NEW YORK (7/3/08)--In New York City, “the epicenter of the events that led to the crisis that put us where we are financially today,” Credit Union National Association Chairman (CUNA) Tom Dorety told credit unions attending the America’s Credit Union Conference & Expo to use the economy to help point out the good that credit unions do.
“We need more member involvement in appreciating credit unions cooperative structure and services to strengthen ties to garner support for their cooperative structure and gaining recognition and support with local leaders, and we need to improve our connectivity with young people,” Dorety said. Dorety, CEO of Suncoast Schools FCU in Tampa, Fla., spoke during the closing general session Wednesday. Banks are “putting people out of jobs and cutting services, but they’re making their investors happy,” he said. “Credit unions overwhelming do the opposite--we’re making loans, helping with mortgages,” and they can use a strong network to make intelligent decisions that are in the best long-term interest” for members, he added. Many stories highlighting credit unions’ good work have appeared in national, state and local media. “But how many people know why we help?” Dorety asked. He noted that strategy follows structure. “Our actions are the direct result of who our audience is. Of course we’re helping members. Why wouldn’t we?” But it’s getting harder, with the overall competition credit unions face. Being better than a bank sets “a weak standard,” and “acceptance of the previous standard often means we have none of our own,” he said. Roughly 5%--the estimates run from 1% to 10%--of members “really get [what credit unions are about]. But what if that doubled? What if four million who understand who we are became eight million people who understand who we are?” he asked. Instead of debating terms such as “membership,” “joining” and “belonging,” credit unions ought to be discussing at the state, national and local level strategic plans on how to better leverage their actions. “Use the economy to our advantage. Small businesses are begging for more affordable credit. How can anyone be opposed to increasing the member business lending cap and providing better tools to measure safety and soundness in our current economic environment?” Dorety asked. He also noted that the Credit Union, Bank and Thrift Regulatory Relief Act (CUBTRRA, H.R. 6312), “was the result of remarkable effort by many people, state leagues and particularly staff at CUNA.” “All of us agree we need more enhancements on credit union charters, we need to convince Congress to act on the member business lending cap, and the prompt corrective action risk-based cap,” he added. For more on the conference, use the link to Credit Union Magazine's