As times change, credit unions have been able to roll with the punches. We’ve been able to survive recessions, interest rate cycles, leasing, zero percent financing, and regulatory changes too numerous to mention. In fact, more than just survive, we’ve been able to thrive and grow.
One thing hasn’t changed, however. As I look at the future of credit unions, I don’t believe we can survive long-term without continued unity and cooperation — the very things that have made our past successes possible.
I’m a 25-year credit union veteran. Over the years as my knowledge level, responsibilities and commitment to what we do as credit unions has grown, one thing that has always struck me and meant the most to me is the willingness of credit unions to help one another.
We’ve all been there. Whether at a conference, a chapter meeting, a vendor summit or a simple telephone conference call, our industry has a sprit of cooperation and information sharing second to none. It is imperative that it continues.
Credit unions have grown in assets, offer more programs and services and face far more day-to-day competition today than ever before. In today’s business environment, it would be very easy to get so absorbed in the operations of our individual institutions that we neglect to make time for outside meetings.
But if you’re an “old timer” like I am, think back to the period of your greatest professional growth, and what helped make it possible. What did it mean to you when a high level CEO or management staff person took time to introduce themselves and discuss with you the importance of the credit union ideals? These were people that you might have considered unapproachable because of their experience and status — yet once a relationship was established, you were fortunate enough to have found a career-long resource.
I encourage credit union leaders of all levels of responsibility to continue to be that resource and mentor to our future leaders. Even credit union veterans never outgrow the benefits of sharing information and exchanging ideas with our peers. And there’s no better way to gain access to networking opportunities with your credit union colleagues than participation in the MCUL.
Our credit union has been a member of the MCUL and CUNA throughout its history. We haven’t always agreed with the leaders of these organizations on issues or solutions, but we have been and will remain supporters. It’s true that as our credit union and our in-house expertise have grown, we have less and less of a need for one-on-one support, information or advice from our state and national trade associations. However, I look at these two organizations as the glue that holds together our past, our present, and our future.
That future depends in large part on the strong legislative and regulatory advocacy provided by the MCUL and CUNA. It’s essential that we have an influential voice in Lansing and Washington, and no single credit union can match what our League and CUNA provide us in this respect.
Consider what this unity accomplishes for us: The fund-raising and support of credit union-friendly politicians… the organization of grassroots lobbying meetings to paint the American Bankers Association’s fiction with credit union facts…a cooperative advertising program organized to educate our members and consumers on credit union uniqueness and the advantages of credit union membership…and the constant communication and calls to action that keep credit unions of all sizes informed and ready to act in concert.
Certainly, the continuing attacks on credit unions by the banking industry demonstrate to me the value of unity and membership in the MCUL and CUNA, and the vital importance of strong and effective legislative advocacy.
As this year draws to a close, I encourage all Michigan credit unions to commit their support to membership and participation in the MCUL in 2006. Let’s join hands and present one united front of cooperation and common purpose, for the sake of our credit unions and the future of the credit union movement. Our members — and Michigan consumers — are counting on it!
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Randall Smith is President/CEO at TLC Community CU (HV).