Thoughts for Thursday

Feedback from the field:

Reverse Robin Hood: Bank Purchases by credit unions

A response to my comments in a recent conference call: Your points that really resonated were lack of transparency and accountability inherent in the cooperative governance structure.  Also  the fact that the bank acquisitions are taking money from CU members to line the pockets of bank shareholders, truly a reverse Robin Hood situation.


“If My Words Can Convince One Credit Union”

I think CEOs just get tired. I think boards can get tired, too. And they think if our current CEO can’t make this place grow, who can? They see the simple solution is to merge out.

I am telling small credit unions that is a mistake; at least look for someone. I have had conversations with a number of CEOs who are retiring from small credit unions and they’re not even considering looking for somebody. They aren’t doing anything. They are not telling their boards to look for somebody. In fact, they’re telling the board the opposite—nobody can do this job at my pay.”

That type of thinking, and an unwillingness to “fight,” is hurting the movement.

“If my words can convince one credit union…if one credit union decides not to give up and says at least I will look for a replacement for the retiring CEO, I will feel good. I hope more small credit unions will follow what we are doing here.”  (source:  David Sawin, CEO, MN Catholic Credit Union, interview in  CU Today)


What’s Missing?

“I am starting to think that credit unions are a waste of my time.

. . . as best I am able to ascertain, CUs are essentially just nonprofit banks – institutions that exist first and foremost to keep their employees employed and to keep the regulators happy.  The trappings of cooperation – invocations of principles, mechanisms for elections of board members, etc. – are either ignored or treated as empty formalities.

The new CEO of the CU on whose supervisory committee I serve told me that members simply don’t give a damn about that stuff; they just want convenience.

From my perspective, if CUs are just going to do exactly what the local banks are do, then I might as well just move my accounts over to banks.   What am I missing? (name withheld by request)


 Response to They’re Coming with Bayonets

An uncomfortable change in the conversation (with regulators) will require incredible bravery.   I’ve been kicking around CU’s all my life.  My parents were members of a Teachers and a Manufacturing credit union.  I have been on Boards and now a CEO.

I have studied the history of the movement and the credo’s doled out as battle cries.  We were “choice”, we were “people helping people” – those goals were always color and socioeconomically blind as we emerged fighting against banking practices that were not–think redlining.

But we forgot one credo recently – “not for profit, not for charity, but for service.”  Since this credo does not make a singular virtue of  EQUITY, can we no longer espouse it?

The conversation change needs to be about DOI – Diversity, OPPORTUNITY, and Inclusion.  We were born out of opportunity and we are still built on it.  Will we be brave enough to say it?  We don’t need to be admonished with a new recitation.

We just need to remember our founding principles – which are both relevant and powerful.   (David. A. Jezewski,  President/CEO, CommStar Credit Union)


Dear readers do not despair.   Tomorrow, Friday the 13th, is good news.  I will tell the story of a credit union that believes in the power of cooperative design.





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