HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. (2/28/08)--The No. 1 issue facing the New Jersey Credit Union League (NJCUL) is the image of the league, according to new league President/CEO Paul Gentile who took over the top spot Dec. 3. “There has been a lot of turnover at the league CEO position and other positions that have led to some questions from credit unions in the state,” Gentile told News Now. “We need to bring leadership and stability to the league and build that back up.” Communication is another important issue for the league, Gentile said. “There has not been a great flow of communication from the league to the state’s credit unions in the past,” he said. “The Weekly Exchange” is a league newsletter e-mailed out every week to New Jersey credit unions to keep them informed about credit union issues, and it has been “a tremendous support” to the league and its member credit unions, Gentile said. Gentile’s No. 1 goal is to build trust between NJCUL and credit unions in the state. “Good communication goes hand-in-hand with that,” he explained. Awareness also is a key goal. There are 1.2 million New Jersey credit union members in a state with a population of eight million. That’s a 13% penetration rate, which is the second lowest in the nation, behind Arkansas, Gentile said. “Awareness, in the form of branding, is the key,” he explained. “I think there should be a national branding campaign for credit unions.” Gentile is tweaking the league’s “Difference You” campaign, making it a 10-month program, focusing primarily on radio, events and print ads, but avoiding TV, which Gentile said is too expensive. The NJCUL will air 16 spots a month on the statewide New Jersey radio network. Another goal: Enhancing state charters for credit unions. “Enhancing the dual charter helps by providing more options,” he said. Only 19 of the state’s 220 credit unions are state-chartered, representing only $470 million out of the total $10 billion in credit union assets statewide, he added. Gentile formerly served as the Credit Union Times editor/publisher. He had worked for the publication since 1997. So far there haven’t been too many surprises at his new job, Gentile said. “It’s very different from my life at the Credit Union Times, where I had to know about everything in the industry,” he said. “The background gave me a good broad base of knowledge. So the learning curve hasn’t been so steep for me in New Jersey. “I feel that I’m more a part of the credit union movement here than at my previous job. I have been pleasantly surprised at how helpful other state leagues and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) have been,” he continued. Gentile also mentioned that he’s working on strengthening the service corporation in the state to better help credit unions. He also is championing a small credit union task force to help 10 small credit unions in the state with under $10 million in assets. Each participating credit union commits to developing a strategic plan, conducting two membership surveys (one at the start of the program, and one after 18 months), and completing CUNA education programs. “Too many credit unions are not doing enough research and strategic planning,” Gentile said. A final item on Gentile’s agenda is empowering a 12-member league task force to review New Jersey credit union governance, which is likely to lead to changes in bylaws and the structure of the league board, he concluded.