and lower into the organization as a result of the financial credit market."

Harland's Sam Kilmer said the company is projecting financial institutions, including credit unions, should be prepared for a new level of required documentation. "There is a lot of anticipation that regulators are going to ask for more and more risk management," said Kilmer. "Regulators are going to be increasingly vigilant about transparency, and will want (credit unions) to show their process on the commercial side, just like they do on the retail side."

Both executives spoke to Credit Union Journal during the company's Connections conference.

* Speaking of the Harland meeting, it was kicked off by keynoter Joe Theisman, the former Washington Redskin quarterback, who is a regular on the chicken dinner circuit and a polished presenter. While he offered up lots of anecdotes and advice, perhaps most memorable was this: "I made my living for 12 years placing my hands on another man's rear end, and that does not look good on a resume, unless you're applying for a career in management."

Frank Diekmann 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/