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Scary Icing, Empty Parks & Restricting The Media

Last month, Credit Union Journal commemorated the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, with a special issue focusing on credit unions that were directly affected, including those located in the World Trade Center itself, as well as the recollections of readers from that day.

What's easy to forget a decade later is that Sept. 11 wasn't so much a day as an era; the panic and nervousness and uncertainty brought about by the terrorist attacks didn't just fade away as October 2011 rolled around.

In reviewing some issues of the Journal from the months following 9/11, I was reminded of how the concept of "standard operating procedures" became anything but in the final months of that year.

For instance, in Boca Raton, Fla., employees of one credit union wore masks due to local fears related to anthrax and a local post office. The credit union shared the post office with American Media, publisher of the National Enquirer and the Sun. One employee of that company died after being exposed to anthrax that had been sent through the mail to the publishing company.

In Washington, credit unions had to evacuate buildings on more than one occasion due to anthrax-related fears, and two NAFCU staffers were tested for anthrax exposure after being inside a congressional office building.

How much were people worried? In Flint, Mich., Dort FCU evacuated its offices after a mysterious substance was found on office chairs. That substance later turned out to be cake icing from a recent birthday party.

Incidentally, last week the California/Nevada League hosted its annual meeting in San Diego. Ten years ago, just a month or so after 9/11, the League followed then President Bush's advice that people get back to work and do the things they would normally do and went ahead and held its 2001 annual meeting at Disneyland.

All attendees at that meeting were given tickets for entrance to the then relatively new park, Disney's California Adventure, which was eerily empty.

How empty?

When riding one roller coaster, all you had to do was nod to the ride's operators that you wanted to go around again, and you did.

* So it's come to this. Saw a billboard for real estate company REMax that read, "Knowledge is Equity." Apparently, we've reached the point of fishing around for any kind of value within a house. So prepare for a member to meet with one of your loan officers, explain that they are completely upside down in their home, but would still like to borrow against their "knowledge."

* During the Bank Administration Institute's Retail Delivery conference in Chicago a few weeks back, I spent some time talking to David Duvall, senior solution engineer with VSoft. His firm offers a solution called Vserve that has provided item-processing services to a number of corporates, and with all the flux in that arena has been increasingly working with credit unions on a direct basis.

I asked Duvall about whether we might actually see a reversal of trends and that the "Checkless Society" might be put on hold as consumers back away from debit cards due to all the new fees from large banks. (And not just banks-one person told me they were recently assessed 50 cents at a convenience store for a charge of less than $5!)

According to Duvall, a comeback isn't in the wings for the days when credit unions sought to differentiate themselves with scenic check backgrounds.

"I don't think we'll see a [check] volume increase," said Duvall. "I think John Q. Public will bite the bullet and stay electronic. It's getting expensive and information is so much faster now in an electronic environment. Why denigrate that?"

* Speaking of the BAI meeting. Proving that old antagonisms die hard, former President Bill Clinton was a keynote speaker. All members of the press and "media organizations" were banned from attending.

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

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