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I love Ohio. You were the first state to take a chance on me when I began speaking (some 9 years ago). John Rowley (retired league education director) and Bill Butler (amazing CEO of OhioHealthcare Credit Union) really gave me my start. I’ve spoken at the Ohio League events, local chapters, I own a Buckeye necklace and they shipped me a Ohio Buckeye fan chair years ago. 

So imagine how thrilled I was to be asked to speak at the Ohio Credit Union League’s 75th Annual Meeting and Convention. Joshua Ream is the new Education Director and man oh man did he put together an amazing program. The Zenith09…..

Z is for Zenith: (noun) The time at which something is most powerful.

Over 500 credit union people descended upon Cleveland’s Convention Center. I don’t speak until this afternoon but I got up bright and early to attend their annual meeting because they were able to score not one but TWO amazing guest speakers. Before I tell you about them I must say, Paul Mercer, League CEO is my new hero. Where has the industry been hiding this guy? I think he could be the next Filene!!!

He took the stage (following the usual reports and written and carefully read speeches that make up a typical annual meeting) with gusto. He announced that he was NOT going to read from a prepared script, but rather he had made notes during the conference and decided to address the four questions that seemed to be on everyone’s mind. Mainly – we will survive this economic fire storm? His answer, was brilliant. Are we? WE are a cooperative movement and our cooperation determines our future. So, it’s up to us! Renew your vows to the cooperative principles and we should thrive!

Next up- Chip Filson, CEO of Callahan and Associates. I love Chip for his commitment to credit unions and his continued optimism. Sure, he throws out big words and uses tons of charts and graphs, but he is SO spot on when he comes to clearly illustrating the incredible MARKET ADVANTAGE credit unions currently have.

He called TARP the siren calling us out to sea. I love him.

He encourages us to stop looking at the big check we have to write this year to shore up the corporate system and instead look at the trends. Credit unions continue to experience record share growth and banks continue to dial back on lending! JUST like the great depression! Happy Days are Here Again!! Balloons should drop out of the ceiling. Champagne bottles should be popping….instead….you got polite applause from the Ohio Credit Unions. Perhaps because they were saving all their energy for the next speaker.

Please join me in welcoming…..Michael Fryzel (apparently pronounced Fry-Zel, not Frizzzle like I thought). Are you kidding me? How in the world did they get this guy to agree to speak? Buzz in the room, he has 15 minutes and will read from a prepared speech and then will take no questions.

But wait – he’s done, the house lights come up, he points to a microphone stand in the middle of the aisle and says, I have time for a few questions………….nervous people look at the microphone, then at each other, then at their shoes.

Are you kidding me? Finally this gal sitting in front of me walks up, arms crossed and proceeds to tell him how disappointed credit unions are in how NCUA has handled the Corporate Re-capitalization. That member capital is for members, not for Corporates. And wants to know what happened to the TARP money? Why didn’t he fight harder for it? 

Fryzel basically said that Congress wants to hear that we are to remain self-funded. They are, in effect, saving us from ourselves. 

Okay – now hopefully she’s warmed up the room. Next question? No one gets up. Fryzel makes a joke to Paul about “reading those questions he planted.” Still nothing.

I finally get up and ask about Barney Frank’s plan to create a single regulator that oversees all financial institutions. It’s true, that’s Frank’s plan, but Fryzel assures us that he has told Barney that we are “different” than banks so we need a “different” regulator. 

A is for Apathy (noun) Lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern.

I was shocked how little people seemed to care. Especially after three amazing speeches – I could barely stay in my seat I was so excited. I was ready to march into the streets – “Credit Unions are back baby!” 

But not if we ALL don’t care. Why did you just sit there Ohio? I’ve seen you at Buckeye games so I know it’s in you to care. To cheer. To celebrate. 

I know you can remain optimistic in winning AND losing seasons…so how about it?

UPDATE: Okay, so after the morning session I went back to the hotel, drank coffee, blogged and talked to a few participants that had missed the morning session. And then I discovered why. Why the low turnout and little interaction. The party the night before.

Turns out there’s this bar…..and you know how we love bars. But wait, this MARTINI bar is also a BOWLING ALLEY!! The Corner Alley was a huge hit with conference participants. All is forgiven.

Thank you to my friends from Kent Credit Union, Wright-Patt CU, Credit Union of Ohio and Greater Warren who all turned out to support me! And to Paul Mercer, a real class act for making a point to come to my conference room and thank me for being a part of this great event.

Go Cavaliers, Indians and Buckeyes!

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April 2009