It is generally believed that it was in the 12th century when someone first-and finally-observed an age-old and peculiar human characteristic that was famously summed up as, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."
A refusal to drink has never been an issue in modern day Las Vegas, but the nearly 900-year-old maxim was on loud-and-clear display when at its annual meeting the California and Nevada leagues hosted a discussion group of four young professionals to talk about, basically, why they weren't drinking from the credit union goblet (CU Journal, Nov. 19).
Hosted by researcher and consultant Neil Goldman the session drew the four people-three women and one man-from a larger focus group that had been held on the same issue in California. The group expressed generally positive feelings about their current bank relationships and little knowledge about credit unions, and said they became bank customers for reasons ranging from the bank being the place where parents had accounts to being paid up to $125 to move their business.
It's Death, But It's Slow...
I often hear from people at meetings and in informal conversations voicing their frustrations over why even more people aren't joining credit unions, even in cases where they are being fee'd to a slow death by their current bank and the advantages of joining a credit union are abundantly clear.
There was no better example of someone who saw no reason to so much as sip at the water even when almost floating in it than one of the women in that discussion group, who not only works in a building in which a credit union branch is located, but who has had coworkers recommend that she join and who even knew the names of specific employees in that branch.
The idea of joining, despite all the great things she has heard and a branch that could not possibly be more convenient unless she worked inside it, just seems like a "hassle," the woman said. (Those among you thinking the younger generation has reached a new low when it comes to being spoiled by expectations of convenience may have a point.)
By great coincidence the CEO of the credit union the woman was referencing happened to be in the audience. He stood up and personally invited her to join, and to sweeten the offer said the credit union would throw in $100 for doing so. She agreed.
The lesson here for CEOs everywhere: all you need to do to get people to join is to personally contact every prospective member, ensure you have a branch in their workplace (which you do with online banking and mobile), and, when all else fails, pay them to drink your water.
* You have to hand it to UPS. What can Brown do for me? Overcome geographic hurdles, apparently. While in Hawaii recently for the NCUMA meeting, I needed to ship several boxes back to the mainland. Among the options for shipping was "UPS Ground." I opted for it and, Pacific Ocean be darned, the packages arrived.
* Having ridden out more than a few hurricanes in South Florida, it was interesting to watch those affected by the damage from Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy in the New York area as they learned the same lesson many to the south have already had to come to grips with the hard way.
When a hurricane finally passes, in the immediate aftermath there are prayers of thanks for just having survived and a general feeling that borders on fellowship. But as more days begin to pass and the reality sets in, and you learn of all the basic necessities dependent upon that missing electricity (such as gas pumps), the fellowship starts turning into Battleship. In little time, suddenly it's Mad Max meets Lord of the Flies.
This scenario is hardly limited to the aftermath of hurricanes. By varying scales the very same scenarios emerge after tornadoes and fires and earthquakes. So regardless of where you live, practice a little 20/20 foresight, challenge your assumptions (such as you may not be able to recharge that cellphone for a while and you may not be able to reach employees for even longer) and get prepared.
* The length of time many people remain on credit union boards is no secret. And just how accustomed the CU community has become to volunteers holding their position longer than Fidel Castro was apparent at a recent meeting where during the introduction of one volunteer it was noted he had "been on the board for just eight and a half years."
A Worthwhile Remembrance
* Very nice touch by the California and Nevada CU League at its annual meeting recently when it took time to show a video paying tribute to those people within credit unions who had died over the previous year. And it wasn't just those previously noted octogenarian board members, but a number of much younger people, making it a sad and sobering reminder.
* Please note a correction. In a recent column I called The Golden 1 Credit Union California's largest. It is not. That honor goes to SchoolsFirst Credit Union at $9.4 billion.
Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at email@example.com.