In last week’s article, we explored the question, What Is the Member’s Right to Know?. We touched on the most sensitive issue for many CEOs and senior managers, which is the publication of their salaries and benefits. Reader feedback was interesting. Can salary disclosures play a role in credit unions’ efforts to sustain trust with members?
In November 2006, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report (GAO-07-29) to the chairman of the U. S. House Ways and Means Committee. One of the purposes was to “assess the transparency of credit union senior executive compensation.”
The Report’s conclusions are blunt:
“Credit union executive compensation is not transparent. Federal credit unions, unlike other tax-exempt organizations, do not file information returns which contain data on executive compensation . . . .”
This is not true of all state chartered credit unions, however. The 990s filed by credit unions in states such as Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Florida can be reviewed online, showing the required information on compensation.
However, disclosure without context could be a troublesome member issue. So a proactive approach might include factors used by the board to evaluate and reward management. These factors might include:
Critical performance goals
Key member value enhancements
Institutional performance versus peers
Executive compensation benchmarks in the industry
When salaries are disclosed as components of the credit union’s performance, then members can see how the board works on their behalf using the compensation system.
For example, disclosure could help members see how pay is tied to performance, the alignment of management and member interests, the relation of their executives’ salaries to market salaries and the focus on long-term versus a short-term outcomes.
Approaches to Disclosure
CEO salary disclosures can occur in different ways. State Employees’ Credit Union’s ($14.6B in Raleigh, NC) is direct and proactive. The salary and benefits of CEO Jim Blaine is linked from the credit union’s home page to its 2006 Annual Report. On page 27, amongst a discussion of employee benefits, it reads, “The salary and benefits of the President totaled $547,465 for the year ending June 30, 2006.”
Another “unveiling” is through the public media. Two years ago, there was a press controversy surrounding Onpoint Community Credit Union ($2.3B in Portland, OR), formerly Portland Teachers Credit Union. The disclosure of the now retired CEO’s salary of $1.6 million, coupled with one member testimonial of a poor experience, sparked quite a dialogue in a local online news article.
While salaries draw the attention of members, employees and the press, the real issue is how transparency in all credit union activities can be a vehicle for sustaining the trust that cooperatives rely on in the marketplace.
In an environment in whic consumers are increasingly victims of financial misrepresentation; credit unions can use proactive disclosure as a marketplace difference.