Resolutions To Be Avoided, Resolutions To Be Made

It's probably safe to say that 2010 didn't quite go as planned. Not for the Democrats. Not for the Dallas Cowboys. And certainly not for you and your credit union.

Look no further for an example than this column just a year ago, when this space was used to note how many within credit unions were happy to get 2009 behind them (and implicit in that was that the new year would mean an end to special assessments from NCUA, supermodel-thin margins, and an economy on the rebound).

Well, Happy New Year then and now! And let's resolve to learn from last year's overly rosy forecast (wishes, prayers) and be a little more realistic about what 2011 might hold.

Still, while we're a bit humbled about making any predictions, that's not completely the case with credit unions. Inside you'll find Credit Union Journal's 2011 Look Ahead with viewpoints and forecasts being made on all areas of credit union operations. Many of those interviewed indicate they see more than just "green shoots" (the buzzword of 2009) and instead see the actual buds of growth, with members more optimistic and perhaps even confident enough to do some borrowing.

Ah, but what would a new year be without a cloud or two on the horizon, and I don't mean those "to the cloud" commercials Microsoft has been running (from my own informal conversations, by the way, most people are pretty cloudy over what they're talking about). From the Just What We Need Department, new regulations threatening interchange income are pending, and CEOs are mulling any number of strategies for squeezing even more out of that turnip they've all but strangled.

It's likely you already have on your 2011 Resolution List ways of dealing with the above. Below you'll find a list of New Year's Resolutions that you might not have considered:

• If you're a CEO or board member who has never used Twitter or Facebook, you will hereby resolve to do so. You may come away wondering if everyone has lost their minds, but at least you'll be familiar with social media when some marketer or consultant is trying to sell you on a "social media strategy." And if you're a CEO or board member who spends all their time on Facebook or Twitter, you will hereby resolve to get a life (we don't care about your views on breakfast cereals, and news flash, we're not LOLing).

• If you're in marketing and can't read a spreadsheet or understand half of what the CFO is saying, you hereby resolve to take a language lesson or two. And if you're a CFO who considers multiple-colored fonts within that spreadsheet to be the pinnacle of creativity, you hereby resolve to spend some time in the marketing department.

• If you're a CEO overseeing the two functions above along with all others, you hereby resolve to have everyone spend some time in other departments so they no longer see only the world within their silo but now understand they are part of the farm.

• If you're a credit union mighty proud of your new headquarters and the fact the CEO's office and boardroom are higher above the ground floor than ever before, you must hereby resolve to get your feet back on the ground and spend some time with the members, and not with a survey or some department's report serving as a shallow proxy for the folks downstairs.

• If you've never told your members why they are a member and not a customer, and especially why it matters, you hereby resolve to begin with your own employees and staff, and then with the members, so they both understand what you are and develop an affinity for your credit union. And if one of the values of that membership was paying some sort of year-end bonus or dividend, you hereby resolve to tell the world about it!

• If you're an NCUA board member, you resolve to understand there is great unhappiness in the hinterlands, and that many resent the assessments they're being forced to pay as the price of incompetent regulation-and not a meltdown in markets that no one could control. That's doesn't mean credit unions are right to feel that way, but perception is reality (see related story on page 1).

NCUA board members might even hereby resolve to put together a group of the most disgruntled curmudgeons within the CU community (just read the letters to the editor page in Credit Union Journal if you're looking for a place to start), listen to what they have to say, and then actually act upon it where appropriate. It will be pretty uncomfortable, but it will also go a long way toward satisfying the righteous regulated (who are all but forming tea parties of their own).

• If you're a corporate CEO, you hereby resolve to send, depending on your point of view, a love/hate letter to Judge George Wu of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, who ruled that former members of the WesCorp board did not act with poor judgment or in violation of the law.

• If your 2011 vision looks a lot like your 2010 vision (and 2009, and 2008 and 2007), tear it up and hereby resolve to try something new. You can then tell everyone about it on Facebook.

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at fdiekmann@cujournal.com.