Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Lesson to be Learned

The hot topic right now for credit union professionals is, surprise, the conservatorship of US Central and WesCorp credit unions and the corporate stabilization plan. As a colleague of mine (who will remain unnamed) said to me yesterday, “it’s legalized stealing”.

How many consumers say that about their bank or (hopefully less frequently) credit union on a regular basis?

As much as the corporate stabilization plan is going to hurt the bottom line for all credit unions this year I see a thin silver lining. That silver lining is a lesson for all of us to learn.

We (natural person credit unions) are members of the corporate CU’s the same as our members are a part of our credit unions. It doesn’t feel good to have your credit union take money from you for a purpose you don’t find logical or beneficial does it?

We need to make sure our members never feel like we do right now. We should never allow our members to feel like their credit union is engaging in “legalized stealing”. When finding ways to recover from, or ride out, the storm make sure you keep that in mind. Don’t pass that feeling on to your members just because your corporate CU did it to you and the quick fix is to add fees and raise existing ones.

I guess we should all listen to our moms and treat others the way we’d like to be treated.

1 comment:

Jeffry Pilcher said...

Two questions.

1. If natural-person credit unions had been allowed to invest in mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps, would they have done so? (It is my understanding that they are legally prohibited from directly investing in such instruments.)

2. A credit union has to ask itself if it is treating its members with the same degree of candor and transparency as credit unions expected from the coprorates and NCUA. As an example, are you being forthright about your capital position and the potential impact of the NCUA's actions? Do you know something that you would want to know NOW if you were a member? Or are you going to wait until a few months after the fact ("after all the details have been sorted out") to let members know?

I'm not necessarily advocating for full transparency and honesty. I'm mostly raising questions, because I have wondered if there's a slight air of hypocrisy to some of the things I've heard certain credit unions complain about with respect to how they feel they were treated by the NCUA/corporates: "Someone should have said something sooner!" "They knew this for months!" "They aren't revealing everything, just what they want us to know." "What's up with the closed-door attitude? Shouldn't we be involved?"