The Other Branch Cost: Just What's A Life Worth?

Portions of the following column were either written or edited while sitting on the balcony of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colo., so the words are either philosophically inspired by the formation of CUNA, or psychologically imbalanced by memories of Jack Nicholson in "The Shining." If I had to guess, I'd go with the latter.

As Credit Union Journal was reporting with ongoing updates last week at CUJournal.com, and as we report in our recent weekly issue (here and here), the consequences of yet another tragic storm fill the news. In this case it's the catastrophic damage of the tornadoes around Moore, Okla. Certainly, the pervasive presence of omnipresent media outlets and the fact practically everyone carries a video-recorder with them now makes it hard to shake the impression there are more storms than ever before in history.

Except by its victims, the tornadoes of several weeks ago near Dallas are nearly forgotten. There was Superstorm Sandy before that, a long list of tornadoes from the summer of 2012, and so many tropical storms and hurricanes that we've had to dig deep into the Big Book of Baby Names in order to name them all.

If you've ever ridden out a tornado or hurricane then you know the only real name you care about is whatever God or saint or mystical power you pray to (or have suddenly just started praying to). Having spent a night beneath a kitchen table during one hurricane that cost me a roof and another while wrapping an electrical cord around the handles of French doors to keep them from being shorn from the house, it's an experience that makes one thing immediately clear: it's too late to make the structure you're in any more secure.

As credit unions, their members and their employees spend the next months and years in Oklahoma cleaning up the mess and their lives, those same CUs and their facilities builders ought to be encouraging discussion about building stronger branches. A safe is not meant to be a safe room, and yet that's precisely what several safes were for branch employees last week in Oklahoma.

I get it. Branches are expensive, and it's not like the capital improvement budgets at most CUs are getting additional dollars thanks to all that income that's flowing in. It's cheaper and faster to throw up a wood-frame building. But remember it took just a wolf's huffing and puffing to blow down the second little pig's house of wood. Winds in Oklahoma last week were estimated to be in excess of 200 miles per hour.

Sure it costs more to build with concrete or block, but look at the piles of rubble created last week. What about those costs? Employees and members deserve to know they're safe. And it's just a little too late to be thinking about construction materials when that siren sounds, if it sounds at all.

Meanwhile, some other notes drawn from scraps of paper blowing around the balcony at the Stanley Hotel:

John Costello, CEO of Dunkin' Donuts, said Millennials are known by another name: DRTLs, as in "Don't read too long." "On websites, Millennials stay for six seconds. And remember, they aren't just your customers, they are your employees, and they don't just have very different values as a customer, have very diferent values as employees."

Author Scott Belsky observed that social media has had yet another unintended consequence, and it's certainly been felt by credit unions that have seen ATMs go down or data breached. "Some companies have admitted, 'Our brands don't belong to us anymore.' If you don't believe it, just look at what people are saying about Time Warner cable." For that reason (the company is frequently criticized for service), Belsky added, "I think that customer service and social media are going to be one and the same department."

Current Newark Mayor and Senate candidate in 2014 Cory Booker will be the next president of the U.S. if the audience reaction at CO-OP's recent THINK Conference are any guide. Here are four notes I wasn't able to get into a recent story on Booker:

  1. "What I see is that people with a really progressive message may not have a million Twitter followers, but they do have 10 or 20 people who are real connectors, and they will reach out to us and ask us to Tweet a message and a link. You are now a network of people. People talk about six degrees of separation, but in America today we are one degree of separation with social media."
  2. Booker said when he took over as mayor he discovered the "police department had the screwiest union agreement. Our gang task force worked Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. I don't know where you're from but gangs don't work Monday through Friday, 9 to 5.
  3. When musician Daria Musk said she was sorry she lived in Connecticut and couldn't vote for Booker, the mayor responded, "This is New Jersey, that doesn't matter."
  4. "When a politician puts the flag behind them, it's serious. If you want to know how serious, count the number of flags."

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