Fiscal Spending, Quantitative Easing and Inflation

In April 2014, Jim Blaine discussed the Fed’s policy of pouring money into the economy and the prospect of inflation.  His analysis seems relevant even more in today’s stimulus driven economy.

Chart This !!

Spent several days last week at an economics conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.  They hold it out in the north Georgia woods – a good distance from reality – which seemed appropriate.

There were a lot of really “scary smart” people at the conference including an economics Nobel laureate, several highly distinguished academics, global bank economists from the U.S., China, Spain, Japan, Chile, Italy, etc. and the leading economic theorists from government agencies such as the Fed, the FDIC, the U.S. Treasury, and the SEC.  You get the picture – the best and the brightest in quantitative economics. No one from NCUA was registered…

Never been bothered much about not being “the smartest person at the table”(that’s just the way life is); but it’s a bit unnerving when you have to honestly admit that you’re unquestionably and repeatedly “the dumbest person at the table”(it was that kind of group!).  Practiced being quiet a lot and trying to feign invisibility when the Q&A started soaring well above my head.

The Bernanke Solution !

What I found most intriguing was the open, heated debate among these very bright folks over the merits of the recent practice of “quantitative easing” by the Fed. Literally trillions of dollars have been injected into the banking system in an attempt to revive the U.S. economy.  Former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke colorfully labelled quantitative easing as the practice of “dumping helicopter loads of cash” on to communities all across America.

Much of the debate centered around the future economic consequences of reabsorbing this excess monetary stimulus as the economy gains strength.  It was somehow both reassuring and refreshing to hear the best and brightest profess profound doubt and concern over being in these uncharted economic waters – with highly arguable and uncertain outcomes. All in decided contrast to the “inerrant robusterians” at the NCUA, who remain resolutely and insanely certain, about the unfailing wisdom of their myopia.

To read his observation about how the Fed was using its monetary stimulus and his “image token” from the meeting click here.

Doing Our Job in a Time of Tragedy-Credit Union’s Role after September 11th

In September 2001 Ed Callahan was entering his 14th year as CEO at Patelco Credit Union.  He continued to write a monthly column for the Callahan Report.  In the issue right after the 9/11 attacks he assessed their impact and the role  credit unions were now called to play.

He opens by acknowledging the pervasive feelings of fear and vulnerability.  He follows with the need to stay open to keep the economy functioning and provide assurance and forestall panic.

And finally he urges cooperatives to be “out in front”with expanded efforts for service.  A leader’s thought  about Doing Our Job, meaningful then, 20 years later, and in any future crises.

Here is the full article:

September 11 was a profound shock, and caused a deep wound from which we as a nation can never completely recover. In some respects it was the darkest day in our history. When the two towers fell, so did the illusion that the United States of America was protected by its two oceans.

We never thought something like this could happen, and yet it did. And I am sure on that awful morning everyone thought: “If this can happen, what else — and worse — could follow?”

When you have that sort of question on the minds of millions, panic can be just around the corner. Panic arises from fear of the future, and that kind of fear can likely be far more destructive than what kindled it. Franklin Roosevelt was right in 1933when he said: “Fear is the greatest enemy of all, because it destroys everything it touches.”

Staying Open

This is why it was so important for credit unions — indeed all financial institutions — to remain open on September 11 . . . and the 12th and 13th and subsequent days.

This is not meant to be a macho statement. I firmly believe it.

Firefighters and other emergency workers were on the front lines. That was their job. But financial service workers had their job too. They had to demonstrate that the financial system of the country was still functioning, that people’s money was safe and available. This was not the life-threatening work of the emergency workers, but it was absolutely essential nonetheless. It kept the lid on fear; it quashed panic. Just imagine those days if all financial institutions had shut their doors and turned out their lights.

Service: We have to mean it

When President Bush addressed the nation on the night of September 11, the first thing he said after stating that the country’s government was operational was that its financial system was functioning. These were not idle thoughts on his part — they were carefully included to dispel any notion that people’s money was not safe or accessible.

People at my credit union and undoubtedly thousands more wanted to be with their families on that terrible and unsettling day — who knew what else might be in store for us, or where? I sympathized. I felt a keen need to be with my family also. We allowed anyone to go home who felt strongly they should do so.

But others remained and kept the doors open that day, and the days following. This was important on two levels. One was symbolic, of course — we would show a face of continuity, and we would not take an action that might lead others to succumb to fears about their savings.

The other was functional — we really were there to carry out transactions, provide cash or whatever else people wanted. Credit union employees are service workers, not isolated business units, and they have to provide a service in good times and disturbing times. They often have to provide that service to settle the waters, because if they do not the waters will roil. Thus, we need to be grateful to everyone who worked that day and that week and to express our gratitude in both words and acts.

Cooperatives to the Front

All this said, we can be more helpful. People everywhere have been asking, “What can we do?” Credit unions can step up to the plate. They can be the conduits to relief efforts. They can encourage their employees to contribute to the United Way and other worthy relief organizations that are sending food, medicine, supplies and financial resources to emergency workers and victims’ families. They can research and post for their members those relief agencies most effective in delivering aid to the greatest needs.

People faced with this horrible attack want to help heal and rebuild — it is the essence of cooperation. Let America’s cooperatives show what they are made of. Together we can bind the wounds, relieve the widow, raise the orphan, and reconstruct both our confidence and our damaged buildings. We owe that to our forebearers who built this country and to our children who will inherit it.

One month later in Doing Our Job in a Time of Tragedy-Part II, Ed described Patelco’s  enhanced efforts to serve members.  The plan used Internet delivery and was called eAccess Freedom Trail.   His second column and the project summary  can can be accessed here.

September 11th at Callahans and the Marriott WTC Hotel, New York

We are all heirs of September 11, 2001.  Some from experiences close up and personal.  Others as horrified observers, unable to look away from the TV coverage.  And for more, it is an event in history known primarily  through broadcasts like those aired this past weekend.

That September day is now part of America’s story.  The heroic parts about fully loaded firemen walking up 80 stories to open jammed doors to let occupants walk down while they, duty-bound, rose to ever higher floors and  their destiny.

We recall the shared emotions-fear, vulnerability, anger, confusion and the desire for retribution.

And we follow still the unfolding domestic and international political decisions that continue to be analyzed and interpreted two decades later.

The posts today and tomorrow are about that day. First two personal accounts and tomorrow a response at that time by a credit union leader.

Everyone has a story.   They connect and sustain us.  They help to make us who we are. That is why we remember.

A Personal Story

On Tuesday 9/11, I was in our office overlooking Farragut Park in the center of DC, three blocks from the White House.  September would normally be a peak month for planning sessions out of the office. However our daughter Alix was getting married on 9/15 and  Joan and I had planned a week long singing vacation in Salzburg, Austria for later in the month.  I was not paying attention to the business trip Joan began the prior Thursday to New York City for NABE’s Annual convention at the Marriott World Trade Center Hotel.

Upon first report of the plane hitting a trade center tower, I assumed an accident had happened.  Here is how one employee remembers the following cascade of events.

“I was at the  Callahan office that morning which happened to be 5 days before my wedding.

I got a call from Alix  who was home after her morning coaching session on the Potomac .   She told me that a plane had hit the WTC while she was watching the Today Show (NBC). I remember thinking of a documentary I saw where it described how a plane had accidentally hit the Empire State Building in fog several decades earlier causing some damage but obviously not destroying the building or causing mass loss of life.  So, I wasn’t very concerned. 

When it became clear that this was a passenger jetliner and that another plane had struck the other tower it was obvious this wasn’t an accident.  By this point, everyone the Callahan office was very aware and all were concerned.  We rolled out the large CRT TV on its cart so people could watch the live news coverage. 

News of the Pentagon being struck became part of the news too but very limited live footage of that was available.  Most of the TV focus stayed on NYC.  At Callahan we could see the smoke coming up from the Pentagon from our 10th floor Farragut Park overlook which had a line of sight directly to the National Airport Control tower — next to the Pentagon.  

Cell phones and office phones rang throughout the morning — mainly family members of employees calling to check in and share info.  Rumors swirled in the office from the calls– other planes possibly headed to the White House, just blocks away. One employee said there were “fires burning on the mall.” From our windows we saw employees walking/running from  all White House area buildings

Of course, this increased the  concerns of everyone in our office.  

It wasn’t long before the scene at Farragut Park totally changed  from a normal calm mid-morning, post-rush hour commute.  The park was absolutely flooded with people…all trying to go home it seemed but the metro wasn’t capable of handling that many people at non-peak times.  Large crowds blocked all streets, barely moving and no cars or buses could escape.  Cell phones were also no longer working — the networks were far too congested.  

The big question was whether we should close the office and tell people to go home.  I recall the conversation centered around what would be safest for staff — staying put was probably safest and least frustrating given the chaos on the streets outside and likelihood of many hours to get home (many had to walk given the transit freeze).  However, we knew that many staff wanted to go so we gave everyone the choice to decide for themselves. Most left within an hour. “ 

During the cascading events of that morning, Scott Patterson came to my office to tell me that my daughter Alix thought Joan was in NYC for a conference.  She wanted to make sure I was aware.  I had not remembered nor put 2 and 2 together that Joan was not only in NYC but also at the WTC complex. Lara, my other daughter, six months pregnant, was in nearby New Jersey, having arrived in Newark from California the night before to attend a conference.

Of course, Joan was unreachable, without phone, on her own until  that afternoon when a third party called on her behalf as described below.

By midday, everyone had left the office.  People needed to be with their families and away from any potential targets in downtown DC.    I remained  at Callahans till late that afternoon, answering phones and watching.  By then the metro was running, the crowds had left and I got back to Bethesda that evening.

Joan’s Story at the World Trade Center Marriott

 

 

 

 

 

The National Association for Business Economics 43rd annual meeting was at the New York Marriott World Trade Center Hotel from September 9-11, 2001.  The event’s tagline was “In a New York minute in the midst of economic uncertainty.”  I was the press officer.

Visiting Windows on the World

The night before the attack, Monday, Sept. 10, Diana Gregg, a reporter for BNA, and I decided to make a late night visit to Windows on the World, the famed restaurant on the 106th floor of the North Tower. We wanted to see the view and there wouldn’t be time Tuesday morning because of the conference and press events.  It was a short walk to the elevator on the ground floor of the North Tower; midway up, we changed to another lift, creaky, but with an elevator operator. We were tempted to stop for a drink, but it was late, so we went to the viewing platform to see the twinkly city below. There had been rain.  We felt we were on top of the world ….and believe we may have been among the last to leave Windows on the World.

Seventy-nine people who worked at Windows died on Tuesday morning, September 11, when the plane crashed into the building, as did 91 restaurant guests, many attending a conference that morning.  NABE had considered having its Sept. 11 CEO breakfast at Windows, but opted instead for the grand ballroom on the ground level of the Marriott WTC hotel. The hotel adjoined the North Tower.

On Tuesday, the morning session was in the 1st floor Grand Ballroom. Robert Scott, Morgan Stanley President and CEO, was speaking to the group.  Then came a jolt.  The lights flickered.   Chandeliers began to shake.  A rumble, like an earthquake.

Everyone headed for the exits.

My NABE colleagues and others helped people get out of the hotel…we were directed away from the front entrance because of falling debris and went thru the “Tall Ships” side entrance-which had been locked, but was knocked open… police on busy West Street highway  stopped traffic so that we could cross …I made my way to the Hudson River, stopping along the way to stand with groups of NABE evacuees gawking at the Towers. . . watching what looked like lumber falling from the windows, but then realized they were jumpers. . . some thought the fire in the North Tower was  being contained. . . NABE would be in touch with the hotel to see if we could resume our meetings in the afternoon. . .  saw a second plane smash into the South Tower. . .  gasps that went up from the crowd. . . ‘”This is terrorism.”

We didn’t know what was going on. There were no iPhones and cellphones didn’t work. But there was radio! . . . A group gathered around a man  who had a battery operated radio…desperate for news….people at home watching TV knew about the Twin Towers and the Pentagon…and Shanksville. . .We didn’t. . . We knew something terrible had happened in New York.. . We were on our own.

Tramping south along the river with thousands of evacuees. . .stopped at a vendor to buy 10 bottles to water because ‘this was going to be a long day’. . . do you know how heavy bottles of water are? . . .passed them out to anyone who would take them. . .ran into NABE Past President Diane Swonk, in a suit and high heels, surrounded by other NABE members and visiting international students . . . their passports and belongings were now dust, as were ours. . . Diane, chief economist at Bank One, possessed, miraculously, a cellphone that worked. . .  She offered to have her office call people’s families to let them know we were OK. . . we scribbled a dozen phone numbers on a piece of paper, she passed them on to her office.

Chip, who led Callahan & Associates in downtown DC, got a call later that afternoon from the administrative office of Bank One CEO Jamie Dimon with the message that I was OK…. Diane then led her group uptown to safety at Bank One’s midtown office…I decided to head south, along the river, thinking it was safer. . .  I reached the tip of the island –there was no place to go—it was either uptown or jump into the Hudson River and swim to New Jersey. . .seriously considered the idea! . . I was part of a huge crowd of anxious people…I needed to speak to someone, to ask how they were doing, but no one was interested in chit-chat…one man nearby said he was going back to get his dog…A cloud of black smoke was coming in our direction. . someone shouted “a stampede is coming”…panic was imminent. . .but it didn’t happen…suddenly, the smoke cleared, and as if by magic, a NY Waterways ferry appeared. . .I was never so glad to see anything in my life. . . I wouldn’t have to jump into the river!

People boarded carefully, no pushing or shoving… we donned life vests at the captain’s request. . .we looked to the sky….would we be attacked in the open water?…once in New Jersey, with no place to go, I approached  a young woman who was looking at Twin Towers. . .she was a temp, but had not gone in that day. . .an aspiring opera singer, she took me to her subsidized artists’ housing unit . . we would surely be friends for life…She went with me to a nearby car rental, where I hitched a ride with a group going south on I-95. . .I insisted we stop for gas, we didn’t know what was ahead….but it was OK and my ride went as far as Philadelphia…  they dropped me at the deserted airport. . . Sarah McLaughlin, the daughter of old friends from Chicago Tribune days, picked me up, drove to their house, put me up for the night. . . next day we went to the Amtrak station . . .wasn’t afraid to ride the train to Union Station, or the subway home to Bethesda. . . It was another world outside of lower Manhattan. . . I had made it home in time for Alix and Scott’s wedding three days later.

PS: This dramatic exodus enabled by an armada of boats  which evacuated hundreds of thousands off Manhattan in just nine hours is narrated by Tom Hanks in this 11 minute video.

The story is also told in this article Escape From New York.  Following is an excerpt:

Day and his maritime colleagues at the Sandy Hook Pilots Association — the specially licensed seamen who help larger vessels get in and out of the harbor safely — would help orchestrate the largest maritime evacuation in world history, larger even than the famous British rescue at Dunkirk.

With no plan and little direction, they would cobble together a makeshift civilian armada of fishing vessels, pleasure yachts, tugboats, and passenger ferries that evacuated somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 people from the tip of lower Manhattan — desperate, worried, dust-enveloped people trapped by the closure of the island’s bridges and tunnels. . .

The flotilla that day included upwards of 130 boats: harbor launches, fishing vessels, sightseeing ships, and dinner-cruise boats, as well as 33 ferries and 50 tugboats, plus numerous FDNY, NYPD, and Coast Guard rescue boats. . .

 

 

Heroes and the Fear of God: Words at the Start of the School Year

Glenn Arbery is President of Wyoming Catholic College.   He shared some thoughts with the incoming freshman class last week.   

While his hero references are from academic literature, all organizations tell stories about leaders who have played critical roles in their history.  These stories  are reminders of extraordinary success or sometimes tragic failure.

They are intended to help us be more aware of the choices we make in our “lived” roles.  His last words about the “Fear of God” are interesting.  It is not a religious statement he is making.

Rather he is stating  that most of us know what are better angels require.  But as one CEO wrote me in a request for counsel, sometimes right gets a little blurry.  Here is an excerpt from his talk.

When you enter the classroom this week, you will encounter in a new way those figures that the tradition of the West has always honored and whose names you have known since childhood: in Genesis, the patriarchs specially called by God; in the Iliad and the Odyssey, the heroes who explore the boundaries between the mortal and the immortal.

These are men and women who step outside the common order into a uniquely charged sphere of unfolding meaning. They extend the expectations of mankind.

Heroes and saints are not necessarily easy to get along with, since they answer a higher call that puts them at odds with the world around them, even those closest by. It is not easy to fit the hero into ordinary life, but without these primordial figures, we would not hope for more in human life than good internet service and enough coffee. 

We are not engaged in tearing down or demeaning what is great, but in honoring whatever is noble and good, wherever it might be found. . .

Fear of God, in the sense that I mean it, is awareness of another choice when there is a temptation to belittle others or indulge yourself. Moment to moment, there is a better way, a best way.

Fear of God means a dread of choosing what you know to be wrong or of letting something harmful happen through weakness, indifference, or inattention. It is wholesome and cleansing, like cold mountain air. It is the kind of fear that makes you alert and urges you to pay attention and watch where you are going.

Good advice to start the school year for everyone. The full speech and essay can be found here.

Work or Play on Labor Day

I asked a friend who used to work 12-16 hours straight on projects what he did for play.

His response: “My work is my play.”

Why I blog?

One response is from Flannery O’Conner: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

The intent is that my words will bring perspective, interpretation and debate to the ever-evolving credit union movement.

I would hope to ensure credit unions are making some meaningful progress towards a more sustainable, healthier, democratic, and economically fair American experience.

This hope is not about individual achievement, but to inspire collective effort by analyzing and reframing credit union events from the context of their unique purpose.

Writing as a Moral Act

David Hein, a Senior Fellow at the George C. Marshall Foundation has written an insightful essay called Writing as a Moral Act.   Some of his thoughts follow:

Writing is a moral act, I often tell my undergraduate students. At first, naturally enough, they are puzzled by this claim. Not only are they prone to compartmentalizing—discuss ethics in a philosophy class, learn writing in an English class; they are unused to thinking ethically about ordinary, apparently nonmoral, activities. For them, morality is limited to (1) rules, such as the honor code’s prohibitions against lying, cheating, and stealing; (2) social-justice issues, such as the sins of the patriarchy and the faults of free enterprise; and (3) their informal sense of peer norms, such as having a friend’s back during a crisis.

To expand their horizons, I prompt them to think about moral aspects of everyday life and to consider the first steps of forming an ethical position and of acting morally. Sound ethical judgment begins not with prescription but with description: characterizing the situation accurately and fairly. Not “what ought we to do?” but “what is going on here?”

Limning the essential elements of a case requires vision sharp and sensitive and comprehensive; and we won’t see clearly if we do not, so far as possible, accomplish a temporary “unselfing of the self,” in Evelyn Underhill’s phrase, attempting to perceive with others’ eyes, according to perspectives different from our own. This entire effort lies at the heart of the ethical life; it is a work of the moral imagination.

Expectations

This approach is also fundamental to the task of essay writing, a practice with which students in higher education are largely familiar. . .

Your paper, I advise them, should be the most intellectually alert and stylistically engaging commentary on your assigned section of the reading which you can produce. . .incorporate evidence from the text in support of the main event, which is the unfolding of your thesis. In other words, maintain command of your paper as a rider keeps control of his or her horse: subordinate summary and quotations to the development of your position.

And some opinion, yes—opinion in the sense of your carefully considered view: argue for the best construal of the material you can manage. When you present your paper, your listeners will be interested not in your isolated, undefended opinion but in your rational analysis and informed judgment; and, along the way, your fellow students will be grateful for whatever elements of wit and elegance you can deploy in your phrasing.

Most of all, keep in mind your audience, which consists of the other students in this course. Anticipate objections to your case. In your paper, respond to this imagined challenger. As you dig into your subject as deeply as you can, have your readers’ likely understanding and potential appreciation in mind.

Indeed, writers cannot achieve their objectives without taking into account their readers’ backgrounds. As Steven Pinker has pointed out in the Wall Street Journal (September 27, 2014), “The form in which thoughts occur to a writer is rarely the same as the form in which they can be absorbed by the reader.”

The writer’s test

Learning to explain complex matters well is one of writing’s supreme challenges. But writing for the reader rather than for himself alone is good for an author’s character; it can relax his relentless self-regard.

So ends my work, or was it play, this Labor Day.

 

 

 

Another Banana Story

After yesterday’s post about NCUA’s banana- like strategy to impose  rbcapitalus fungus on credit unions, I was reminded of Jim Blaine’s blog from April 2015.

It is the story of a banana, a swimming pool, a librarian and “uncommon organizations serving uncommon people.”

Future Leaders Should Go Bananas!

The sun was simply sweltering and I was sitting poolside at one of those golf-prison hotels, trapped between lost and found and nowhere.

That’s when the question first came to mind. It wasn’t the result of any great thinking to be sure. And, the thought probably had no source other than the impatient infection of boredom, which arises from waiting on a “next-a.m.” flight to someplace you’d rather be now. Comprendez? Done there, been that?

The cosmic question was “Does a banana float?” Not just any banana either. One of those large 16-ouncers which usually only come three to a bunch and end up being much more than your appetite. Well, let’s stop right here for the quiz. What do you think? Does it or doesn’t it?

“Does a banana float?”
Check the appropriate box:

☐ Yes  ☐No  ☐Maybe
☐ This is insane.
☐ None of the above.
☐ All of the above.
☐ Only in ice cream.

I will give you three bits of information which may help you with your answer: 1) you have no clue to the correct answer to that question, because this bizarre thought has never crossed your mind; 2) this is not a trick question; so don’t over-analyze it; and 3) there are two important, related questions you must also consider in addition to the first one. 

Those two questions are:
1). “If you peel the banana does the peel float?”

☐ Yes ☐ No ☐ Maybe
☐ This is really weird.
☐ Need NCUA ruling.
☐ A and B.
☐ Only in salt water.

2). “Does the fruit core float?”

☐ Yes ☐No ☐ Maybe.
☐  I’m telling!
☐ Yes, then no.
☐ No, then yes.
☐ Only in California.

Give those questions some serious thought. Mark your answers. Don’t give up on me just yet; we are heading somewhere with all this! But first, let me finish telling you about that poolside experience….

To finish this story with Jim’s moral  click here.

COOPS: Collectively Honoring Individual Achievement

There was a surprise “gift” presented to Ed Callahan at his San Francisco retirement celebration after serving 15 years as CEO of Patelco. During this October 2002 event, a number of his peers and friends honored him by establishing the “Ed fund”.  All investments would become a component of the Community Investment Fund (CIF) of the National Credit Union Foundation.

The Fund’s name was a play on words.  For it honored Ed as a credit union leader and also recognized his early career in education and belief in lifelong learning.

The intent was that the earnings from these investments, split 50/50 between the credit union and the CIF, would provide a reliable source of income to support the Foundation’s education and grant programs.

This tradition of recognizing individual accomplishment by furthering cooperative enterprise is as old as the Herb Wegner dinner itself.

At this 15th Herb Wegner ceremony in 2003, this special effort was singled out for recognition.  The initiative had led to a tripling of investment balances in the CIF to $155 million just five months following the October launch.  The nine CEO’s who committed $10 million or more were recognized personally in the segment below introduced by co-chair John Annaloro, CEO of the NWCUA.

https://youtu.be/7kD8S31A2X4

Peers Reinvesting in the System that Gave Them Opportunities

The lead donors and 24 other credit union CIF supporters were a coordinated effort to provide seed funding for cu startups and programs to promote individual financial independence.

It demonstrated the willingness of all segments of the cooperative system to support collective, not just individual, responsibilities. Simply running your own shop well and supporting local communities, was not the end all for these leaders.  In the tradition of Ed Filene and many other system leaders, they believed in “paying forward” part of the success they had enjoyed.

At the pinnacle and critical to the CIF’s success was US Central.  It managed the funds, helped collect donations via the corporate network, kept the bookwork and provided the best return available given investment limits on credit unions.  In addition to making a $10 million investment, the corporate also contributed $700,00 in direct donations to the fund.

This special role is acknowledged by Annaloro in this brief clip:

https://youtu.be/0wPXlfgS0nE

Leaders Insuring a Legacy—for the Cooperative System

The unique advantage of credit unions is cooperation–the capacity of leaders to join with each other for system benefit.   CUSO’s are one example driven by economics and scale.   The Ed fund is another example of this talent to work for common purpose.

These initiatives require leaders who have the instincts and will to make change happen.  When there are leaders there will be followers. No matter a credit union’s size or status, all members current and future, benefit when cooperatives share their success beyond their own firm’s boundaries.

(editor’s note)

These glimpses of past credit union events are done in the spirit of historian Will Durant who wrote:

we of this generation give too much time to news about the transient present, too little to the living past. We are choked with news, and starved of history. We know a thousand items about the day or yesterday, we learn the events and troubles and heartbreaks of a hundred peoples, the policies and pretensions of a dozen capitals, the victories and defeats of causes, armies, athletic teams. But how, without history, can we understand these events, discriminate their significance, sift out the large from the small, see the basic currents underlying surface movements and changes, and foresee the result sufficiently to guard against fatal error or the souring of unreasonable hopes?

The Festive Cooperative Spirit: The Night CUNA Saluted NAFCU

The 2003 Herb Wegner Memorial Award Dinner was memorable for many reasons.

There was an atmosphere of collective celebration and aspiration. The Foundation Chair, Chuck Purvis, set a goal of $1 billion for the Community Investment Fund. Leading CEO contributors were called on stage and thanked. That year’s award nominees, Ed Callahan and Latino Credit Union, were representative of some of the best features of cooperative accomplishment.

But first it started with a “grace note.”

This moment of collective harmony is best illustrated by a 1.34 minute shout out that CUNA President Dan Mica gave to his counterpart at NAFCU. Here is the video:

https://youtu.be/jyKJSh_Jcgk

Blogs later this week will feature other uplifting moments from this historic evening—and some important lessons for today’s leaders.

My Favorite Headline this Week.

No, this is not from the Onion or other satirical pub.  It is from the English newspaper the Guardian.

United Airlines reminds crew not to restrain unruly passengers with duct tape

The story opens as follows:

United Airlines has asked its employees to not use duct tape to restrain unruly passengers.

In a memo sent to employees last Friday, United flight attendants were urged to “please remember that there are designated items onboard that may be used in difficult situations, and alternative measures such as tape should never be used”.

The article then lists examples of duct taping unruly passengers over the years at other airlines. Apparently the technique is not unique to United.

United then encourages its employees to use the “huddle process” instead:

In instances of disorderly behavior, United said, employees should resort to standard de-escalation measures, including using “the huddle process … which involves discussing the situation with the captain, customer service representative and ground security coordinator for evaluation and solutions”.

All I might say is that it is far better to use duct tape on passengers than for aircraft repairs.

A CEO’s Current Analysis—and How to Respond

As I write this, we’re deep into preparations for our 2022 business plan and budget. We’re in the mood to look forward and say, “yesterday’s numbers are yesterday’s numbers.” And, as of June 30, yesterday’s numbers are spectacular.

I could wax on about all of the effort, the good luck, and the wonderful contributions of everyone involved. Credit unions put forward the capital and embrace our alliance; we go about our day-to-day business; and the results are great.

But I have a nagging feeling about the future. We all have the sense that we’re making money by hunkering down, by avoiding aggressive investment, by just riding the wave of a national COVID approach that will leave us hanging in the future.

American citizens will all have to wake up and face the day after all the free money expires. As American businesses, that means we are going to wake up to consumers being resentful about how hard life is, the day after the COVID relief funding ends.

I wonder what a marketplace of resentful consumers means to credit unions. I wish I had a crystal ball and could tell you exactly what it means, but I don’t. I can only tell you what we’re planning for 2022 and how we hope that will pay off in the coming years.

    • We’ll have to be more aggressive about investment and think hard about what we’re committed to as a community of credit union operations. We need to fuel the future with investment. The hunkering down is over.
    • While we have a bit more time to analyze business trends related to the COVID pause, we’ll have to quickly identify the game-changers that will last, versus the over-reactions and over-estimates of how things like remote work will affect our future. We can’t throw out the baby with the wash based on an interruption in economic models. What will we count on? What will we bet on? What will we make work? I’m not sure it’s going to be as radical in the next two years as most people think. We have options if we’re patient. We have a future if we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot.
    • We’ll have to avoid being disappointed by the fact that COVID might not end as cleanly as we all hoped. We’re making progress, but that progress may not be without some setbacks. Things like vaccines, wearing a mask, and social distancing might not just end, never to be seen again. It may feel like these issues linger right through 2022 and 2023, like a bad hangover after New Year’s Eve. Optimism, and a realistic evaluation that things are getting better, will have to rule the day for business planners.

Wow! These three marketplace realities confront every in-place or new leadership team.

The pressure will be high to pick the right investments, to choose the right trends to run towards, and to maintain an optimistic viewpoint, when pessimism is all around. No easy missions for any CEO.

The pressure is not on a single individual; it’s on a network. For a network to work, we all have to help our peers be successful by contributing to each other’s success. If you want to contribute to our CUSO’s success, spend a few minutes thinking about how each of us can be the person who helps us all avoid dropping the ball.

The numbers as of June 2021 are great. The predictions for September 30 are as positive as any year I can remember. My faith in the future is constant, given my faith in all of you.

Source: Randy Karnes, CEO, CU*Answers, used with permission