Oct. 4, 2004


  • Very straight forward. Not quite as simple as saying "good riddance", but I'd sure be looking at ways to attract as many of the 85K members as possible. I'm not so convinced yet, that we have forgotten what differentiates us from a bank or a mutual savings bank. Lest, we do a much better job of educating not just our members, but addressing newer staff and resultant generational myopia.
  • Stirring the pot, and speaking out for credit unions' competitive advantage: We cannot become the competition to beat the competition. There is no single way to do things, but I am sure that we must still market our differences, drive our values, and commit ourselves to our collective futures. If not then no career is safe in credit unions, and all of us should put generic titles on what we do - financial service provider, data processor, accountant, lender, etc. It is important that we do what we do well, but it is more important for our organizations to tell who we are and take pride in that.

    Evolution might always round the edges of the differences that set anything apart for any other entry into the marketplace. However, commitment to being different, continuing to find solutions that say we are different, and taking pride in our differences will be the only thing that will stand against the process. Too many CUs and their leaders, and the leaders of the real money efforts in our industry, have already given in to the inevitable evolution of the industry guaranteeing they are right and our values are irrelevant.
  • Mr. Karnes seems to be lamenting the passing of the good old days, when the typical credit union was a small, cozy savings/borrowing club for its members, run by altruistic volunteers. Yet he calls the movement an "industry." You can't have it both ways. If credit unions are going to serve the rapidly evolving financial needs of their members as modern, full-service financial institutions, then they are going to have to compete with the biggest banks for management talent, staff, and a share of their members' wallets. Top-quality products, attractive pricing, convenient access and great service are the true sources of competitive advantage -- not cooperative ownership. For the vast majority of financial consumers, cooperative ownership is not a driver of choice of financial institution. Mr. Karnes says large credit unions are "ruining" the industry. The reality is, each year that goes by, large CUs control an ever-greater share of movement assets. There are lots of reasons for their growth, such as full product lines, a complete array of delivery channels, and excellent marketing. These are hallmarks of success, not ruin. And it's clearly what most members want and expect today from their credit union. Even then, there are CU leaders who feel the credit union charter doesn't allow it to go far enough. Its limitations mean that opportunities are being missed to serve members better. Lake Michigan Credit Union wants to grow faster than its retained earnings will permit under the CU charter. As a mutual savings bank, and ultimately a mutual holding company, LMCU can raise the capital it needs to do more in its communities. And it can do it under mutual ownership with full member control. Forward-thinking credit unions are increasing their relevance to today's consumer. If that means relegating cooperative values to a subordinate role in the pursuit of a modernized offering, so be it. They're simply meeting member demand. Those who don't are facing irrelevance and obscurity.