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Corporates & Croissants, Pubs & Pilots, And More

From the reporter's notebook following CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) last week, and appearing in order reflective of a cluttered mind:

* Terry West, the CEO of VyStar Credit Union in Jacksonville, Fla., who chaired several CUNA task forces related to corporates, reminded during a panel discussion at GAC that whatever emerges to fill the void in corporates will be significantly different than what many credit unions are accustomed to. He said the task forces worked to "create a business model that could sustain itself. What happened to the (corporates that failed) happened due to the investment side. The new model will focus on payments and settlements and wlll have a smaller balance sheet. There will be more of a focus on the operational side.

"We as natural-person credit unions own the corporates, and if we decide we want to recapitalize the new model, it's up to us," continued West. "We see a value for the corporate system to continue, but natural-person credit unions must decide what they are going to look like."

* Observed by political pundit Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, "Caring about upward mobility and jobs is not a left-wing issue. France has always been ahead of us in croissants and afternoon sex, but now they are also ahead of us in upward mobility."

Huffington later added, "We have been waiting for Washington to solve all these problems, but increasingly we need to look in the mirror for the person to fix what needs to get done in this country."

The Huffington Post, incidentally, which recently merged with AOL, is now rolling out a local web initiative in 900 U.S. cities called patch.com. It seems likely, given their roles in most communities, credit unions will become involved in some fashion.

* During the World Council of Credit Unions' reception at the British Embassy-a site selected because WOCCU will be hosting its World CU Conference in Glasgow, Scotland this summer-a representative of the embassy noted that in Scotland every village has "one church, two pubs, and one credit union. We rally around all three in our community."

It was announced at the reception, by the way, that former British PM Gordon Brown will address the WOCCU conference.

* Rudy Hanley, the CEO of SchoolsFirst Credit Union in California who was honored with the Herb Wegner Award for Lifetime Achievement, noted during his acceptance speech that credit unions needed to be wary of those who have gone before them and failed. "Savings and loans forgot their mission," said Hanley, before looking at his audience and adding, "Although some of you may not remember what an S&L was."

* Were you to meet Chesley Sullenberger and have no idea why he made the nickname "Sully" so famous, it's pretty likely you'd come away thinking 'That's a man I'd like to have in charge if I'm ever in a jam." At least that's the sense you came away with after the pilot of U.S. Air Flight 1549, which made an emergency landing on the Hudson River in January of 2009 in which all passengers survived, spoke to GAC.

Sullenberger made two observations during a Q&A, one of which might have you feeling less confident during your next flight, the other of which should give every credit union executive pause as you install new technologies:

* "All airlines do the FAA-mandated minimum amount of training, and no more."

* "Automation does not eliminate errors. It just changes the nature of the errors that are made."

Incidentally, if you're curious about what happened to the mostly submerged plane after it was fished out of the Hudson, it was donated to the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, N.C. by Chartis, the property-casualty and general insurance company that insured the plane. Flight 1549 had been headed to Charlotte before its crash.

* Here's another example of how steep the adoption curve has become with so many new technologies. One development noticeable in the trade show at GAC was the number of vendors who had product demonstrations available on iPads. In the case of Symitar, for instance, it has created an app for its Episys core processing system that tellers can use when interacting with members. At its booth in the trade show representatives had the iPad available for review.

"You can do everything you can do on a laptop, and you can take it out into the field or use it in branch," a spokesperson explained, noting some credit unions, especially those seeking to become more consultative and less transaction-based, are testing the system right now. "And now, by using the app store, we can go into other apps and leverage that whole world."

As an example, the spokesperson gave a demonstration of how a voice recognition app could be used by a teller or MSR to quickly record a note about a member. Those words were then imported into the notes section of the teller interface for Episys.

CU24, meanwhile, was using iPads at the show to allow participants to share their thoughts in a survey. And the reward for participating? The chance to win one of the two iPads.

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

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