Practicing Faith at Christmas

Two days ago (January 15), the Orthodox Christian Church celebrated Christmas.

In the early hours of that same day, Russia launched ballistic missiles on Ukraine.  One strike hit an apartment complex in Dnipro killing over 40 civilian residents.

Some 12 hours later that Sunday afternoon, the Kiev Symphony Orchestra Chorus offered their annual Christmas concert, in a live broadcast on YouTube.

The program included dozens of familiar chorales but in very different musical arrangements.  Some had jazz rhythms; many had an almost martial beat with drums and other instruments asserting a very determined pace.

The church is full, fresh greens and wreaths are on the pillars, a snow covered house decorates the front of the stage. The audience all wear coats.  The 60 plus person choir appears young: mostly in their 30’s and 40’s. Men are in tuxes with red bow ties and women in beautiful holiday dresses.

The concert is sung in both Ukrainian and English with an Ukrainian narrator.  There are bell choir arrangements. It lasts one hour and 19 minutes.

You may want to scroll over to the 1:08 time in the program for the Chorus’ finale.  You will recognize this familiar excerpt from Handel.  The words are Ukrainian.  Their spirit will lift yours on this sacred day of celebration and human tragedy.

Courage, worship and hope in wartime.


Note: The KSOC was founded almost three decades ago by Music Mission Kiev following Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union.

A Prayer, an Observation and Toccata for This Holiday

A Prayer by Martin Luther King (1953)

“Grant us Visions That Shall Lift Us”

O God our eternal Father, we praise thee for gifts of mind with which thou hast endowed us. We are able to rise out of the half-realities of the sense world to a world of ideal beauty and eternal truth. Teach us, we pray Thee, how to use the great gifts of reason and imagination so that it shall not be a curse but a blessing. Grant us visions that shall lift us from worldliness and sin into the light of thine own holy presence. Through Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen.  

From his final speech: A Word for Today

On April 3, 1968 King told the audience that, if God had let him choose any era in which to live, he would have chosen the present. “Now, that’s a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around…. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.”

All Of God’s Children….

“Now is the time to make real the promises
 of democracy.”

“Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”
          – Martin Luther King, Jr.

(from Jim Blaine)

Approximately five minutes.   An enjoyable arrangement of a familiar tune.

“So Much Happiness”

I received this poem  as a thank you for a donation.  Good way to begin your day.

If you need a real laugh to get going today, scroll to end and watch this climactic scene from an opera.

Not sure it was scripted this way.

Naomi Shihab Nye
It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records . . .Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.

Overcoming the Financial Legacies of ZIRP and TINA in 2023

From March 2020 until two years later when the Fed began its rate increases, overnight rates were near zero.  For these years and the decade prior, monetary goals were dominated by ZIRP, or zero interest rate policy.  Federal reserve actions were characterized by “easy money” to encourage growth almost at all costs.

TINA was the real world consequence of an ever expanding money supply seeking higher returns.  There is No Alternative led to speculation in every market sector from crypto and all of its virtual spinoffs, the stock market with historically high valuations (price/ earnings  ratios) and in most other forms of investing such as residential and commercial real  estate.

With near zero cost of funds and asset appreciation occurring in every category, how could an investment not pay off?  Holding cash or buying short term bonds was for fools when higher returns were possible from virtually any other  investment.

Now the bubbles are starting to burst as the Federal Reserve continues its interest rate hikes and as these flow through to longer term yields.

The combination of ZIRP and TINA meant that valuations in stock markets, or new ventures , as well as traditional collateral based lending on real estate or commercial  buildings became separated from actual earnings or cash flow analysis.  Money managers were drawn to these alternatives assured by the decade long monetary easing culminating in ZIRP.

Entrepreneurs, startups and even established firms made decisions not based on actual business performance but future projections. These choices were based of valuations underwritten with assumptions of low cost of funding.

Impact on Credit Unions

In 2020 and 2021 credit union shares  grew by double digits. Consumers were flush with cash from multiple government stimulus spending packages.   They used these new funds to pay down traditional borrowings.

With only a 5-10 basis points return on short term funds, credit unions looked for alternatives.  They extended investments out the yield curve, sought higher yields from longer loan maturities, commercial participations, or other forms of indirect lending pools and even new CUSO investments.

In 2023 credit unions will navigate the 1-2 year adjustment process to correct these prior decisions. With patience and prudent balance sheet management most will transition to this new rate era and recover unrealized market losses.

This rebalancing may entail paying below market dividends on core shares until asset returns adjust to higher yields.    If the institution has a strong service culture and earned  loyalty, this reliance on member’s patience should  be successful.

However there were other investments by credit unions where the process becomes more complicated.  The two areas most vulnerable to ZIRP/TINA overvaluations are whole bank purchases and mergers. Or any other transaction which resulted in the creation of significant accounting goodwill.

The Bank Purchase Challenge

Most credit union bank purchases, where information is public, have been at multiples of 1.5X to 2X book value.   For publicly traded banks, these credit union offers were often much in excess of the most recently quoted stock price.

Total cash paid to bank shareholders depends on the size of the acquisition.  But these outlays are large involving tens to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Credit unions book the difference between the cash paid and the net value of the assets as goodwill.  This is an intangible asset.  It is non-earning.   These valuations are based on forecasts about cost of funds, the credit union tax exemption and any market synergies that may be achieved.

Most sizeable bank purchases will take 3-5 years to determine if the price paid will result in an accretion to ROA or perhaps reduce the prepurchase financial performance.  Operational and market integrations alone will take several years.   For purchases made in the ZIRP environment, these forecasts will have to be rerun.   Is the goodwill premium “real” or was it miscalculated?

Similarly in mergers combined with purchase value accounting, a goodwill gain for amounts greater than book value may be added to “equity acquired in merger.”   But is that goodwill actually long term or just a momentary valuation bubble caused by the low interest rates paid on deposits versus market yields?

If the goodwill recorded is unrealistic for any reason, then the valuation write downs  come out of current  earnings.  In this case, members pay twice:  once by sending  out cash to bank shareholders and again for expensing the decline in goodwill from current income.

Looking at Case Studies

In future blogs I will examine several whole bank purchases looking at the credit union’s performance before and after, and by benchmarking with peers.

I am inclined to prefer cooperative strategy which prioritizes organic growth through continuous innovation and consistent market focus for member benefit.  Engineering growth through acquisitions is a very different financial and operational skill.

In the capital markets these transactions are most often done with “play money,” that is the stock of acquiring companies, not actual outlays of cash.  The market’s judgment via the stock price of  post-acquisition performance is constant and public.

There is no such accountability in similar credit union purchases.   CEO’s and boards  leave and their successors must then  prove that these “investments” with a long tail were wise.

Ultimately it is not the valuation at the time of purchase that reflects opportunity; rather it is the ability to convert externally acquired assets for real member benefit.

2023 will entail assessment of investments driven by ZIRP, TINA and consultant’s fees to see if they really enhance the cooperative difference. That reckoning could be more critical and harder than traditional cooperative balance sheet transformations.


2023: Credit Union’s Opportunity to Reconnect with their Most “Essential” Members

When the economy shut down in March of 2020 due to Covid, many office workers went home.  Hybrid and remote work options were developed.  However essential workers stayed on the job:  the trash haulers, public transportation, police, fire, hospital, construction  workers.  These blue collar and middle class service workers make community life possible for the rest of us.

Today the key economic question is will there be a recession?  For hundreds of thousands of white collar workers in the technology, finance and venture capital startups the layoffs are here.

Goldman Sachs, Pepsi, Gannet, CNN, Door Dash, Carvana, Roku, Amazon and dozens of other previously industry high flyers are in the first rounds of layoffs.

The dominance of the four FANG (Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google) and their stock market performance has fallen back to the mean of the rest of the market over the past five years.

The bankruptcies of the crypto, NFT industry and its offshoots have cost investors over $2 trillion in losses with more to come.

However in almost every other part of the economy, especially the service sectors, there are millions of unfilled jobs.  Wages are rising from both employer demand and more aggressive employee actions.

The Well Off and Essential Labor

America’s experience with capitalism has often been characterized as a society where the successful, the wealthy, the better educated have dominated their poorer classes.  Here is an excerpt from a Heather Cox Richardson description of why Lincoln strongly supported universal education:

But when they organized in the 1850s to push back against the efforts of elite enslavers like Hammond to take over the national government, members of the fledgling Republican Party recognized the importance of education. In 1859, Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln explained that those who adhered to the “mud-sill” theory “assumed that labor and education are incompatible; and any practical combination of them impossible…. According to that theory, the education of laborers, is not only useless, but pernicious, and dangerous.”

Lincoln argued that workers were not simply drudges but rather were the heart of the economy. “The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land, for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him.” He tied the political vision of the Framers to this economic vision. In order to prosper, he argued, men needed “book-learning,” and he called for universal education.  

Congress passed the Morrill Land Grant College Act in 1862 to focus on the teaching of practical agriculture, science, military science, and engineering—although “without excluding other scientific and classical studies”—as a response to the industrial revolution and changing social class.

The Question Today: Do Rich People Know?

Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera Amahl and the Night visitors tells of the night the Three Kings, following the star to Bethlehem, stop for shelter at the home of Amahl, a poor, crippled shepherd boy who lives with his widowed mother.  The opera was first performed in 1951 and regularly at Christmas since.

The climactic scene occurs as the three kings sleep. The mother consider if she dare take a piece  of gold from  the king’s treasure chest. She debates the rightness of her action:

MOTHER (thinking to herself) All that gold! All that gold! I wonder if rich people know what to do with their gold? Do they know how a child could be fed? Do rich people know? Do they know that a house can be kept warm all day with burning logs? Do rich people know? Do they know how to roast sweet corn on the fire? Do they know do they know how to fill a courtyard with doves? Do they know… do they know? Do they know how to milk a clover fed goat? Do they know? Do they know how to spice hot wine on cold winter nights? Do they know… do they know? All that gold… all that gold! Oh what I could do for my child with that gold! Why should it all go to a child they don’t even know? They are asleep. Do I dare? If I take some, they’ll never miss it… (moving towards the boxes of gold…) …for my child for my child… for my child… for my child…

2023: the Year of the “Essential Member”

Credit union’s purpose was to address those in society who have the least or know he least when seeking financial services, especially credit.

The cooperative model proved that consumers are indeed a market that all financial institutions can profitably serve.  Today financing options for consumers are available for those with no or damaged credit to the elite credit cards made of titanium, not mere plastic, for the most well off.

Since deregulation the credit union system has grown, attracted tens of millions of new members and provided ever expanding institutional and professional opportunities for coop leaders.

Some coop executives see their opportunities in buying banks or scooping up their smaller brethren.  Senior executive coop compensation routinely rewards in the mid six figures.  For the best well-paid leaders, annual compensation comes with two commas.

The challenge for coop leaders will be the question asked by the widow in Amahl:  I wonder if rich people know what to do with their gold?

Have leaders so aspired to emulate their banking counterparts that the essential members whose loyalty created the institutions they lead has been forgotten?

Yes, the white collar tech, financial and previously high flying company employees now being brought back to earth by rising interest rates, will need our help as well.

But let’s never forget those who brought us to where we are today-a $2.3 trillion tax exempt financial force with a special role in society.  This institutional success has enabled many coop managers and boards to become members of the white collar class.

Do they know that America’s essential workforce may indeed be the greatest opportunity for credit unions in this pivotal year of economic and market realignments.



Are Members Losing the Cooperative “Savings” Game?

While the 2022 calendar has turned, we do not yet know the full results for the credit union system.  And how member returns may have ended up.

The number one economic topic in 2022 was inflation.  In response the Fed raised short term rates from 0-.25& to 4.25-4.50% in seven steps.   The rest of the yield curve rose although not  always in a parallel fashion. In some time periods,  the yield curve has inverted meaning short term returns exceed longer maturities.

Credit unions fund on the short end of the curve. Liquidity was, and still is, a top credit union priority.   At September 30, annual loan growth was 19.4% versus share growth of  just  6.5%.  Unrealized investment losses had grown to $40 billion, Total investments had fallen by over $100 billion.  FHLB borrowings were double the amount versus a year earlier.

So how did credit union member owners fare overall in this rising rate environment?  For the entire industry the year-to-date results through September show loan yields have risen, cost of funds has fallen by 2 basis points, and the net interest margin has increased by almost 20 basis points.  Rising loan demand was the primary reason for this margin increase.

The Top 100 Report a $51 Million  Decline in Dividends Paid

A commonly accepted truism in credit unions is that the larger the credit union, the greater the possible member value.

In 2022 Vanguard’s federal money market fund had a total return 1.55% rising from .01% in Q 1 to a 3.99% distribution at December 31, 2022.   These savers returns rose as did market rates.

For members of the top 100 credit unions there was a very different outcome.  In 63 of the largest credit unions the total dividend dollars fell by an average of 12%.  The total decline was $241.7 million versus the amount paid in the first three quarters of 2021.  For some the fall in rate was precipitous.  One credit union reduced total dividends by 46.3%; three credit unions reduced their dividends by over 30% versus the year earlier.

In contrast, thirty seven of the top 100 reported an average 21.7% increase in paid dividends.  One caveat: approximately seven of these increases were due to mergers or bank purchases which increased total shares by this externally acquired growth.  Their dividend payments may not be an apples-to-apples comparison.   However, ten credit unions in this group, all with only organic growth, reported over 20% increases in dividend payments.

When adding up the total dividends paid by the 100 largest credit unions through September, the combined result is a $51.2 million decline in member income on their savings.

The proviso:   The game is still has one quarter to go.  Some credit unions pay significant yearend bonus dividends and /or interest rebates.  These will need to be added in the final quarter.  With full year data we can also estimate the average dividend rates to compare with  alternatives during the year.

The Existential Question for Credit Unions

In the first three quarters of 2022, members are paying more for loans, credit unions are earning higher investment returns, salaries and benefits continue to grow, and total capital has  increased. However, many members are seeing a reduction in the dollars paid on their savings.

I will revisit these top 100 to see the full game’s results at December 31.  Did member-owners win or lose in this rising rate environment? Which credit unions navigated this rate transition most effectively for their savers? How did they do it?

Will members continue to “subsidize” the largest coops, many with increasingly public visibility, by accepting falling returns on savings? One money market fund today pays 4.25% (seven day SEC yield) with an expense ratio of only .10 basis points.  Will large shareholders start to move funds from their lower paying credit union money market products?

CEO’s frequently assert that member loyalty lasts for only 25 basis points.  The US economy has had historically low rates since 2009.  Lower inflation and the Fed’s “quantitative easing” have led to an unusual financial period where the cost of money was at or near zero.  Can credit unions avoid the “bubbles” created by this historically rare very low-rate environment?

Will CEO’s adjust their business models so that member savers can be winners in 2023?   So far the data show there is a significant gap  for coop owners to receive the results they will increasingly expect versus other options.

In 2023 will the largest 100 turn into leaders, or the majority continue as laggards in savings returns?

If many of these largest firms cannot remain competitive for savers, is the cooperative financial model at risk?

Or do these falling returns, just reflect management slowness in responding to the changed interest rate situation?



A College Student’s First Credit Card

By Marit Hoyem

I am a junior at Williams College with a concentrations in communications and volleyball. Last summer I was an intern at Callahan & Associates, the credit union company.  One assignment was writing articles about the financial habits of my generation. Their needs, how they get information, and how credit unions can attract Gen Z by helping them be more confident about their finances, especially using credit.

My reporting  last summer taught me a lot. But then, I became a case study.

The Need for Credit

My search for a credit card began two weeks ago when I arrived home from college for Winter Break. I am spending the next semester abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland.  This change of location means that I won’t have a meal plan and other college expenses included automatically in the tuition payment.

To support this new far-from-home experience, I needed a credit card to transact easily in the local economy.  I wanted to start building my credit before I left the U.S.  to learn what living outside the Williams college prepaid “financial bubble” would require.

Looking for Options

First  I talked to my Mom and sister.  Both have several credit cards. We are all members of the same credit union. They encouraged me to look at our credit union as well as seek other options. What kind of benefits did banks target for college students?

I started researching online looking for the best rated credit cards for students, credit cards for people with no credit, and credit cards without foreign fees. The options were overwhelming.

When I decided to try an option, the application was pretty intimidating.  I didn’t have much of a job history other than summer internships and part-time campus work, and no outstanding credit.  I also felt uneasy getting a card from a bank or fintech with which I had no first-hand experience. How would they know I was reliable? Was there a catch in their offer?

I decided to ask for a card from my credit union where I had been a member since high school.

An option on my credit union’s website met my criteria:  no foreign transaction fees, no annual fee, and a high enough credit limit.  I set up an appointment with someone in the lending department where I could present my case. I believed that explaining my income, my semester abroad, and the need for the card now would be more effective in person.

The credit union offered a secured card backed with my savings deposit. I had to show my last “part-time” pay stub from school, which the loan officer used to determine my limit — needless to say it was not very high.

During my online searches, I found a card through Deserve and American Express. The program  is meant to help students build credit. What stood out is that Deserve has multiple cards designed for specific activities such as entertainment, women-owned business, or student loans.  The application online asked similar questions to my credit union, which made the process familiar. Within a week I heard back approved — with a much higher card limit than my credit union’s offer, and not limited by my monthly income.  The card should arrive  shortly.

Seeking Credit the First Time

This experience showed the benefit of getting a credit card at a young age. Seeking credit for the first time can be super intimidating.  However the sooner I start building credit and pay bills monthly,  the more comfortable I will be will using credit when necessary.

As a credit union member, it was easy to go in person and be approved because we knew each other. But that isn’t possible for many students who do not go home or have no credit union  nearby.

Most of my peers are likely to pursue their first card online.  To gain their business,  the institution  should  be able to walk with the novice student borrower through the process.





A Caring Act and a Poem Decades Later

This poem is a story.  A moment when the author was a young boy on an army base and his father deployed.  A life changing event in  160 words.

Someone cared; the boy responded then with his only coin; and decades later, in this poetic remembrance.

Gratitude nurtured with a single act of kindness.

I add the author’s explanation at the end.

To the Young Second Lieutenant Standing Behind Me in Line  by Rob Greene

(at the Keesler AFB Post Exchange in 1987 (Biloxi, Mississippi)

No one looked after me or my brother back then, no CPS,
no Social Workers, the SP’s couldn’t be trusted,
the off-base cops even worse.

When the P-EX mini-mart clerk told me
I wasn’t supposed to be there
and had to leave my Pork & Beans

and bread on the counter, you caught up to me in the parking lot,
my items in your tote bag.
I got caught stealing a sleeved stick of butter

the week prior, but today had returned
with the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin I found in the gutter. All I had was that and my pocketknife for opening cans and gutting fish,

the reason my privileges were revoked.
I wish I had answered your questions—What’s going on?
Why can’t you shop here? Where are your parents?

before darting off into the night with the can and bread,
dropping the piece of money at your feet.

Greene explains how this poem came to be:

“This memory from 1987 came back to me in 2020 and I had to process it, so I made this poem. The female second lieutenant represents all those who tried to help me and my brother Chris at that time. I am especially grateful to the Santiagos on Keesler Air Force Base who first spoke to our father, who had just returned from a year-long assignment in Belgium so he could find us kids, who were living in squalid conditions on the streets of Biloxi for one long year.”


Unions in Credit Unions

Labor unions have traditionally been seen as part of America’s older manufacturing  plants or where there are high concentrations of workers.  Autos, heavy equipment, steel, telecommunications, and transportation are industries where unions have been an key aspect of the workforce since WW II.

Gradually union efforts expanded to teachers, fire and police, and at the local state and national levels for public employees.   NCUA staff was unionized in  2013 under Chairman Matz.

Organizing has extended to NFL, baseball and virtually all player’s associations in professional sports. Graduate student staff at California’s state university system went on strike last fall.

The last two years have seen increasing efforts by employees to from unions, especially in the retail sectors.  The warehouse organizing at Amazon and Starbuck store-by-store votes, have been regular business news in 2022.

Hybrid work options and prospects of increased layoffs have led to organizing efforts in the heretofore non-unionized tech industry, including a small part of Microsoft’s empire.

Local circumstances as well as macro-economic factors have driven this effort.  Inflation has caused employees to be more aggressive in seeking higher wages.

There are more job openings than people job hunting. Yesterday’s monthly JOLT (job openings and labor turnover report)  showed 10.5 million openings, a level that has remained steady for more than a year.

Unions and Retail Services

One author has suggested that Starbuck’s unionization has been motivated by employee response to the firm’s modified corporate strategy.

This corporate transformation was necessitated by Covid driven changes in consumer commuting patterns and work place locations. Starbucks had positioned itself as the “third place” between home and office for people to gather.

Today the business model relies on transaction volume driven partly by a mobile app and instant pickup with fewer employees to keep costs down.

He describes the impact of this strategy shift in The Future of Retail is Happening at Starbucks Right Now. 

“The number of store employees has dropped dramatically.  Starbucks had 349,000 employees in 2020, which includes the period pre-pandemic, and 138,000 in 2021, but coffee is still flowing.

“Like any retailer, Starbucks needs people to do some work. Perhaps there are steps of the customer experience that could be replaced with software, but not all of it. If Starbucks is going to be successful with a reduced staff, it needs employees who know the stores, their customers, and operations.

“This is why many stores are fighting to unionize. Employees are demanding livable wages, dependable hours, and benefits. And it’s not like Starbucks is hurting. Store count and profits are up, while the company-wide payroll has fewer people. Yet the employees who still show up are struggling to get hours and benefits.”

A Top Ten Item

A Credit Union Times article by Henry Meier former General Counsel of the New York Credit Union Association, listed union organizing as one of the top ten trends to watch in 2023:

From Amazon to Starbucks, last year marked a movement toward unionization: Why would credit unions be exempt from this trend? This means that someone in your credit union should be familiar with the steps you can and should take in the event that your senior management receives notice of intent to form a union. This is an area of the law where a single misguided statement can result in loads of trouble.

This law firm’s new advertorial cited two cases of union organizing in a bank and coop in 2021: Big Labor Targets Banks and Credit Unions.

They point out these successes were in “union friendly” states at a time when there is more active NLRB support for organizing,

Credit Unions and Unions

A number of credit unions have had employee labor unions, some their entire existence.  717 Credit Union in Ohio was formed by a GM labor union.  Teachers,  police and fire credit unions in several states were formed by their professional associations.

Once in a while employees have ended their union affiliation. When a new relationship focused CEO came to State Employees in Michigan,  the employees disaffiliated some 15 years ago.

Both external economic conditions  and institutional strategy change–major mergers and bank purchases–are causing credit union employees to consider how to negotiate their future work opportunities in significantly altered environments.

In October employees at a Broadview FCU branch in Albany, NY announced their intent to form a union.  This occurred just months after the former State Employees FCU and Cap Comm CU had merged.

In the Times Union article,  the employees invoked both credit union design as well as traditional work concerns in these excerpts:

Credit unions are a form of economic democracy where every member has equal ownership and one vote. We have concluded that a labor union is necessary in order to provide Broadview members — our financial institution’s owners — with high quality banking services,” reads the letter. “We are organizing due to inadequate pay and benefits, constantly changing schedules, understaffing which overwhelms us, and a lack of equality and a voice in our workplace.”

The article continues:

“The union letter was from member service associates and relationship bankers at SEFCU’s Park South branch on New Scotland Avenue in Albany. It wasn’t clear if the organizers, calling themselves, the Broadview Labor Organizing Committee, were affiliated with or had reached out to other regional or national unions.

Credit Unions, Culture and Employee Unions

Many credit unions compete through superior personal service.  Employees are front and center of this effort.  Management constantly  nurtures this advantage through training and transparency.

If changes are undertaken and employees learn about their  new  priorities only as senior management announces them, a loss of agency can occur.   Why weren’t we asked?  How will this bank purchase affect our staffing?  What will happen to all the co-employee positions in a combinaton of sound, previously independent credit unions?

Unions and credit unions may increasingly go together.  After all, aren’t coops basically a member-organized union?

The best way to follow what  credit union employees are thinking is fully and regularly sharing  what management is thinking.





Grace Notes

In music a grace note is a quick, optional note that the musician can play or sing, to add more color to the line.

While not essential to the harmony of the piece, it adds an unexpected ornamentation. And brief moment of beauty.

Grace notes occur in all areas of life.  Yesterday’s 65 degree temperature in the middle of winter, is a  grace note from nature.

An Employee’s Grace Note

At some point, all of us have seen or experienced  unexpected examples of pure kindness.

From the CEO’s Monthly staff update: “Weokie Credit Union partners with the Community Impact Fund to help members in need over the holidays.  It raised over $1,700 and adopted 14 families representing 33 individuals this season. Team members were asked to contribute and/or nominate an employee they wanted to assist.

All the recipients are anonymous, but the CIF received some messages from those  we were able to help.”

From his memo, this response struck me as an especially gracious one by an employee surprised by this unexpected gift:

This is so sweet!! I was not expecting this at all! I’m assuming someone nominated me? I’m not sure. I’m happy to let the other people who were nominated get a little extra if you would rather give it to them!

If you do want to send me the gift, just know I will use it to bless other families! Thank you for all you are doing to make the world a better place! We need more people like you!

We do indeed need more people like this person who believes it is more blessed to give than to receive.  A grace note of gentleness and kindliness.