SAN DIEGO-Credit unions have been "good" for decades, but Mike Mercer wonders if the movement suffers from a sense of complacency that prevents CUs from achieving greatness.

Mercer, who is CUNA board chair and president and CEO of Georgia Credit Union Affiliates, told attendees of CUNA's recent America's CU Conference here it is important to have big ideas and aim high.

"Credit unions can shape a vision for the future," he said. "Good won't be good enough. It is not really about the result, it is about the attitude of approaching the future."

For perspective, he asked how someone from outside the credit union world looking in would characterize the CU frame of mind. Mercer argued most people would say credit unions have been good for a long time, would compliment CUs for surviving the recession in good shape, and give them high marks for getting through the problems with the corporate network without affecting public trust.

"Being good for decades, does that keep us from being great?" he asked. "Does being good for decades keep us from leveraging the buying power of 90 million members. Cooperatives are succeeding in Canada, Poland and Holland. When I look at these other cooperative systems it is not just their results, it is their attitude toward the future. They are determined to solve big problems. Where will we choose to become the best? Will it be local, like 1,000 points of light? Or will credit unions lock arms to solve a national problem? Good won't be good enough."

Lessons From Past

CUNA and the state leagues are expected to "have what it takes" to influence consensus, Mercer continued. He noted CUs have accomplished much in their history, including getting approval to offer share drafts, protecting the tax exemption, expanding fields of membership and more.

"There are plenty of examples of resolve building, including deflecting CRA and UBIT threats from the IRS," he said. "We have lots of regular season wins. There is enough good in our past to rationalize the need for change, but there are formidable players who can roll us. Generally, credit unions are respected in government, but they are not feared. We can't play at the next level by working harder and using the same techniques."

Subscribe Now

Authoritative analysis and perspective for every segment of the credit union industry

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.