Songs Triumphant

Music has the power to capture, amplify and commemorate our highest emotions. Life’s most joyous moments are memorialized in song. Music uniquely expresses the feelings of jubilation after having won a victory or mastering a difficulty.

Many know this experience from the playing of school songs following a victorious sports contest. Marching band music honors parades of returning heroes. Even a song from a Broadway musical (Oh What a Beautiful Morning) can celebrate an important life event.

Celebrating a Political Exodus

When the British Empire was at its height, music was part of the national euphoria. One of my favorite examples of this victorious spirit is Handel’s oratorio, Israel In Egypt.

The oratorio is the story of the Hebrew’s flight from Egypt. The music paints multiple word pictures of the plagues and the drama of the fleeing slaves pursued by the Egyptian army.

The work is mostly for a double chorus with few solo arias. It is a joy to sing because of its musical exuberance embracing many emotional moods. And fast tempos.

The peak moment is the finale, “The Lord Shall Reign For Ever And Ever.” It reprises Miriam’s Song and the Song of the Sea. After the sea is parted and the Israelites are safe from the pursuing Egyptians, Moses and the children of Israel praise God for having saved them:

Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song unto to the Lord, and they said: I will sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed, O triumphed; horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea . . . 

For an expression of sheer exuberance, listen and watch this six-minute excerpt. Even the musicians are dancing! (

The Top 100 Coops at Year-end 2019

For 30 years, the National Cooperative Bank (NCB) has published the annual NCB Co-op 100, America’s top 100 Cooperatives by total revenue. In 2019, these member-owned and controlled businesses had total revenues of $228 billion.

Who is on the list?

Five credit unions are in the top 100. Navy is #7; State Employees (NC) #22; PenFed #30; BECU #57; and SchoolsFirst #78.

There are several well known consumer brand names of firms such as SunKist Growers, Land O’Lakes, Ocean Spray, Welch Foods and ACE hardware. In addition to finance, larger co-ops also serve the farming, energy, health care, grocery and hardware sectors.

The total assets of these leaders are $733 billion.

The compiler of the list, NCB, was created to address the financial needs of an underserved market niche: people who join together cooperatively to meet personal, social or business needs especially in low income communities. Chartered by Congress in 1978, NCB was privatized in 1981. Owned by its more than 3,100 customer-owners, it has $7.9 billion in assets under management. As part of its enabling legislation, NCB was tasked with ensuring that 35% of the capital it deploys will benefit low income communities.

A Credit Union Opportunity?

The question for the $1.7 trillion cooperative credit union community’s 5,200 institutions: What are we doing to enhance cooperative solutions for the American economy beyond consumer finance?

Democracy and Voting in Credit Unions: Does it Mean Anything?

In an election late last year 157,655 members were asked whether they should merger their eight-decade old, successful, super performing community charter with over $2.1 billion in assets.

Here are the voting results certified to the NCUA:

  • 7,331 or 4.65% of members voted
  • 6,658 or 4.4% voted in favor
  • 473 or .3% voted against the merger

150,324 or 95.35% of members did not vote on the future of their credit union.

Of those voting only two did so in person, the rest by mailed ballot.

Is This What Cooperative Democracy Should Be?

Is this “democratic” when only 4.6% of the share owners vote?

Were members even aware of what was happening to their credit union?

How could such low participation occur on such a consequential issue?

Most important, is this perfunctory, minimalist process right for members? Their community? The credit union system? And cooperatives’ role in America’s economy?

Does Your Vote or Even Voting Matter?

We are all living in an election season where everyone is being urged to vote. Court battles are being waged over time limits on early voting, number of drop boxes, how long after November 3rd ballots can be counted, and numerous other election processes.

Every media outlet is tracking not just candidate debates and policy positions, but the voting activity itself. Will the outcome be seen as fair? Are votes being suppressed by changing rules?

Voting matters. We all get this. In a democracy public acceptance of the outcome depends on the perceived legitimacy of an election. For every level of government. Or any other election determined event.

While people will have different interpretations of the numbers from Schools Financial’s member vote to merge with SchoolsFirst, I think we would agree on one observation: This is not what a democratically labeled outcome should look like.

The Next Step: One Study on How the Pandemic is Changing Organizational Priorities

A colleague sent me this report from the IBM Institute of Business: “COVID-19 and Future Trending Insights”

It summaries five ‘epiphanies’ from multiple surveys of leading executives.

“Our research suggests five key discoveries for the post-pandemic business landscape offering new perspectives on digital transformation, the future of work, transparency, and sustainability. Together, they provide a playbook for proactive leaders who understand that old ways of working are gone.”

My take away for credit unions

The fourth epiphany is the one that could be most relevant to coops.

“Epiphany 4: Some will win. Some will lose. But few will do it alone.”

The conclusion on page 6 reads:

“Within sectors, expectations are growing that broader reach will help define winners. Our data also point to greater reliance on platform business models and partner networks, with 70 percent of executives planning significant partnering activity inside their industry and 57 percent looking outside. Either way, they expect such participation to grow more than 300 percent over the next two years compared to two years ago.”

The graph illustrating this executive intent is headed as follows:

Businesses are partnering up

Executives say they plan to participate in platforms, ecosystems and partner networks significantly more in the future than before or during COVID-19.”

The strategic question for credit unions: Who are the “partner networks” that are critical to your future?

One CEO phrases the challenge this way: “As we face the future, you cannot make the mistake of dreaming about going it alone as the next step. The next step is always best served by your faith to go at the edge through collaboration.”

The Power of Data

Our Covid pandemic has generated a number of comments about how serious this is versus the seasonal return of flu.

As America’s pandemic deaths exceed 225,000, hopefully the chart below puts our current challenge in the proper perspective;

Also, make sure you get this year’s flu shot! We already have a vaccine for this virus.