Friday, September 26, 2008

Adventures in Canada: The Maple Syrup Mystery (AKA BCBBC)

BCBBC08 052 I just got home from BarCampBank BC in the incredible city of Vancouver. All I have to say is “Wow”! The BarCamp and the few days I was able to stay in the city afterwards were just plain awesome.

I’ve got a ton of notes from the event and will be getting some more in-depth posts up as I digest the giant amounts of info and ideas that came from it.

This was my second BarCamp, so I wasn’t unfamiliar with the format of the event, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t still impressed with it. I think, if anything, this event highlighted just how cool it is that every single one of these is different in its own unique way.

BCBBC08 068 As Mark McSpadden pointed out (from the live feed chat box no less!) after the topic wall had been finalized (as finalized as a BarCamp wall can be), we had just accomplished in 45 minutes, as a group, what normally takes a conference planning committee months.

The quality of discussion was great. So much got brought up, so many ideas got thrown around, and so much positive energy was at the event that it was just plain inspiring.

I think the coolest part of the camp wasn’t even the discussion, but BCBBC08 084 the fact that, with the help of Brent Dixon, the whole event was streamed live via Mogulus. Maybe it was that I knew people were actually watching live, or that every once in awhile we’d be relayed a question from a view, or that it totally fed my geek side. It was just too cool.

There were so many awesome sessions; from measuring a web 2.0 campaign, to social finance, to tapping into existing networks. There were so many great, smart people in one place and the things that came out of it were just incredible.

I’ll have a couple of posts up in the near future that go deeper into the sessions I attended as I get my notes organized and digested. Until then, enjoy the videos on Opensource CU, the live blogging that came from William Azaroff, and all the videos and pictures on YouTube and Flickr.

A huge thanks goes out to Gene Blishen, William Azaroff, and Tim McAlpine for making this event happen. You guys rock.

Friday, September 12, 2008

KV Federal Credit Union Strays to the Dark Side


This post is going to be a bit outside my usual branding/strategy fare, and I’m not usually one to throw any muck, but I just have to add some commentary on this matter. The unspeakable is happening in my backyard. KV Federal Credit Union ($51 million in assets) has decided to convert to a mutual savings bank in order to promptly merge with Kennebec Savings bank (a $650 million bank).

I was at the Maine Credit Union League in Portland for an orientation program when the news broke Tuesday morning. Needless to say the room immediately exploded in conversation.

Now, I’ve seen a few credit union to mutual savings bank conversions go down here on the intertubes, but never thought it would happen right next door. I’m not positive, but I think this might be the first cu to bank conversion that is being done for the sole purpose of merging with another, larger bank. To me, that is even more disturbing than a strait up conversion in my mind.

Now, there are always two sides to a story, so I’m sure my bias towards the base philosophy of credit unions will show, but I’m not here to report objective news.

KV Federal Credit Union has said, in response to questions about why they are merging with a bank, “The merger would allow the two institutions to become more efficient and position themselves for growth in a crowded banking market.”

I’m not sure what their continuing plan is, should this merger actually happen, but it is my opinion that to merge for the sole purpose of growing is one of the worst ideas ever. If your current growth plan is not building your member or customer base, how is a merger going to do anything but create an artificial jump in customers/assets? Not to mention that even though they refer to KVFCU and KSB as “two institutions”, once the merger is completed, the only institution positioned for growth is the bank.

To me, that goes against everything a credit union should stand for. The members would lose their say in the running of the institution, and their ownership. They lose their credit union, and as one member put it in a comment on a Kennebec Journal article, “I know I plan to tell them I will also close my accounts if KV Fed and Kennebec Savings merge-I joined a CU for a reason.”

I think many credit union members feel the same way.

I hope that the membership of KVFCU votes against this conversion. These members have built and owned the credit union for years and if the conversion goes through the only thing that will remain will be their account numbers.

That said, if the membership doesn’t vote this down, I feel that we should let the conversion take place. The board and management have shown that they don’t particularly care for the philosophy of the credit union movement. Those members who don’t care about the difference between being a member/owner and a customer will follow KV to Kennebec savings. Those that are a member because they know what it means and enjoy the benefits of being a member/owner will hopefully find a credit union who’s philosophy and vision fits their own.

What are your thoughts on this conversion?