Rare Words, The Other Board Issue, Privacy & More

* How have times changed, especially since the great recession? One Credit Union Journal story recently quoted a CU exec using a term we haven't heard since the words "Clinton" and "White House" meant someone named Bill, not Hillary, when he observed that his credit union is "loaned out."


* When there is any debate in the U.S. over credit union boards and the issue of better reflecting the overall membership it almost always centers on one thing: age. It's not exactly a CIA-level secret that most CU boards look like an event organized by AARP. (By the way, the fact CU boards are more Early Bird than Angry Birds is not all negative; there's something to be said for the wisdom of age and a longer-term perspective. That said, there is just as much to be said for ensuring younger members are represented; after all, when the board needs the view of its younger members it shouldn't need to be preceded by someone in marketing saying, "Here's what the research shows..."

In Quebec, a different issue is being raised, and it's one that is almost as apparent among U.S. CU boards as the matter of age, although rarely discussed. Members of the Desjardins Group voted recently in favor of adopting a "voluntary policy to ensure the ratio of men to women on caisse (CU) boards of directors is more representative of Desjardins members."

Ninety-two percent of the 1,000 delegates who cast votes did so in favor.

In a statement that followed the vote, Monique F. Leroux, board chair of the Desjardins Group, said, "Not only does it send a clear signal, but it will also make our cooperative group a leader among financial institutions. Year after year, so many women are graduating from our colleges and universities and from corporate governance institutes. And that's a pool of expertise that our caisses-and our entire organization-can take advantage of."

According to Desjardins Group, in 2011, women made up 36% of caisse board membership, up from 34% five years ago. I'm not sure whether anyone has ever compiled any statistics on the gender ratio among U.S. boards, but it would be interesting to know. But I also think all of us already have a pretty good hunch.


* Speaking of Canada, the U.S., and credit union boards, Credit Union Journal has provided plenty of coverage in recent weeks of states in the U.S. approving payments for board members, specifically Washington and Tennessee. In perhaps a preface of what might eventually occur in this country for state-chartered CUs where board members are no longer volunteers, in Surrey, B.C., members of Coast Capital CU have voted by a wide margin in favor of a review of their board members' pay, which is substantially more than the figures being proposed in the U.S. In this case, the 10 members of the Coast Capital board were being paid $750,000 in total compensation each year.

More than three-quarters of the 23,000 Coast Capital members who voted supported the review.


Board Chair's $157K Comp Plan

While that review is under way, the board has already voted to reduce pay, cutting the chairman's "retainer" to $66,000 annually from $75,500, and committee chair's "retainers" to $5,000 from $10,610. With per-meeting fees also paid, one report put the chair's total compensation at $157,000.

If that sounds like a lot, the board of the $14.6-billion Coast Capital apparently didn't agree. It had in place a plan-since tabled-to increase the base retainer for directors to $29,500 from $25,000. Those fees, retainers and compensation all add up to a figure that is double that of what Vancity Credit Union in British Columbia paid its board.

I'm guessing that that kind of compensation in the U.S. would probably eliminate the age-old challenge of finding new board members, not to mention that in every state where applicable there would be a tsunami of paperwork from federal charters deciding they suddenly like the state regulator much better.


* Observed by Mike Kelly, CEO of PSCU, during a recent meeting: "Not collaborating with each other and fighting among credit unions is like stepping over dollars to get to pennies." Well said.


* Another observation worthy of note has to do with how Big Data is really becoming about Big Brother. At that same PSCU meeting, John Bastone, global customer intelligence product marketing director with SAS, cited an example of retailers using sometimes obscure analytics to determine women and couples who are attempting to become pregnant or who have become pregnant (before their doctors sell that information).

When Bastone asked for a show of hands of who found that intrusive, in a room of about 50 people just one person raised a hand. Just three years ago, he said, the same informal survey would have found many more people objecting to a pracice they saw as "creepy." Bastone's point is that people are becoming increasingly comfortable with sharing personal information.

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