LAS VEGAS-One year after NCUA instituted stricter standards on financial literacy for credit union boards of directors, Credit Union Journal asked attendees of the 35th annual National Directors' Convention here what specific steps their CUs have taken to improve their own literacy.
Steve Sharon, chairman, Horizon CU, Spokane, Wash.
We pay for directors to attend one conference per year. When they come back they do an oral report for the rest of the board on what they learned, plus they bring materials for review. If the content is particularly good we make copies and distribute among the board members.
We have a great board in that all the people are very conscientious. We have taken steps to diversify the board so every member brings something different. With our pending merger with Montana First Credit Union, we will be bringing in our first attorney.
The biggest things I have learned are director liability issues and fiduciary duties to the board. With the new regulations we have people come speak to the board. Also, the Washington State Department of Finance does audits and tells us which areas we need to improve on.
Stephen Bohlig, chairman Trustone Financial FCU, Plymouth, Minn.
We asked half the board members to leave. Seriously. If directors could not read a balance sheet or income statement they increase the fiduciary duties to the rest of the board. Even with a financial literacy requirement, it is still not clear the average credit union director understands specific business decisions that affect them, such as the pros and cons of a merger or building a branch. Any decision made in the board room may have an emotional feeling, but may not necessarily be made in the best interest of members.
I don't mean this to sound bad, but I am a CEO and have run and built businesses for 35 years, so I have to say I have not learned much from the new minimum financial literacy standards.
Kerri Pellegrini, director Internal Revenue Service CU, New Orleans
We added educational sessions for the board members to attend. We have the advantage being an IRS credit union in that we have all accountants on our board. The majority of us had experience and were financially literate already.
I learned quite a bit from an NCUA educational seminar. It taught a focus on four key areas of the call report that board members need to keep an eye on.
Natani Laws, director, San Juan CU, Blanding, Utah
We have done a number of things to increase the financial literacy of the board. For starters we come to this conference and take classes, plus we hold a board retreat that has a number of apeakers. At our regular meetings we have an accountant that discusses a number of topics. I have been on the board for six years, but last year was my first coming to this conference.
I have learned how to read financial statements better, and I have learned what my role as a board member really means.
Barbara King, director Columbus Metro FCU, Columbus, Ohio
We keep up to date on all new rules and regulations. We come to conferences such as this one for training, plus we have yearly meetings to discuss goals. Our CEO also does a good job of keeping us up to date at meetings and in between meetings.
Being older I don't always grasp technology, but each board member now has an iPad that we are getting trained on. I don't know how to do everything it can do yet, but I'm not afraid of it any more.