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Michigan Credit Union League Home » Information Services » Publications » Contact » 2005 » 2nd Quarter » MCUL Year in Review 2004  

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm was a special guest speaker at the 2004 MCUL Annual Convention and Exposition May 20-22 in Detroit.

Few if any years can truly be described as “routine” or “uneventful,” particularly in the fast-moving and dynamic world of credit unions. At any rate, 2004 certainly featured its share of large-font headlines, memorable moments and major stories.

In the midst of the Michigan credit union movement’s changing scene, there continued to be one constant — the power of unity and cooperation. The critical importance of a strong and effective trade association was clearly evident, both at the state and national levels. Standing together, credit unions achieved notable successes and kept at bay numerous threats to the future of not-for-profit financial services.

Following one of its most significant legislative achievements in nearly two decades — the successful modernization of the Michigan Credit Union Act — the Michigan credit union movement found itself in 2004 engaged in another battle in an age-old war with the banking lobby over the credit union tax exemption. The challenge was met in stunning fashion, as 100 percent of Michigan’s diverse congressional delegation — liberals, conservatives, Republicans and Democrats alike — came down decisively on the side of credit unions.

This achievement was made possible by the effective grassroots lobbying of credit union people, skillfully aided and coordinated by the Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL). One particularly memorable effort involved the delivery of over-sized stuffed “ducks” to all 15 Michigan U.S. House members as a rejoinder to a specific banker attack on the credit union tax exemption. Bankers had utilized the cliché that if something “looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck” to claim that credit unions are no different than banks and should be taxed accordingly.

Michigan credit unions turned the attack around, dropping off super-sized toy ducks to members of Congress with some narrative noting that while “this may look like a duck, this ain’t no duck!” The message was clear: Credit unions may look like banks in some respects, but a credit union is no more a bank than a stuffed toy is a real duck. This novel legislative advocacy scored points in Washington, and put smiles on the faces of more than a few lawmakers and their staff members.

Nevertheless, the threat from the bankers still loomed as the year came to a close, and credit unions remained ready to defend themselves against the banking lobby’s unwarranted and disingenuous attacks.

In any contest pitting banks against credit unions, however, there can be little doubt that informed American consumers will come down on the side of financial cooperatives. In 2004, for the 20th consecutive year, credit unions again ranked significantly ahead of banks in member/customer satisfaction, according to the annual survey conducted by the American Banker. Of those polled who use credit unions as their primary financial institution, 73 percent said they are “very satisfied” with credit union service compared with just 58 percent for banks.

Strong and well-funded political action committees (PACs) are vital to successful legislative advocacy, and 2004 proved to be a record-breaking year for MCULLAF and MCULAF, the Michigan credit union movement’s federal and state PACs, respectively. An all-time record combined total of $365,492.65 was raised for MCULLAF/MCULAF, including $289,099.88 for our federal PAC, 193 percent of the 2004 goal of $150,000.

Both the MCUL and the NCUA experienced changes at the very top in 2004. In a ceremony held in May during the 2004 MCUL Annual Convention and Exposition, outgoing MCUL Chairman Robert Mackay passed the gavel to his newly elected successor, James Dahl, president/CEO at Communications Family CU (MM) in Saginaw. That same month, President Bush designated NCUA Vice Chairman JoAnn Johnson as the new NCUA chairman, succeeding Dennis Dollar as the highest-ranking appointee on the three-member NCUA Board.“Modernized and Energized” was the official theme of the 2004 MCUL Annual Convention & Exposition (AC&E), reflecting the recent success in modernizing the Michigan Credit Union Act. Held in downtown Detroit for the first time since 1995, the AC&E featured an impressive program of events and speakers, led by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.

The MCUL joined Michigan credit unions in 2004 to initiate plans for an ambitious statewide cooperative advertising campaign. Not only will this program enhance credit union growth, it will build critical awareness of credit unions and credit union uniqueness among Michigan consumers and lawmakers. The Credit Union Marketing Alliance (CUMA) and Cooperative Advertising Task Force selected the Bloomfield Hills-based BERLINE Advertising Agency to provide the creative material for the state’s credit union cooperative advertising program.

U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Birmingham, third from left, was all smiles as credit union constituents presented him with one of the humorous stuffed ducks at his office in Washington.

Michigan credit unions once again led the nation in efforts to combat financial illiteracy. According to the Credit Union Network National Youth Involvement Board, Michigan took first place in both the Number of Students Reached and Number of Classroom Presentations categories for the sixth consecutive year during the 2003-04 school year. The Michigan League was also recognized with the CUNA Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award for showing exemplary leadership within the national credit union movement on behalf of youth financial literacy.

Michigan credit unions and state lawmakers teamed up to provide youth financial literacy in April, sponsoring special classroom education sessions promoting financial skills and sound money management. Some 20 Michigan lawmakers answered the challenge of Financial Literacy Month in April and helped lead classroom presentations around the state. OFIR Commissioner Linda Watters led one session at St. Johns High School in St. Johns.

One unique expression of Michigan credit union support and involvement in youth financial literacy could be found in the Detroit suburb of Taylor, where Experiencia, Inc., opened a learning center in early 2004. The center features a mock community, “Exchange City,” that grade-school youngsters run and govern themselves, having fun while learning the elements of business, finance and municipal management. Thanks to the financial sponsorship of Michigan credit unions and the MCUL, the city features an “Exchange City Credit Union” rather than a bank.

The MCUL continued its tradition of innovation and leadership by being in the forefront of developing on-line education and training conferences, regulatory compliance information and news and publications. Issues and topics addressed in MCUL education programs in 2004 were varied and diverse, covering topics such as marketing, security, lending, business development, accounting, bankruptcy, fraud, technology, collections, IRAs, pricing, small credit union issues and regulatory compliance. The MCUL also continued to develop its ability to provide customized training uniquely targeted at the specific educational needs of individual credit unions.

Thanks to the sponsorship of Michigan credit unions and the MCUL, youngsters participating in the Experiencia “Exchange City” in Taylor learned about financial services at a credit union — not a bank.

The information sources provided by the League continued to be both timely and useful, provided through both conventional paper and electronic media. The MCUL Web site continued to undergo enhancements, including the launching of “Latest News,” a frequently updated feature on its homepage, which significantly enhanced the Web site’s utility and visitor traffic. Remarkably, for the 21st consecutive year, MCUL publications were honored for excellence in the annual CUNA Pro and Blockbuster Awards competition.The League continued to build and maintain the influence and respect Michigan credit unions enjoy among both state and federal regulators and ensured that the voice of its member credit unions played a key role in the development of regulatory rules and policies. MCUL consultants continued to maintain frequent contacts with member credit unions and provide a wide range of services, resources and assistance upon request.

Remarkably, in a year of continued achievements, successes and top-level service to member credit unions, the MCUL reduced its membership dues once again in 2004 while maintaining its capital base and proud status as the strongest and best-funded credit union trade association in the world.

In addition, as a result of strong investment returns in 2003 and 2004, the League was able to allocate significant funds for expansion of important services for credit unions. Examples included providing $150,000 for cooperative advertising campaign development, $100,000 for small credit union support, $100,000 for the development of an on-line learning product, $400,000 for the Credit Union Reactionary Fund, $100,000 for the National Action Response Program, and other funds for chapter support, support for the Michigan Credit Union Foundation and the Children’s Miracle Network.

One of the most controversial issues to surface in 2004 was the attempt by Lake Michigan CU (GR) in Grand Rapids to convert to a mutual saving bank charter. Acknowledging the right of members to run their credit union as they see fit, the MCUL took no position on the conversion issue, but did advocate full disclosure of all relevant information to the membership and strong laws and regulations to protect consumer interests and enhance the credit union charter. According to final balloting results, only 60 percent of the members of the credit union voted to approve a proposed conversion to a mutual savings bank, short of the two-third majority required by Michigan law.

It was a year of honors as well. The elite rolls of the Michigan Credit Union Hall of Fame saw the addition of two new members in 2004 — JoAnne Fillwock, president/CEO at Financial Health CU (LN) in Lansing, and Howard Spencer, chief elected official at Northland Area FCU (BO) in Oscoda. Yvonne Dorais, a volunteer at Marquette Catholic CU (UP) in Marquette, was awarded the 2004 Credit Union Community Volunteer Award by the Michigan Credit Union Foundation. U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Holland, and State Sen. Gerald Van Woerkom, R-Muskegon, were honored as the MCUL’s Federal and State Legislators of the Year, respectively.

In April, MCUL President/CEO David Adams was appointed by Gov. Granholm to her Council of Economic Advisors, an elite group of 50 business and community leaders whose task is to generate ideas for job creation and the expansion of the state’s economy.

As is sadly the case each and every year, mortality claimed its portion among credit union leaders and notables. Among those whom the credit union movement bid a final farewell to in 2004 were Geraldine J. (Geri) Romanauski (Feb. 19), Verden (Red) Greenwood (March 14), Walter C. Sanders (March 21), Neil Mahoney (March 26), Donald L. Bayan (May 17), Richard Y. (Dick) Giles (May 20), Duane (Duke) Maas (Aug. 29), George F. Beaudoin (Sept. 26), Robert Gallatin (Oct. 30) and Frank Fitzgerald (Dec. 10).

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