From the Dichotomy Department: not sure if you noticed but America's credit unions are contributing to both the health of America and the obesity of the same. At the CU-sponsored Cherry Blossom Run in Washington this spring, Janet Bawcom set a new U.S. record in the 10-mile. Meanwhile, in the same week during the World Ice Cream Eating Contest sponsored by Magnify Credit Union in Florida, Joey Chestnut set a new world record by knocking off almost 1.5 gallons of vanilla ice cream in six minutes. Incredibly, Mr. Chestnut looks like he could run in the Cherry Blossom event and no one would think him out of place.
* Tim Stephens, CEO of Alliance Credit Union in Fenton, Mo., recently raised an issue that's been made before, but it remains interesting. That issue is a four-letter word: "join." Is it an obstacle to membership, or does it convey a sense of belonging, of being a part of something?
Stephens believes it's the former. "We're starting to shy away from that word join; we're saying 'open an account' or 'apply for a loan,' " he observed. "People think 'join' and they wonder 'Is this the Royal Order of the Water Buffalo or what?' It's not. It's a financial institution. We want you to open an account. We want you to utilize us for your lending needs and open an account."
For the full story, see the June 17 issue or the CUJournal.com archive. What do you think? Your feedback is always welcome.
* While doing some research recently for CO-OP's THINK Conference, I came across this piece of information, reported in 2009 as part of Credit Union Journal's special "100th Anniversary of Credit Unions" issue. Among the list of requirements to be a member of the first credit union in the United States-St. Mary's Bank in Manchester, N.H.-were that "the applicant shall be honest, willing to meet his dues, sober, orderly in his habits and industrious."
Can you imagine trying to enforce those rules today?
CU: We're sorry Mr. Jones, but we're going to have to deny you membership.
Jones: What! Why not?
CU: Well, sir, you just don't appear to be very industrious.
Jones: Why would you think that?
CU: Well, for one thing, you're attempting to open an account while using the drive-through.
* Here's a headline from a news website in England: "Credit Union to Help Bury Residents." Where do you even begin in deciphering to what lengths some might go for fee income? Turns out the piece was about a new CU chartered to serve the town of Bury.
* I heard this recently in a TV commercial by a lawyer advertising his services: "If you or a loved one has suffered sudden death ..." If you have recently suffered sudden death and you're watching a TV commercial, I don't think it's an attorney that you need; you may need an exorcist.
* In a reminder of what goes around, comes around, a retirement announcement brought to mind that Oil Country FCU is not in Texas or California, but in Pennsylvania. Which once again is oil country.
* Mortgage volume may have picked up again, but mortgage knowledge has not followed. A survey of 1,000 current and prospective homeowners by real estate website Zillow found that 31% of buyers don't think it's possible to get a mortgage for less than 5% down (that may be possible, but doesn't mean it's advisable); 34% don't know what the term "annual percentage rate" (APR) means and one in four think borrowers must close with the lender that pre-approved the mortgage.
Zillow found that 34% also believe lenders are required by law to charge the same fees to all clients for credit reports, appraisals and the like. And almost a quarter (24%) of buyers believe the best mortgage deals are available through the banks where they currently have their savings and checking accounts.
* I suppose it was appropriate that when a recent merger closed the book on one of the best names in credit unions, there was little noise raised over it. The credit union was Quiet Corner Community CU in Connecticut, which is named after the more rural, northeastern portion of the state that isn't part of the New York/Boston corridor and therefore is known as Connecticut's quiet corner. It's sad to see it go if for no other reason that if there's one thing so many people are looking for in the cacophony of everyday life, it's a quiet corner to retreat to.
* The surge in credit union membership over the past two years has led to considerable discussion (and rightfully so) of onboarding, the process of making new members engaged and profitable members. But before anyone can be onboarded, the big hurdle might best be called "off-boarding," the perceived hassles of closing an account.
Great Britain may have an answer to that. That nation is proposing portable account numbers along with new rules that allow customers to switch accounts within seven days.
Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.