Epitaph for THE Cooperative Book of Discovery

This post is a eulogy.  For 36 years credit unions were provided a comprehensive report on their collective progress.   That publishing effort grew in scope, analysis and detail while keeping the same title: The Credit Union Directory.  It is no more.

The Credit Union System’s Essential Resource

 

In 1986 Callahan’s introduced the first complete Directory of all active credit unions for the industry’s and general public’s use.   It was a complete census by state of every credit union, a task never accomplished in the eight decades since the first charter.

One reason for this gap was there was no centralized source for information.  NCUA’s call report included only federally insured data. There were approximately 1,800 cooperatively insured credit unions in over 20 states that offered a choice of share insurance.

Prior directories were periodically attempted.  One listed the  4,000 largest credit unions by assets.  Some state leagues published listings, but they were not for public use.

A Calling Card

The Directory was Ed Callahan’s  idea.  At great expense, Callahans had established a database of all NCUA data, augmented with cooperatively insured information. We believed the industry and public would beat a path to our door for the latest, most complete data on credit unions.

The company had an outstanding invoice for over $100,000 with a local service bureau that managed the information.  No one came knocking.  Ed decided we needed a “calling card” to let people know about our analytic capability.  Hence the first Directory, with 1985 data listing every credit union, was released at the  February 1986  CUNA governmental affairs conference.

The initial product was a literal directory organized by state listings in credit union alphabetical order.  The single line of information with the credit union was the CEO’s name, contact information and summary financial data:  total assets, loans, members and capital.

As the Directory became an annual effort, the content expanded.  Advertising was added to support production costs.  The concept of  a one stop information resource  became widely valued.  At least three other competitors entered the market:  NCUA printed and gave away a  state listing of its insured; Thompson’s added a credit union volume to their bank and S&L publications; and CUNA attempted its own version.

All subsequently dropped their “directory”  efforts.  For Callahan’s, this calling card expanded with more analysis and industry listings.  It demonstrated the firm’s software capabilities that eventually led to the development of Peer to Peer as the premier industry analysis product.

Annual  Publications:  The 2006 Example

The listings remained central, but the annual analysis expanded in multiple ways.

New reference material was included to give added value and market reach.  For example, the top 100 Canadian credit unions were listed in the belief this might open up a northern market.  It didn’t.  World Council information was presented showing the US totals in a worldwide context.

An example of this ever expanding effort is the 2006 edition which totals 646 pages in four tabbed sections.

Each year, the Directory’s cover was redesigned. A theme summarizing the movement’s progress was introduced .  In 2006, the message was Communities United by the Cooperative Difference.

The first tab, State of the Industry, presented the industry’s consolidated balance sheet and income statement, key trends and auto  loan share by state; 30 “best in class” leader tables;  an analysis of the corporate network;  a listing of CUSO’s, credit union auditors, leading technology providers and a list of mergers.  Contact information for all state and federal regulators, leagues and trade associations and Canada’s largest 100 credit unions were provided in just the first 125 pages.

Tab two was  the traditional listings provided by state.  Each state was headed by a five year performance summary and a top 50 by assets table preceding the alphabetical list of all the credit unions.  Seven pages were devoted to comparing state by state performance on key ratios.

The third tab was a cross reference listing where a user could look up credit unions alphabetically by name,  by city, or by the manager’s last name.  For example, seven Carlsons and 65 Johnsons.  Buffalo, NY, reported 42 credit unions with home offices in the city; Carmel, IN, had just two.

If one wanted a quick summary of credit unions by employment, the reader could look up credit unions that had Post Office or Postal, IBM, State Farm as a first name.  Or, if looking for parish-based credit unions, one would find 185 credit unions whose name began with St. (Agnes, et al ).

The final section was a buyer’s guide which showed 115 vendors serving the credit union community.   And helped to underwrite the Directory’s printing costs.  The sponsor for 2006 was Charlie MAC.  For those not familiar with US Central, this was a secondary market initiative for credit unions to compete with the government sponsored GSE’s.

The Incalculable Resource

Each edition attempted to list the major system components and the businesses serving credit unions.  To address concerns about timeliness of the data (publication occurred about 4-5 months after the financial information), Callahans in 2006 created a “Directory Online” with 24/7 access.  This digital version was updated with the latest financial as well as contact changes.

By publishing annually, the industry had a comprehensive set of performance benchmarks in one volume.   Who had moved in or out of the top 200?  How many credit unions have home offices in DC?  Or,  what states have the fastest growing coop system?  While the information was at a point in time, it was a starting place for limitless stories and analysis, then or in years later.

Leaving the Scene

Callahans last annual printed Directory was volume 36, published in 2021 using December 2020 data.  This edition had 221 pages including a 29-page buyer’s guide.

There was industry analysis with ten-year trends, leader tables, and peer group comparisons.  There was still a state-of-the-state section in which all the individual credit unions were listed.  Contact information was also provided for CUSO’s, Corporates, regulators, and trade associations.

There was no introductory analysis or theme, undoubtedly hindered by the Covid lockdown and recovery during the production cycle.

In 2022, there was no printed edition.  The industry trends, top 50 or 100 listings, the corporate network and state summaries are available online.  If printed, the  information would  total 132 pages.  There is no advertising or buyer’s guide.

Does It matter that there is no longer a printed Directory?

There are certainly virtual substitutes for some of the data listings and contact information.  One can search on NCUA’s site for peer information and trends.  Pulling other categories of information (CUSO’s, trade associations) would require someone with a knowledge of relevant  resources.  If interested in a year’s key industry events such as large mergers, charter conversions, bank purchases, or even newer data sets such as subordinated debt or goodwill, one would have to find a credit union database resource such as Peer to Peer.

The Directory’s function expanded assembling  performance and individual credit union data to serve as a starting point for insight and analysis.  At a macro level, the Directory was the only source for  ten-year financial trends and a two-year balance sheet and income statement that includes all credit unions, not just NCUSIF insured.

But the Directory was more than a useful compilation for quick reference.  It presented the industry’s multiple connections and comprehensive participants.  Each volume was a census of all key movement participants (by name and organization) and  an almanac of the  year’s trends.

Each edition presented the collective industry’s performance, information missing from all other yearend reports.  For example, NCUA’s Annual Report records its activities and financial audits, not credit unions’ role in the economy.  Trade groups report  their advocacy, education and  information services.  Individual credit unions promote their own success and accomplishments.

What is lost is the sense of cooperative identity, a shared destiny and a system with special purpose that serves over 100 million member-owners.   If one were to understand the history of the credit union system, especially the post deregulation era, the Directory would be the major resource.

This bridge connecting the past to the present no longer exists.  Each future writer or researcher will have to find their own way to the history.

The Directory memorialized multiple national, state and local  milestones for a movement whose future should be more consequential than its past.

Without this collective benchmarking, can there be a shared purpose? If one fails to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or other key events, life goes on.  So will credit unions but with less of a sense of who they are and where they have come from.

A movement without a collective memory can slowly disintegrate into individual contemporary stories.   The shared destiny is lost as firms follow their own independent journey. A Community United by the Cooperative Difference no longer has a record of who they are.

 

 

 

Two Perspectives Approaching Christmas

G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) was a prolific writer of essays, novels, short stories, and poems. His Catholic faith and love of literature permeates through all his works. This poem is a  meditation on Advent and Christmas “for our wonder and our war.”

               Christmas Poem

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.

Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost—how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

This world is wild as an old wife’s tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall all men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

Hallelujahs Interrupt Commerce

Joy and goodwill emerge at the sounds of Christmas-in Macy’s.

May these be blessings beyours this special Day.

“https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp_RHnQ-jgU”

The Best Sermon in Life Is the One You Live

(from Jim Blaine)

          Fred Byrd 

Fred Byrd has passed away at the age of 87.  Fred Byrd started out life as one of eight children, son of a hardscrabble sharecropper in rural Hoke County, North Carolina.  The funeral was held Saturday at Rock Springs Missionary Baptist Church – standing room only.

Might say that 70 or 80 years ago in the rural South, that the “odds for success” were not exactly stacked in Fred Byrd’s favor; but Fred Byrd was a remarkable man.  Loved by many, admired and respected by all.

Fred Byrd was faithful in his mission in life to his five children, his church, his extended family reunion association, his friends and to his work. Those things Fred touched with his life were always improved; he wasn’t always necessarily the leader, but he was always in-charge. The Minister said one of Fred’s favorite pastimes was talking.  Fred was plain-spoken and freely shared his thoughts and opinions with others – whether you were ready or not! With Fred Byrd, you didn’t have to wonder what he thought or felt. Fred didn’t shirk his responsibility “to counsel” you when you needed it. The Minister said Fred even counseled him on his sermons: “Keep it simple and, most importantly, don’t take all day!”

Fred Byrd counseled me often over the years; it was always advice well worth getting. I distinctly remember our “first session”…. 

You probably need to know that Fred Byrd’s career was as the supervisor of housekeeping at a very large, state-operated mental hospital in Raleigh. A challenging task with numerous employees, 3-shifts, 7x24x365 operations in an environment which required not only great skill, but also great flexibility, discretion and compassion. Fred Byrd was definitely the right man for the job; he cared about everything. Fred took his work, his life very, very personally.

But Fred Byrd, true to his roots, also worked a second job at the CU keeping our house in order. One evening Fred dropped by the office and said: “Mr. Blaine (I immediately knew I was in trouble!), could I speak with you a moment about the trash?” You want to “talk trash” to me Fred? “That’s not what I said!  I don’t want to talk trash to you; I want to talk about your trash!”(This was really not looking good…)

Fred told me that he knew that I brought in fast food for lunch everyday and ate in the office. Fred was into GPS tracking long before the technology was invented! He noted that the bag and remaining cup of ice from the soft drink ended up in the trashcan nearby. Fred pointed out that by the end of the day that the ice had melted and created quite a problem and a mess for his folks. Fred said softly that he was sure that this was just an oversight and something that had never occurred to me (and it hadn’t); and would I mind emptying out the ice in a sink before discarding it? Fred was looking me dead in the eyes as he “counseled” me. And then he made the lesson stick:

“Mr Blaine, there is no reason, there can be no justification for any of us to make life purposefully more difficult for someone else.”
In life, I have received no finer “counsel”.

In closing the funeral, as the casket was rolled down the aisle to the strains of “I’ll Fly Away”, the Minister had one final thought about the man Fred Byrd:

“Your best sermon in life is the one you live…”
Amen, Brother Fred…. and thank you, …
Thank you for your “sermon”.

On Ukraine

At the entrance to the memorial park in Kyiv, there is a sculpture of an extremely thin girl with a very sad look holding a handful of wheat ears in her hands. Behind her back is the Candle of Remembrance, a monument with details reminiscent of authentic embroidery that can be found on traditional Ukrainian costumes. This is a monument that commemorates a historical event known as the Holodomor.

What is the Holodomor?

After the end of the First World War, Ukraine was an independent state, but in 1919 the Soviet Union “sucked” it into the community of Soviet states. The Ukrainians, who even then considered themselves a Central European people like the Poles and not an Eastern European like the Russians, tried to restore Ukraine’s independence.

In 1932, not wanting to lose control of Europe’s main granary, Stalin resorted to one of the most heinous forms of terror against one nation. In the process of nationalization, he took away the grain-producing land from the Ukrainian peasants, but also all its offerings, thus creating an artificial famine.

The goal was to “teach Ukrainians to be smart” so that they would no longer oppose official Moscow. Thus the people who produced the most grain in Europe were left without a crumb of bread. The peak of the Holodomor was in the spring of 1933. In Ukraine at that time, 17 people died of hunger every minute, more than 1,000 every hour, and almost 24,500 every day! People were literally starving to death in the streets.

Stalin settled the Russian population in the emptied Ukrainian villages. During the next census, there was a large shortage of population. Therefore, the Soviet government annulled the census, destroyed the census documents, and the enumerators were shot or sent to the gulag, in order to completely hide the truth.

World War. Their poison gas was hunger. Their Hitler was Stalin. Their Holocaust was the Holodomor. For them, fascist Berlin was Soviet Moscow, and their concentration camp was the Soviet Union.

Today, 28 countries around the world present the Holodomor as genocide against Ukrainians, which you could not learn about in school, because almost all evidence was destroyed and victims were covered up for decades, survivors were forcibly silenced by not having the right to vote until recently.

The Holodomor at that time broke the Ukrainian resistance, but it made the desire for Ukraine’s independence from Russia eternal.  (I was sent this summary and do not know the source.)

From the Encyclopedia Britannica:

Holodomor, man-made famine that convulsed the Soviet republic of Ukraine from 1932 to 1933, peaking in the late spring of 1933. It was part of a broader Soviet famine (1931–34) that also caused mass starvation in the grain-growing regions of Soviet Russia and Kazakhstan. The Ukrainian famine, however, was made deadlier by a series of political decrees and decisions that were aimed mostly or only at Ukraine. In acknowledgement of its scale, the famine of 1932–33 is often called the Holodomor, a term derived from the Ukrainian words for hunger (holod) and extermination (mor).

Postscript:

From Brooke  C. Stoddard, author who was at Holodomor Wreath Presentation at the Holodomor Memorial near the U. S. Capitol. He was asked by the Illinois State Society to participate on behalf of the Cleveland Club of Washington, D. C.

The Holodomor Memorial to Victims of the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide of 1932–1933 was opened in Washington, D.C., United States, on November 7, 2015. Congress approved creation of the Holodomor Memorial in 2006.

A New Generation of Members from High School Branches

Yesterday’s blog described an effort to open two student branches in 1974 in Burbank California.   Their purpose was twofold: expand the credit union’s FOM and educate students about the credit union model.    The effort ended in 2011.

However high school student-run branches continue today.  CUSO Magazine recently wrote about an example in Texas that is especially successful.  Here are some brief excerpts from that article:

The Credit Union of Texas’s SMART Branch

The Credit Union of Texas (CUTX), located in Dallas-Fort Worth, recognized the significant gap in financial literacy among young people and decided to make a difference. In an effort to bring financial education to students, they connected with leaders of local high schools, creating partnerships through which they could collaborate to tackle the issue at hand. Through their motivation to increase financial literacy among youths, the credit union and its partners came up with the idea to open branches within local high schools and let the students take the reins.

These “SMART” (Servant leadership, Motivation, Active learning, Reasoning, and Technology) Branches are run by juniors and seniors, with one credit union staff member to supervise. The first, located in Allen High School in Dallas-Fort Worth, was opened back in August 2021, the success of which inspired the creation of a second branch merely a year later, which opened on January 10th, 2022, at Little Elm High School of Little Elm, Texas. . .

Students helping students

In order to achieve widespread financial literacy in the school, CUTX developed a financial literacy program that involves student employees of the branch acting as financial literacy coaches to their classmates. In preparing for their presentations, students employees are provided with additional education on the topics, including money management, loans, credit, investing, and more. CUTX permanent employees also provide informative sessions on various topics, including home equity loans, refinancing, and auto loans to Little Elm High School faculty and staff. . .

The full article can be found here.

 

The GAPS In High School Financial Education Courses

In 2022, only 22.2% of high school students are required to take a personal financial course.

Three states have a 100% course requirement.  These are Mississippi, Missouri and Virginia.  Florida has one of the lowest participation rates but has begun implementing a state wide requirement.

Outside of the six states with near fully implemented requirements, only 9.3% of students in America have guaranteed access to a financial education course.

This data is from an article in Visual Capitalist, published on May 17, 2022.

What is Financial Education?

Course work can range from the very practical tasks of  managing a checking and savings account, to subjects such as budgeting, differences in stocks and bonds, and even understanding the filing of taxes.

Credit unions were founded with education as a core value.  Financial education is key to financial literacy.   A lack of financial literacy is a major factor in delinquency and low credit scores.

Credit unions, especially those serving schools, have pioneered classes for adult education.  Many offer accounts for children of family members.  Education credit unions have  established student branches as a means of giving students hands on practice with real money transactions.

Need and Coop Capability Align

Credit unions, especially those serving schools, have pioneered classes for financial education.  Many offer accounts for children of family members.  Education credit unions have  established student branches as a means of giving students hands on practice with real money transactions.

The article’s graphic and data clearly show there is much to be done.  This is an ever-present student need and a credit union skill.  Expanding access to financial education is a legislative priority with 48 bills pending in 18 states.

Moreover, adults support this school-based effort as statistics suggest that up to a third of parents never discuss personal finances with their children.  Many parents wish they had been required to take a course themselves.

Becoming a resource for high school classes on financial education is an example of cooperative priorities visible to the next generation of members who are essential to sustaining the movement.

If you have examples to share, I would like to provide these stories in later posts.

Spring Storms

from “The Land”  (1926)

by Vita Sackville-West
That was a spring of storms. They prowled the night;
Low level lightning flickered in the east
Continuous. The white pear-blossom gleamed
Motionless in the flashes; birds were still;
Darkness and silence knotted to suspense,
Riven by the premonitory glint
Of skulking storm, a giant that whirled a sword
Over the low horizon, and with tread
Earth-shaking ever threatened his approach,
But to delay his terror kept afar,

And held earth stayed in waiting like a beast
Bowed to receive a blow. But when he strode
Down from his throne of hills upon the plain,
And broke his anger to a thousand shards
Over the prostrate fields, then leapt the earth
Proud to accept his challenge; drank his rain;
Under his sudden wind tossed wild her trees;
Opened her secret bosom to his shafts;
The great drops spattered; then above the house
Crashed thunder, and the little wainscot shook
And the green garden in the lightning lay.

Met Opera Benefit Concert: Music for Ukraine-March 14

Listen Monday, March 14th, at 8pm.

Program notes courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera.

Click here for the upcoming Metropolitan Opera broadcast schedule.

The Metropolitan Opera presents a special live international broadcast on Monday, March 14: A Concert for Ukraine, a performance offering support and solidarity with the citizens of Ukraine. Met Music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin will conduct the Met Orchestra and Chorus and a roster of star soloists – Lise Davidsen, Elza van den Heever, Jamie Barton, Piotr Beczała, and Ryan Speedo Green – in a program that includes Strauss’s Four Last Songs, the stirring final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and works by Barber, Silvestrov, and Verdi. Vladyslav Buialskyi, the Ukrainian bass-baritone who recently made his company debut, will open the concert with the Met chorus in a rendition of the Ukrainian National Anthem.