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CUNA leaders share message of unity
WASHINGTON (2/24/09)—Exiting Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Chairman Tom Dorety and CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica took the stage during the Annual General Meeting at the Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) Monday and provided attendees with a message of unification.
Click for slide show Tom Dorety, exiting CUNA chairman, and Dan Mica, CUNA president/CEO, encouraged credit unions to come together and help provide a solution to the nation’s economic crisis during Monday’s annual general meeting during the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference. (CUNA photo)
Credit unions may have different ideas about how they can help members and communities weather a troubled economy, but “we need to do this together,” Dorety said. Credit unions can and should be a part of the solution to the economic crisis, because they’ve “always been here for members,” Dorety said. Dorety empathized with some of the economic strains credit unions have been experiencing by using his own credit union, Suncoast Schools FCU in Tampa, Fla.--which he heads as president/CEO—as an example. Suncoast has always focused on providing the best fees, rates and services to members. The credit union takes great pride in offering the narrowest interest rate spread possible while giving back to members. Keeping a net worth of 8% to 9% was reasonable, he said. But things changed. Florida became an epicenter of the credit crisis, and the credit union had to change its focus. Suncoast began making tougher decisions, increasing rate spreads and trying to find ways to reduce expenses. “Other credit unions are doing the same,” he said. “It’s not fun.” For the first time, many credit unions may be posting a negative net income, scrutinizing expenses, or cutting staff. But while credit unions are making tough decisions to ensure a successful future, members do not want them to cut back. “They need for us to be here for them,” Dorety said, noting that one solution may be to move toward capital reform. Mica’s message to the meeting participants was to remember credit unions’ strength and the need to work together through tough economic times, such as credit unions currently face. “Our future is bright,” Mica said, “but it is clouded just now by very real problems.” He added that “under the surface of bleakness” credit unions are “a shining light.” Mica noted that credit unions membership numbers are up, as are saving and lending volumes. “More than ever before, members love (credit unions), and are looking toward us.” Public opinion, Mica said, is shifting more in favor of credit unions now than at any time in the last 10 years. He reiterated that the credit union movement has a capital position of more than 11%, a strength that other businesses would love to have right now, he added. However, Mica noted that that system-wide high capital level should not mask the needs of individual credit unions struggling because of tough market conditions. “Here’s the key: We have to stay together,” Mica told the packed general session. “We are a cooperative system. We have to find ways to work together.” Quoting 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Mica said, “A house divided cannot stand.” Even in the general economy, Mica said, there are some positive “glimmers” that should be noted. For instance, Mica said, the current global effort to address economic turmoil is, by best estimates, the most coordinated response ever executed by world leaders. He also said that, while painful for individuals, the balance sheet corrections consumers are making to recognize a new economic environment will be valuable into the future.


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