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CU philosophy service debated at WOCCU conference
HONG KONG (7/17/08)--Can credit union philosophy successfully co-exist with competitive member service? Superior service can't exist without a philosophical commitment, nor should it, according to a debate between two credit union chief executive officers during a general session at World Council of Credit Union's (WOCCU) World Credit Union Conference.
Click to view larger image Marlene Shields (left), chief executive, Capital CU, Edinburgh, Scotland, posed questions to Phylip Doughty, CEO, MECU Ltd., Australia, and Tom Dorety, (right) Credit Union National Association chairman at the World Council of Credit Unions Conference in Hong Kong Tuesday. Doughty and Dorety debated whether credit union philosophy can successfully co-exist with competitive member service. (Photo provided by Patrick Leung)
Credit Union National Association Chairman Tom Dorety, president/CEO of Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union, Tampa, Fla., and Phylip Doughty, CEO of MECU, Ltd., Australia, took on credit union philosophy and a host of other topics during Tuesday's debate at the Hong Kong Convention & Exposition Centre. Marlene Shiels, chief executive of Capital CU in Edinburgh, Scotland, posed questions and moderated discussion before 1,300 attendees from 48 countries. The global financial situation bore some debate, including the varied impact it's having on U.S. credit unions, which Dorety said have seen a distinct downturn in lending, and in Australia where, as Doughty said, “business is booming.” “There are three reasons large credit unions should be cognizant of financial trends,” said Dorety in his opening remarks. “There's the social part--we're supposed to look after all members. There's the political part--U.S. laws tell us to provide services to members of modest means. And there's the financial part--credit unions have the capability to offer services to people at all income levels. “In the end, it just makes sense to provide good service to all members,” he added. There also was considerable discussion about demutualization. Dorety disclosed that, based on his research, he and his board would stand to make substantial sums if $6.2 billion Suncoast Schools demutualized, although that has never been considered by the credit union. Additional shares would then be offered for sale to members, an approach distinctly different than that taken in Australia, where profits from demutualization are shared with members. “It's incomprehensible to think that a U.S. credit union board of directors could give away their credit union assets for personal gain, then offer to sell back to the members something they already own,” Doughty said. The issue of “greening” credit unions also came up. At MECU, Doughty said, staff works to reduce carbon emissions, plants 700 trees per year and even mulches food scraps from the credit union cafeteria. Such efforts are not only the right thing to do, but also comprise a good business strategy, according to Doughty. “If the price of your products is right, you offer great service and you're looking after the environment, members will come to you,” he said. Dorety agreed, noting that environmental consciousness was part of the credit union difference, especially for the younger generation. That concept was supported later that day during breakout comments on serving Generation Y by Ryan Visscher of Canada's Envision CU. “We spend a lot of time preaching that difference,” Dorety said. “If you can convince members there truly is a difference, they will care, especially the young ones.”
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