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full_moon_water_640The other day I was standing outside contemplating life, looking at the moon. And I thought, why do we call it THE moon. We don’t call it THE Mars or THE Jupiter or…..I have to say it THE Uranus. I just noticed my little fingers didn’t even bother to hit the Caps button on moon. It doesn’t deserve it…cuz it’s the moon. I’m not the only one that has pondered why we haven’t named the moon.

I love to name things (except changing the name of a credit union)  I’ve never said let’s get in THE car. I say, “Let’s take Buttercup to the store!” See how fun that is?

When I was just a fetus in the credit union industry (in the 1980s) the first ATMs came on the scene. Part of my job was to balance the ATM. Notice how we referred to it as THE ATM. So I named the first one Eddie Money. Then I could find joy in feeding Eddie Money. Get it? The next one was Johnny Cash of course. And finally John Dough!

You can always tell the difference between pet parents and pet owners. Pet parents NEVER say “Feed the dog.” Pet parents say “Has Dexter had his dinner yet?” Only pet owners say “Where’s the dog?” Pet parents know where there dog is at all times.

In Portland we’ve named all of the freeways. It’s not THE 84 or THE 26 (like they are fond of saying in California), We give directions by saying “You’ll take the Banfield to the Sunset.” Names are fun.

There’s a lot of psychology around how we feel about our name. A wonderful motivational speaker Alyce Cornyn Selby had a session about such studies and how she felt about her name. She had lost over 100 pounds and more importantly maintained that weight loss for years. Part of her transformational process was to change the spelling of her name from Alice to Alyce. It was her brand, and it worked. I love my name. I have two older sisters, Daedre and Darcie – I definitely got the good name. Thanks mom.

But back to the Moon. I say we name him Monty. Then once a month we can look up in the sky and see a full Monty.

I love a good spa. And I’m not gonna lie, Mark loves a good spa too. He’s my spa boy. So when we had the opportunity to go to the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Hotel and Spa last week-end – let’s just say – hell yes! (see picture below)

The Tamaya is situated on sacred land owned by the Santa Ana Pueblo and is managed by Hyatt. When I am smitten with a brand I have to infiltrate and learn. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the head of food and beverage – Kristin on this trip. I wanted to find out how they were able to create such a peaceful, restful, zen-like atmosphere.

It’s simple, she said, we want it to feel like your home. Not a fancy hotel. The lobby is one giant living room. A big fireplace on either end with overstuffed couches and chairs and coffee tables and games and pillows. Not hotel furniture – real furniture. We ate breakfast at their buffet – instead of those big metal chafing dishes, the food was served in Le Creuset pans. Just like I have at home. The soap dish is a piece of flagstone – very artsy fartsy – like I have at home.

Then she shared the best part- where do THEY get their inspiration?

Ashley Furniture. Yup – she said periodically they will walk through their “home show room” and get staging ideas for their Hyatt home. It’s really the little details that make it special. Like the tchotchkes on the end table. Oh, and the pictures in my room were not bolted down!

After you read this go step outside and walk into your credit union lobby – how does it make you feel? Does it resemble a doctor’s office from the 80’s? I sometimes wonder if that’s where we got our inspiration. Sign in at the receptionist, sit on a hard chair under fluorescent lighting, read old magazines and wait for someone to call your name. Then you go back in the examination room and bare your soul (aka apply for a loan).


Now I want you to go to a spa…..and imagine the possibilities.

Processor that is. Although I feel like I’m being held hostage by my “core” since I had major abdominal surgery two weeks ago – ouch. But enough about me already.

Tansley Stearns posted a great comment on my blog last week and she got me thinking about the biggest excuse credit unions use for not innovating. Our core processor does not have the capability.

I’ve heard it for 32 years. Before we had computers all of our member data was in a ledger. Everything we did we did manually. We typed up documents – in triplicate with carbon paper on an IBM Selectric. We filed things. We had “ticklers” that was no more than a recipe box turned relationship builder. We remembered people’s names and their kids’ names. We had loyal members that helped us grow with positive word-of-mouth.

Today we get a great idea about how to reward our members (for example) but someone will remind us that our core processor has the intelligence of a door knob and we all shake our heads and give up.

Besides your compensation, budget and facilities, what is the third biggest annual expense at your credit union? No doubt your data processing bill. Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on what? Keeping you from doing great things.

How many of you have had to purchase OTHER systems – for major transactions (like loan processing, home banking, bill pay) because your “core” can’t do it – or rather won’t do it?

And this is perhaps the most absurd of them all – because we have so many ancillary programs – we often require our employees to re-enter member information because – you guessed it – our core won’t talk to strangers. At least when we typed documents in triplicate we only had to do it once!

The solution? I look to the folks at the shared branching networks. They have somehow made it possible for credit unions all over the world to talk to each other.  I can walk into a credit union in Santa Fe, New Mexico and in real time withdraw money (or deposit) to my account in Portland, Oregon. Pretty amazing.

I have no idea how they do it (I’m in marketing) but to quote Steve Martin from Born Standing Up:

“Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naivete’, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.” 

So here goes. I picture a CUSO that is dedicated to ONE thing. Developing a common language among credit unions. We have a universal core that sits in a cloud. We innovate together. Dare I say we cooperate?  If I am a member of a credit union – I can transact with all credit unions. I can P-2-P and A-2-A with any member. We drive our own payment systems. We create our own e-wallet and with $1 trillion in assets we become a force to be reckoned with.  We share expense and revenue based on our usage.

We need to fight the REAL enemy – our core processor. By trying to do everything ourselves – alone – we are losing small credit unions, we consider “other credit unions” to be our competitors. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citi, etc. are still alive and well because of the “convenience” they offer. As of March of this year there were 7,163 credit unions. Only 1465 of those are over $100 million in assets. But if we could safely say we have over 10,000 credit union locations (branches) we are one big ass convenient bank. Bank of America has 6, 233 branches. Boo yah!

Who’s with me? What am I missing? How do we get this party started?

If the caveman invented the wheel – why did it take us so long to put them on luggage?

One might also ask – “If Hallmark invented the greeting card why did it take them so long to sell them “postage paid?”

You may go back to work now. Thanks for listening.


Had a great debate today at lunch.

The question: Will checks (the annoying act of writing one or receiving one) go away in our lifetime?

My answer: The paper check will die with the Baby Boomer generation.

I dont’ think I’ve ever gone three weeks without a blog post. After Steve Jobs broke the four minute mile and lapped us, my mind went into simmer mode.  I had some great comments from some very smart people on that last post. It gave me pause.

Tim McAlpine made this comment:

Who knew the sleeper of an iPod / iTunes combo created a decade ago would lead to iWorld – a magical place where you need not go outside (or carry cash or plastic).

People inside the financial world will dismiss this invention just like the extinct record stores and newspapers and the bookstores and the video stories and the…

And then Borders filed for bankruptcy (as expected). Another warning shot across the credit union bow – a shining example of disruptive technology destroying an entire industry.

Why did Borders Books, Music and Movies ignore the trifecta of disruptive technology that was the Kindle, iPod, and Netflix?

Because their target audience (current customers) were not early adopters of technology and would likely never shift over. There are plenty of people that still love to hold a book in their hand and buy CDs in their plastic case and put them on a shelf in their home. Barnes & Noble was allowed to survive and will hang on a bit longer because they also mimicked early in the game by opening an online store.

One could argue that most existing credit union members (age 48 on average) are not likely to use PayPal or move to an electronic wallet. Too late in the game to change. So we’re safe, right? For now.

But it begs the question: “What about future customers?” New customers are born every day. And this Generation named Y is the second largest in US history. When they reach the age of disposable income and independent transportation (16) are they gonna drive to Borders to buy the latest Lady Gaga CD? Hell no.  They are going to download it to their iPhone.  That’s what killed Borders.

Apple’s electronic wallet is not going to destroy the banking model over night – but the model will replace the traditional process of moving money for Generation Y and Z. They won’t have to switch – they will merely be provided with two options. Drive down to your parents credit union (at $4.00 a gallon in gas) and stand in line to deposit a check or sit in line at the drive-up ATM (wasting precious fossil fuel) OR upload money to their phone.

Our world has changed. The iPhone is really a disruptive innovation. Jobs improved our product and service in ways that the market does not expect, and is designed for a different set of customers. The next generation of customers.

The numbers are there to support our eventual Border-like-demise. The average age of a credit union member continues to inch up and for most risk-averse-regulator-devout-near-retirement leaders, the loan-to-share ratio continues to decline. Some of these venerable commanders have even declared that “It’s not going to be my problem, because I won’t be around in five years.”

There is no better form of validation of Jobs innovation than that statement, in my opinion.

I’m back in the office after a life-changing trip to Fishers Indiana. The first annual CU Watercooler Symposium was a giant success. It was an experiment that could have gone totally wrong. As a meeting planner and public speaker for years, I have to say it had so many opportunities to implode. The planning was unconventional, the coordinators for the most part inexperienced, the venue, a credit union – and did I mention in Fishers Indiana?

I was one of 11 editors tasked with pulling this off. I “hired” a speaker for expenses only. Always dicey. Let’s face it – there are two schools of thought on this strategy. You get what you pay for and he doesn’t really have a contract so if something better comes up, I’m screwed.

I met my speaker choice the night before the gig. I trusted that he would a. show up, b. show up sober and c. deliver the goods. I’m happy to say he did all three and more. He was so great CU Times approached him directly after his speech and this appeared by the end of the day!

The Watercooler was streaming live to audiences all over the nation. Most attendees live tweeted. There was no place to hide. The CU Warrior and Tim McAlpine just put it out there. And it was brilliant. They took everything we hold sacred in the conference arena and just tossed it lovingly out the window.

The biggest difference for me though was not the agenda, or the way speakers were “found” but the audience. These people wanted to be there. There was no golf, we stayed at the Hampton, we ate buffet food and we partied at Cheeseburger in Paradise.

It felt like some weird version of summer camp. At the end there was hugging and “see you next years” and a sense of belonging I’ve seldom felt at a regular conference. In just two short days there was bonding on the level of a DE or CUNA Management School. We worked hard, we played hard.

At this stage in my career, I feel very blessed to have been a part of this. A page has turned. Here’s to the next 10 years. The 2020 vision of credit union conferences is changing. Long live the Watercooler!

What is the average age of your membership? Around 48 if you’re anything like the national average.

What’s the average age of your borrower? Older? Most likely.

A couple of weeks ago I saw Bill Hampel’s economic forecast. It was bleak, as expected but one of the charts really surprised me. He predicts a sharp decline in loan-to-share ratios over the next few years. Now according to my math, they should start going up.

This year Generation Y outnumbers the Baby Boomer generation – the largest generation in American history. How can that be? Because the Boomers are dying. And those that haven’t died are paying their loans off – their borrowing years are behind them.

Generation Y on the other hand turns 28 this year, the youngest just got their driver’s permit (age 15). From buying their first car to their first home, we have 70 million opportunities to loan.

When the 75 million boomers were in their borrowing years life was good.

This is the “echo” of that boom.

Can you hear it?

I’ll try to use it in a sentence.

There is a dearth of options for true professional development in the credit union industry.

We have tons of training sessions on “stuff” like how to lend, comply, collect, review, document, comply, calculate, project, dissect, analyze, comply…..but how to be a good person to work with – you know – a real team player that will eventually make a great leader? Not so much.

Why is that?

Am I missing something?

Heard this morning from someone I admire:

“Meetings for the most part are completely unproductive, mind numbing and do nothing to foster teamwork.”

As a consultant, I am the maker of meetings. When I come to town, we’re gonna meet. I see it in their eyes when I enter the board room. Oh gawd, what is SHE going to make us do?

I pride myself on having productive meetings. Here are a few things I’ve found that help to turn your meeting from a time waster to a treasure.

1. Don’t have a meeting in the basement. You cannot be creative with fluorescent light. In fact studies have shown that artificial light sucks about 1.5 pounds of your soul from your body each hour.

2. Have an agenda. This sounds like a no-brainer but many people come to meetings because they are “on the calendar” not because they have a purpose or a goal.

3. Calculate the value of the attendees time when the meeting starts and the value of the outcome. Once the time expense has exceeded the value, someone is instructed to signal the meeting’s end with a blow horn.

4. Cut your meeting time in half. Seldom do meetings end early. This always puzzles me. They almost always end on time – because people have to get to their next meeting. Hmmmm……

5. Good coffee with real cream. Powdered cream says “We hate you and don’t value your opinion.”

6. Ban all Crackberries, iPhones, Droids, distractions. If the meeting is not important enough for you to turn off your email – you don’t need to have the meeting.

I’m just sayin’

Now, I gotta go. I have a meeting at 7:30.

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June 2023