Subscribe: The Credit Union Warrior
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
business  consumers  credit union  credit unions  credit  don  financial  make  members  people  things  time  union  unions 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: The Credit Union Warrior

The Credit Union Warrior

This is the home of the Credit Union Warrior - a place to discuss the credit union movement through the eyes of Matt Davis, a young professional determined to turn the financial services world upside-down. The opinions shared on this blog are mine, and no

Updated: 2017-02-08T20:46:22.929-08:00


This Site Has a New Home


Please join me at the permanent home for this blog at

The Smell of Artistry?


My wife ate at this really neat restaurant last night called the Mongolian Grill. The concept is kind of "Asian cuisine meets Subway." Diners walk through a series of stations to fill a bowl with the ingredients for their creation. They pick from an absurd number of meats, vegetables, sauces, starches, and other toppings, then hand their collection to a cook who turns it into something edible.

With the correct (incorrect?) choices, it was proven to me, one can create a culinary pungency that is illegal in 16 states. The smells of garlic, ginger, and (presumably) pickled opossum jowls radiated from her skin throughout the night. Even this morning, as she got out of the shower, I could smell traces of the concoction she so proudly created at the restaurant.

I wouldn't have mentioned this story here had it not been for the fact that an hour after she left for work, I caught a whiff of garlic on my shirt sleeve. I didn't even eat at the place, but now I smell like it. (Editor's note: I also mention the story here because my wife doesn't read my blog - shhhh!).

Want to know something odd? Even though I hated the smell and the type of food she ate, I liked being reminded of her. Our tastes for things like food, exercise, politics, and entertainment are as divergent as possible, but it works. It works because we're both collectors. She's a collector of exotic experiences, and I collect exotic ideas. We're better together (she may dispute this) than we are apart.

A good friend's grandfather used to tell me "if you hang around shit, you start to smell like it" (I suppose the same is true for Mongolian restaurants). What happens, then, if you hang around the virtuous, the challenging, the inspiring, the adventurous, the creative, and the intelligent? I believe who we all become is a direct result of the people with whom we surround, associate, and engage ourselves. This doesn't mean that we should seek out only those who are like us. Rather, it means that we should seek out those who can help us become who, and what, we want to be.

I was reminded of this point by a recent post a friend forwarded to me by Austin Kleon called "How to Steal Like an Artist (and 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me)". He suggests, quite wisely, that artists are collectors, not hoarders:

"...there's a difference: hoarders collect indiscriminately, the artist collects selectively. They only collect things that they really love."

While there's nothing artistic about that awful concoction my wife created, it's part of a collection I wouldn't trade for the world. What are you collecting? Who are you associating yourself with personally or professionally?

I promise you it makes a difference.

Why Just Block Charlie Sheen?


Because the Internet is magical there is now a Charlie Sheen browser blocker. This Firefox extension redacts all mentions of the fallen actor from appearing on your screen so you can go back to being your productive self.

Build a bank browser blocker in the name of saving consumers money. It would be better than tiger's blood.

Couch to 5K and Financial Literacy Education


There are good gifts and bad gifts.

A Christmas gift I got for my wife qualifies for the latter. You see, she's a dedicated and talented runner. I am the exact opposite. Time after time after time she has asked to me run with her. Just as often, I have said no.

In a moment of weakness I saw an ad for a "Couch to 5k" training class, and decided it would be a good idea for me to join. After the 12 week program, I will supposedly be able to run a 5k race with my wife. So, instead of spending $135 on another Christmas gift she would return (and give me the stink eye over), this would be my opportunity to spend the same amount on a (albeit delayed) shared experience.

Tonight was the first class. The takeaways were powerful...and had little to do with running.

1. Free is Forgettable. During warm up walking (it's couch to 5k, OK?) two ladies behind me mentioned that even though $135 was a lot of money to pay for something like this, it was the only way they would force themselves to go through it. If they hadn't paid, it would be much easier to skip classes.

2. Accountability (Guilt) Creates Results. Each class, you are required to sign in and sign out. You perform each exercise in front of your peers. One lady I talked to said that she totally didn't want to go tonight, but she didn't want to let her friend down.

3. We're Terrible at Grading Ourselves. "Couch to 5k" clearly targets novice runners. While I saw many people who looked like they honestly pulled themselves off of the couch, Doritos crumbs and all, to go to the class, there were plenty of seasoned runners in the class as well. My take? There are people who need help and ask for it, and those who enjoy opportunities to feel like achievers. Both groups need attention.

4. Just Because It's Obvious (or Simple), Doesn't Mean Someone Else Is Offering It. Another conversation I had was with a guy named George. He was an experienced runner, but pays for and attends the classes because "no one else offers anything like this." A lady jogging next to me drove 50 miles each way to participate. Anyone could launch a program like this, but only one group did.

Forget I'm talking about running for a second and think about your credit union's financial literacy education initiatives. You have a gift to give. You just have to decide to give it.

Jim Blaine on Thomas Paine (and CUs)


A good friend of mine shared the following video with me today of North Carolina State Employees' Credit Union CEO Jim Blaine speaking at the National Community Tax Coalition's 2009 Annual Meeting. While I'd encourage you to watch the entire video, I particularly want to draw your attention to his closing story that starts at the 21:07 mark.

(object) (embed)

Fear of Success


Matisse once said that “If you want to be a painter, cut out your tongue." To be sure, it's much easier to talk about doing something than it is to actually do it. But why do we continuously find ourselves sitting on (or talking ourselves out of) ideas?

I'm sitting on two ideas that I've built all the way up to inches from launch. But still I wait. I stall. I hesitate.

I used to blame things like this on a simple fear of failure. What happens, after all, if you put your name and reputation behind an idea that ends up being a dud? What does that mean the next time you try to sell an idea? This risk is omnipresent when exploring innovation.

More and more, however, I'm starting to chalk up "failure to launch" to the fear of success. Think about it. What happens if your idea is a hit? Will you have time for it? Will it take your energy and time away from things you are already doing that you love? Things that pay the bills? Things that feel comfortable?

We talk about ideas because it requires no attention. Blurt it out. Heck, you can even build it out. But until we bring our creation to life, all we have done is create another distraction.

Linda Stone writes about something called Continuous Partial Attention to describe the modern worker's hyper-connected, always on, and always distracted way of life. The amount of work most of us do on a given day is astounding. How much of it, however, is accomplished with 100% focus? Imagine if you could do half the work, but do it twice as well...

In credit unions we battle regulatory issues, financial performance, member service, the economic environment, and a million other challenges each and every day at work, and every other waking hour on our smart phones, web browsers, and weary minds. It's little wonder that we see new ideas as impossible undertakings. It's a zero sum game, after all.

My take? We need to find a way to turn things off. To disconnect. To free our schedules from the hooks of today so we can focus on the future. We'd fear success a heck of a lot less, after all, if we could fit it into our schedules.



I've studied, written, and presented about innovation methodologies, making ideas happen, and inspiring positive change for long enough now that I realize there are many out there who are just fine with things the way they are. That's OK.

Change isn't always good.

Progress is.

The definition of progress, however, is usually in the eye of the beholder. Political discourse in this country is often just one huge, heated debate about what progress is and what it is not, what needs change, and what doesn't...and how to pay for it.

And as ugly as these conversations have gotten at times, they are the pinnacle of civility when compared to the the nasty things being written in the blogosphere. And it's not just political discussions. A trending (meaning thousands and thousands of people wrote about it) topic on Twitter just today was making fun of a woman's physical appearance. Two Florida teenagers were charged earlier this month for posting fake nude pictures of a classmate to Facebook because they got mad at her. Comment threads on every news story I've read in the past few months, regardless of the topic, have been filled with some of the most hateful, ignorant, and harmful language I have ever read.

Trolls, it seems, are everywhere. Worse, because they speak with the loudest and most repetitive voices, trolls make it seem that their viewpoint is shared by the masses.

Trolls, you see, don't like rational debate or progress. Trolls crave emotion. Trolls crave reaction. And because it's much easier to generate an emotional response by being the proverbial turd in the punchbowl than actually creating meaningful, positive dialogue, this is how trolls operate. On the Internet, trolls thrive because it is there where one can be completely anonymous. The nastier (and more unfounded) a comment is, the more likely it is the commenter conceals his/her identity.

Luckily, credit union blogs have steered pretty clear of these types of exchanges. There have been exceptions (comments on the Unrealized Losses blog were nasty at times), but for the most part the people who spend time sharing their thoughts about credit unions online have done so because they honestly want to help credit unions succeed. Sure, there are disagreements, but they have almost always been civil.

Still, our blogs are not immune to trolls. I've seen several just in the past two weeks rear their ugly heads. It's disappointing.

The worst thing for me is who is often targeted by trolls. Usually, it's the writers who have spent (volunteered) the most time helping credit unions who become victims. The people who share the most of themselves become the subject of the most ridicule.

It's all part of the game, I suppose.

I've made a point on this site (and many other bloggers I know have done the same) to publish all comments that are submitted by readers, regardless of their content, as long as they aren't SPAM. I plan on sticking to that. Still, I wonder what the point is? I'll move mountains to find an audience for productive debate on credit union issues. But why afford trolls unmitigated entry into adult conversations?

Credit unions were born out of dissent...from people who dared to challenge the way things are. So, challenge things. Challenge ideas. Challenge the people behind them. But as soon as trolls go personal, as soon as debate becomes attack, and as soon as the intent of a comment is not to enhance the conversation, but to incite anger...they don't deserve a forum.

Helping Members Make Better Purchase Decisions


I've spent the past several weeks researching cars on the internet. I've used and quite a bit. I've also spent quite a bit of time searching Honda, Toyota, Ford, Jeep, and Nissan corporate sites. I guess I'm a cheapskate, but I want to make sure that I make the best purchase decision for my budget and family's lifestyle.

I'm a member of two credit unions and spend most of my waking hours writing/thinking/talking/researching about the industry. As much as credit unions depend on auto loans, why isn't my credit union's website the first place I'd go for unbiased buying advice?

My Year in Review


This year has been one of the most hectic, rewarding, tiring, and exciting of my life. As I have a moment to reflect, I thought I'd share some of my proudest moments and biggest regrets of 2010. (Author's note: there's a 100% chance that I've left something important off of both of these lists.)Proudest Things:1. The birth of my son, Sullivan Cort Davis on January 5. The lost sleep, uncertain finances, hectic schedules, and almost overwhelming responsibility associated with welcoming home a child pale in comparison to the joy he has brought.2. My Amazing Wife. All she did this year was give birth to a child, run like Forrest Gump, kick the GRE test's butt, work full time, and essentially be a single mother when I was on the road. I clearly don't deserve her.3. The CU Water Cooler Symposium at FORUM Conference Center in Fishers, Indiana. This event proved what can happen when 20-30 like-minded people commit themselves to thinking differently and creating something special. The list of people to thank for this event is endless, but should start with the CU Water Cooler editors, FORUM Credit Union/FORUM Solutions (Cameron, Kristi, Leah, Jen, Andy J., and Amanda in particular), an amazing lineup of speakers who traveled from all over the continent, and the 140 or so people who decided this event was worth attending. At the very top of the list, however, has to be Tim McAlpine. No one put more passion or time into this event than Tim, and no one is more thankful for that than me.4. Working with the Filene Research Institute. Few organizations on this planet, especially from within the credit union system, would be able to stomach my relentless focus on challenging status quo. Filene embraces that. I have learned so much this year from George's unassuming sagacity, Denise's endless creativity, Mark's relentless drive, Brent's magnetic quirkiness, and Ben's modest brilliance. But what's blown me away more than anything else is the ability for the people behind the scenes (Josey, Dan, Andrea, Monica, and Mallory) to keep our eccentric personalities on track.5. Debt in Focus. The first i3 idea I was assigned to with Filene was an anonymous financial assessment tool called Debt in Focus. I love this program, and couldn't be more proud that it's already helped 250,000 consumers, many who have always been intimidated by traditional financial counseling, get the help they need to regain control of their debt.Biggest Regrets:1. CU Water Cooler Hasn't Gone Mainstream. The idea was pure, and the support I've gotten for the site has been heartwarming. But I haven't spent the energy (and money) necessary to put this site in front of the people we created it for. To break out of the credit union social media echochamber, we must find new ways to get the word out. This means giving current readers more ways to participate and more reason to spread the word about this resource, and finding the resources we need to take it to the next level. Changes are coming, but I waited too long.2. "It's Time to Rethink Credit Union Conferences." I stand by what I wrote in this op-ed piece I wrote for the Credit Union Times (see the unedited version here). I should have known, however, that it would be misinterpreted. This piece actually wasn't directed at conference planners. It was written to credit union professionals, volunteers, business partners, trades, and membership organizations. We all need to be more efficient - with time, money, and the choices we make. My experience with the CU Water Cooler Symposium taught me how tough it is to create a quality, affordable event. We can only do that if we all learn what's important in an event, and what's not. This opinion piece was greeted warmly by readers, but often not for the reason it was written. I wrote a challenge for us to do better, not a condemnation of what is.3. Not Taking a Big[...]

It's Time to Rethink Credit Union Conferences


(Originally published and edited by The Credit Union Times, November 17, 2010. Note: This has unfortunately been interpreted as a condemnation of all credit union conferences. The intention was to draw from my personal experiences at conferences and highlight what does and does not work. Even more importantly, I wanted to refocus credit union people on efficiency. Professional education should be less about latitude, longitude, glitz, and glamour, and more about driving credit unions toward better, future-focused performance.)Over the past eleven months as a contractor for the Filene Research Institute, dozens of credit unions, state leagues, and national associations have blessed me with invitations to speak in front of their audiences. This has been an amazing opportunity for me to meet credit union professionals, share my stories, and inspire positive change in our movement. Likewise, this experience has given me remarkable perspective on what works, and what doesn't work in credit union education. Here's what I've discovered:Location matters...but it shouldn't.Most conferences take place in gorgeous venues -- beautiful resorts, exotic locales, or exciting vacation spots with access to top golf courses, casinos, entertainment, and sight-seeing. This is a great way to drive attendance, but some events have made educational content a side show. I helped organize and host an independent credit union conference in Fishers, Indiana, last month called the CU Water Cooler Symposium. Indiana is gorgeous in October, but it's certainly not a vacation destination (with all due respect to my fellow Hoosiers). So, instead of attracting attendees who wanted to sunbathe, golf, or gamble, we hosted 140 credit union professionals who cared about one thing and one thing only: improving credit unions. The point is simply to say that location isn't the only attendance driver. Lead with content, and you won't have to be so concerned with expensive venues.We need to improve access.If you have the budget to attend a conference and can get away from your desk for a few days, you have access to conference education. If you can't pay, or can't find time to attend, your access is extremely limited. As a believer that credit unions are still a cooperative of cooperatives, this situation drives me nuts. If ideas are worth learning, they're worth sharing. We must improve access by lowering prices, facilitating knowledge sharing, allowing redistribution channels, and improving efficiencies.I love how CUNA Mutual designed its Virtual Discovery Conference to improve access. Registration was free. Content was terrific. Sessions were recorded for later consumption. Speakers participated remotely. That model works. Similarly, the CU Water Cooler Symposium live streamed all of its content through the Credit Union Times' website. Didn't pay to attend the conference? No sweat. We still want you to be able to learn from it.I still don't think there's a total replacement for the face-to-face communication and interaction that comes with being in the same physical location as other credit union professionals. Accordingly, I don't believe that giving away content will be the end of a sustainable conference business model.  Declining accessibility in the form of high prices, inconvenient travel, prohibited redistribution and relationship exclusivity, however, will.Sponsors are not second class citizens.You've seen it. At many conferences, sponsors (vendors) are herded by the dozens into remote exhibit halls, hoping that the thousands of dollars in sponsorship, travel, and swag expenditures will yield any discernible amount of exposure, sales leads, or (gasp) appreciation. Sponsorships are sold to anyone willing to pay for them. Regardless of their relevance or how much they dilute a business partner's chance for su[...]

A Question for You.


OK...we know things are broken. We've complained about it. We've criticized this. We've criticized that. We've talked about possible solutions. The key question is this:

What are you going to do about it?

Put Us Out of Business


A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine was co-presenting a talk about emerging technologies in financial services for a large group of credit union executives and volunteers. At one point the discussion turned to PFMs; specifically, how giving members more information about their financial behavior could allow them to reduce spending, enjoy the fruits of thrift, minimize their dependence on high-priced credit, and prevent costly overdraft charges.During the Q&A session afterward, a credit union CEO asked (paraphrasing), "why on earth would we want to make our members less profitable?"My colleague's response (again paraphrasing): "if your credit union's success is tied to your members' failure, you may want to rethink your business model."As much as I liked this response, the fact that this exchange took place is disheartening. How did we get to this place? How did our service organizations morph into disservice organizations?Contrast that CEO's mindset with Jack Moser, an Ohio drunk driving defense attorney hellbent on putting himself out of business. Moser is one of the area's biggest supporters of initiatives to eliminate the senselessness of driving under the influence, and yearns for the day he has no more clients.Credit unions seem to have forgotten one of Edward Filene's greatest teachings; that if you offer anything except the best possible products at the best possible prices, you are instituting an unsustainable (and inefficient) business model. In way too many cases we've overspent, overbuilt, and overgrown. We've prioritized our credit unions' net income concerns over those of our members. We are on record fighting against the consumer protections outlined in the CARD Act and the larger financial reform bill.In many ways we've lost sight of what it is to be a credit union.I can't help but relate the devolution of credit unions to that of labor unions. (I know this assertion will rub some of you the wrong way, but I'm not shy.) Certainly, there was a time in our nation's history at which labor unions served a very important, and productive, role. Labor conditions for railroad companies and steel mills a hundred years ago were atrocious, and needed to be remedied. Unions fixed those conditions and made sure that workers were safe, fairly compensated, and assured some semblance of work/life balance.Today, labor unions are at least partially responsible for allowing bad teachers to litter our schools, professional athletes to price most families out of watching them play, the collapse of the U.S. automobile industry, and the shipment of millions of jobs overseas. This wasn't the goal, of course. It's simply a display of what happens when good intentions get pushed aside by greed. At some point, it would have been nice if unions would have decided, "We did it! Our mission has been accomplished. Let's have a beer and reconvene if and only if we're needed."Credit unions should be working to put themselves out of business too. Our goal should be to make sure that consumers have access to affordable credit for provident and productive purposes, while understanding (and demonstrating that understanding) the importance of thrift. Instead, we're fascinated with growth, net income, power structures, competition with one another, and a childish "banks are evil, credit unions are saints" mentality. Competition is healthy. But our supply far exceeds the demand for our services. This, in many ways, is due to our success. In many ways we've succeeded.In many more, we've failed.If we truly are different as a movement, we should move mountains so that some day we can all call it quits.[...]

An Old Flame Gets Me Excited...About Credit Scores


I received an email from an old flame a few weeks ago that really got me excited. "Umm...Matt," I'm sure you're thinking. "Your wife may be reading this blog. Perhaps there's a better venue for this post?"If so, that's an excellent these two important points: 1) There's a better chance of me wearing a Lady Gaga meat dress than my wife reading my blog; and 2) The old flame I'm referring to is the company CreditKarma.Several years ago, OpenSourceCU brought my attention to an internet startup company called CreditKarma. The site was great, offering free credit scores to consumers within minutes of signing up. You also received a ton of tools to help you understand what your score means, how it compares to your peers, and how you can improve upon it. The catch was really no catch at all. Based on your credit score, CreditKarma displayed affiliate financial services advertisements for which you qualified.Theretofore, it had always frustrated me that credit scores, which were so vital to consumers' financial lives, were so hard (and expensive) to get and understand. I loved CreditKarma, and wanted my credit union to embrace it. Alas, it was extremely difficult to make the case that sending members to a site that cross sells competitor products and services was a brilliant business move for our credit union (I still argue that it's our duty as credit unions to get this information to members as affordably as possible, that we should want our members to get the best deal possible no matter who it's from, and that this model works for Progessive Insurance...but I wasn't going to win that argument.)That's why I was so excited about CreditKarma's email. After spending some time kicking the tires of their new white label service, and talking with CreditKarma staff, I think it's time for credit unions to give them another look.Here's why:They've grown. CreditKarma now serves over 2 million members. Credit unions can display ads with either CPM or CPC pricing basis to market to members and potential members based on zip code, credit score, and other data. Until credit unions embrace this service, these 2 million members will see only ads from big banks. Now is a great time for credit unions to compete for their business.They're all yours. With the launch of their new while label offering, credit unions are able to provide members with credit score information, various credit score analyses, and targeted offers based on credit worthiness without directing them to competing services.They can help you create a stronger borrower base. The quality of your loan portfolio depends on helping members improve their scores. It's always bothered me when credit unions spend more time and effort trying to attract new members than they do developing and deepening their relationships with existing members. You could spend a fortune marketing outside your credit union to attract high quality borrowers. I'd suggest that spending those dollars on improving members' credit profiles makes more sense.I had the opportunity to interview CreditKarma CEO, Kenneth Lin for the CU Water Cooler's Liquid Lunch radio show Monday (check it out here), on the heels of a successful launch of their service at UW Credit Union. (Jim Bruene wrote an excellent review at, by the way). One thing that we didn't get enough time to discuss, however, is something that I've always wondered about concerning innovative services like CreditKarma in the credit union space. Why have we been so slow to adopt such programs? What can innovative startups do to better reach out to credit union decision-makers? What's the biggest stumbling block that keeps credit unions from greenlighting these partnerships?If credit unions want to remain[...]

Credit Unions, Circa 2010


"When a man walks into a room he brings his whole life with him. He has a million reasons for being anywhere -- just ask him. If you listen he’ll tell you how he got there, how he forgot where he was going, and then he woke up. If you listen he’ll tell you about the time he thought he was an angel and dreamt of being perfect. And then he’ll smile with wisdom, content that he realized the world isn’t perfect. We’re flawed because we want so much more. We’re ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had."
- Don Draper, Mad Men (Season 4, Episode 8)

DefaultCase Follow-Up


Last week I wrote about a seemingly too good to be true offer from DefaultCase for 1-cent iPhone Cases. I promised a follow-up, and am pleased to report that the deal was legit.

Today I received the first part of my order, a blue iPhone 4 case. It's actually a pretty nice case. I'll never understand why any of the iPhone cases you see at AT&T and the Apple Store cost $30-$35, but I guess as long as people keep paying for them... The case I received from DefaultCase is every bit as nice as some of the cases you find in other retail establishments. It fits my phone tightly, feels good in my hand, and seems pretty durable.

Is it worth the $35 list price? That's a tough one. But, again, I think all cases are over-priced. If DefaultCase could find it in their hearts to price these in the $15-$20 range, I think they'd find a huge market ready and willing to buy from them.

My favorite part of the package (aside from the fact that DefaultCase proved to me that sometimes really good deals are legit), was the letter that was included. I love their personality, their openness, and humor. See for yourself:

Also, here are some images of the case itself:

An iPhone 4 Sucker's Experience with DefaultCase


Because I'm a sucker, I bought an iPhone 4. Because I bought an iPhone 4, I hang up on people all the time. It's embarrassing.

It was especially embarrassing last week when I hung up on a webinar I was hosting for CUES.

Now, because I'm a sucker I continue to think that, even though AT&T's network is terrible and the iPhone 4 is fatally flawed, I can still fix this situation. I've changed the way I hold it. No luck. I've used a bumper. No dice. Undeterred, I keep looking for a wonder case that will fix my phone's ills.

And because I'm a sucker, I responded tonight to a web ad for one-cent iPhone 4 cases from a company called DefaultCase. Regular price: $34.99. My price: $0.01.

Am I an idiot?!?!

(Don't answer that.)

I should be too embarrassed to tell you all about this. I mean, if it's too good to be true, it usually is. And the jury is still out about this one, too. But I want this tactic to be legitimate so badly.

Here's why.

The site makes no secret that they are trying to build their brand, get people to use their product, and encourage customers getting this deal to tell their friends about it. They offer a "Share" link that allows you to tell all of your Facebook friends about the great deal you got. This, of course, is not a unique tactic. But, get this. They don't force you to share the information. It's up to you.


Then, I get the following email:

Don't go to the site to buy these cases until I tell you how this thing turns out. BUT...if this is legit, I love them and their style. And if this is legit, it's one of the best examples of humanizing a brand, living transparency, and being remarkable I've seen in years.

My Friend's New Blog


If you know her, you love her. If you don't know her, you should.

Kelley Parks just launched her new blog today. Please check it out...she's doing great things for credit unions at her firm, Giraph.

What If We Used Paint?


Sometimes it feels like we're drawing with chalk. You can draw with chalk, don't get me wrong. It's a fine medium for certain applications. But make no mistake, that's definitely what we're doing.

We're drawing with chalk.






It's certainly not the most likely tool a professional artist would use to create her life's crowning artistic achievement.

We try, nonetheless. Sometimes successfully. Sometimes not. Sometimes criticizing each other for holding the chalk incorrectly. For using the wrong colors. For not sharing.

Even when we create amazing works of art, deep down inside we know all too well that the sidewalk is only so big. That rain clouds could come any minute. That our co-creators may have a different, or competing, vision. That our success is fleeting.

We draw with chalk because that's what we know. Because it's from the earth. Because it feels right. Because of the dinosaur bones that made it all possible. Because it's the way we've always done it.

What if we used paint?

Bottle caps?

Rubber bands?

Would our art be less artistic?

Tim Filene's Job Hunt Experience


Marketing Assistant - Posted August 1, 2010ABC123 Credit Union is looking for a highly-seasoned Marketing Assistant in its fast-paced, extremely demanding Business Development department. The successful candidate will have a Bachelor's Degree in Business, Journalism, Accounting, Economics, or Ornithology with an MBA or PhD highly desirable, as well as 7-10 years of progressively responsible leadership experience in a marketing role. Must possess superior copy-writing, public speaking, creative, interpersonal, and analytical skills. Mastery of SQL, C#, HTML, PHP, MCIF, BSA, OFX, OFAC, and LOL also expected. Demonstrated community involvement is a must, as is proof of successful appointments/elections to state or federal government agencies. Bilingual or trilingual applicants are strongly desired.Job DutiesAssist with the creation and implementation of all marketing initiativesAnswer the telephone when vendors callMake paper copies of things that should be delivered electronicallyOther duties as assignedPerquisitesExcellent Benefits401K PlanSalary Up to $25,000 (Based on Experience)Business Casual WorkplaceExciting Growth PotentialIf you meet these requirements, please forward your resume, a letter describing your interest in this position, five references nationally recognized leaders in finance, government, or mass media, as well as certified results from self-funded drug, alcohol, and pregnancy screening to 123 ABC123 Drive, Any Town, NV 12312, ATTN: Lucy Anderson. No phone calls please.___________________________________________________________August 2, 2010Dear Ms. Anderson:Few things in my life have given me more pleasure than seeing ABC123's listing for an open Marketing Assistant position. My great grandfather was the late Edward Filene, widely credited as being the father of the American credit union system. It should be no surprise, I know, that credit unions caught my attention at an early age.By the age of 9, I had organized my first not-for-profit financial cooperative, which has now blossomed into the $3 billion BMFCU in Leota, Indiana. Mother made me leave the credit union six years later because I received the lowest test score in my life: a 94% in 9th grade Geometry. Clearly, I had proven myself to be unable at that point to balance my academic life with running a large financial institution, while fulfilling my duties as Governor of the Hoosier state.As usual, Mother was right. Stepping down from my role as President/CEO of BMFCU, I was able to focus on, and thrive with, my studies. I graduated after my 10th grade year to attend Yale, where I triple majored in Journalism, Business Administration, and Ornithology. An internship my sophomore year with IDEO got me interested in expanding my horizons to more creative outlets. So, with three undergraduate degrees under my belt the following semester, I turned down a Rhodes Scholarship in favor of admission to Cooper Union's famed art school. Thankfully, I was able to master the requirements of their BFA program while earning my MBA at nearby NYU.Echoes of my father's voice telling me "reading and learning don't mean a thing if you don't do something with that knowledge" were inescapable, so I decided to help my good pal Mark Zuckerberg get a little project he called "Facebook" off the ground. I learned everything there was to know about PHP, C#, HTML, SQL, and more...Mark insisted on it. What's better, the elementary nature of this initiative gave me plenty of time to start refocusing on the credit union movement that I so dearly love. In my spare time, I taught myself German, [...]



There is a reason you keep working for credit unions.That reason has changed with time, no doubt. But there's a reason.The people who I love working with, and for, in the movement have reasons that sound a lot like these:"I believe in what we stand for." Or "I like helping people." Or "I want to make a difference." Or "this is fun!"This group could help consumers from any desk, laptop, or setting in any industry. This group measures success in terms of impact, not in accountant speak. This group doesn't need credit unions. Credit unions need them. There are other reasons people work for credit unions. Their reasons sound different. Their reasons are sprinkled with descriptors like "trapped," "stuck," "scared," "it's all I know," "the job market" and "I'm the [fill in leadership position of your choice], for crying out loud."This group has seen new ideas fail, knows how hard change is, and fights like the dickens to avoid it. This group is toxic and all around us.My reason for working for credit unions has changed dramatically over the years. "I don't know what all of this credit union stuff is, but this job description sounds like fun" quickly turned into "I believe in what we do." Later, my new "I want to make a difference" reason morphed into "I can make a difference."I think I have a new reason.Over the past several years, many amazing opportunities have presented themselves to me. In some cases, I created those opportunities with hard work, sacrifices in my personal life, and a naive insistence that I matter. In many other cases, serendipity gets the credit. Still, the major source of opportunity in my career has been the belief others have placed in me.My latest opportunity was being able to attend the 1 Conference with the Crash the 1 group. The reasons these young adults "crashed" varied, I'd imagine. They came from all over the globe from credit unions large and small. They came from many different disciplines, education levels, and experience. Most important of all, however, was another attribute they brought: naiveté.I think this struck me the hardest when I heard Tim McAlpine and Gene Blishen close the Crash event. Gene, after all of these years, is still naive enough to think small credit unions can do huge things. Tim is still naive enough to think he can create a youth movement that will add 1,000,000 members to credit unions in his career. They're not just naive...they're right.The optimism of some of my favorite people in credit unions has been poisoned by cynicism. The lumps of the last several years have jaded even the most impervious credit union spirits. The same folks that used to ask "why can't we?" are telling each other why "that can't be done." The regulatory and economic environment has created a leadership crisis.The reason I keep working for credit unions is because I don't want to grow up. The people that believe in me haven't provided me opportunity because of experience, or title, or politics. They've given me opportunity because they think I'm crazy and naive enough to do something with it."Crashing" has nothing to do with entitlement, or instant gratification, or unfair opportunity. Rather, Crash is a reminder to the old guard that what we need more than anything right now is inexperience, energy, optimism, and a self-assured belief that maybe, just maybe, we can change for the better.What is the reason you keep working for credit unions?[...]

Open Letter to Fans from This Blog's Owner Matt Davis


Dear Dallas, All Employees of Frito-Lay, Yum Brands, Their Families, and Credit Union Supporters Wherever You May Be Tonight.As you now know, our former Frito-Lay Credit Union, who grew up thanks to the sweat, investment and love of its members who it despicably deserted, is no longer a credit union.aThis was announced in 2004, after some members voted to overlook the power of mutual self help by converting to a federally chartered mutual savings bank called SharePlus Federal. The narcissistic, self-centered urging of CEO D. Craig Barnes claimed that the move would put the financial institution “on a level playing field in today’s competitive banking market.” At the time, SharePlus had $175 million in assets.Clearly, that was bitterly disappointing to all of us.The good news is that the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven credit unions that stayed committed to the member-owned, not-for-profit cooperative spirit have not betrayed our members nor NEVER will betray you.I dig up this story because this week we learn that SharePlus Federal Bank has announced that it wants to raise up to $19.8 million in an initial public offering so it can become a bank holding company. SharePlus, it seems, discovered that their financial problems had little to do with their charter. In the past six years, the turncoat grew less than 5% annually (compared to 6.2% for all federally chartered credit unions during the same period). Through the first three months of 2010, SharePlus found a way to lose $332,000.You simply didn’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.You have given so much and deserve so much more.In the meantime, I want to make one statement to you tonight:“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT AMERICA’S CREDIT UNIONS WILL SERVE YOU BETTER THAN ANY PROFIT DRIVEN, MISMANAGED FORMER ‘CREDIT UNION,’ SOON-TO-BE FORMER ‘MUTUAL SAVINGS BANK’”You can take that to the bank…and your money to a credit union.If you thought we were a great deal before the financial crisis, dedicated to helping members get access to affordable financial products and services, precious financial guidance, and a service over profit mentality, I can tell you that this shameful reminder of what happens when bankers succumb to short-sighted greed has shifted our “motivation” to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels.Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.Sorry, but that’s not how it works.This shocking act of disloyalty to the credit union system has not been forgotten, and sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want other financial institutions to follow. And “what” we would want them to focus on – people or profit?But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve to remind us of the beauty of the credit union system. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence, and poor managers are simply poor managers.The self-declared “customer-owned mutual savings institution” will be taking even more ownership away from its customers with this IPO.Just watch.Sleep well, consumers.Tomorrow is a new and much brighter day…I PROMISE you that our energy, focus, capital, knowledge and experience will be directed at one thing and one thing only:DELIVERING YOU the affordable financial services you have long deserved and are long overdue…Credit Union WarriorMajority Owner of this Blog[...]

A Penny for Your Thoughts


I read a story today about a woman named La Rosa Carrington, who, stuck in a simultaneous fight with leukemia and unemployment, was informed by Discovery Benefits that her healthcare coverage is being canceled. Her monthly insurance premium, come to find out, had not been paid in full. Rules are rules, I guess. In fact, I'm a pretty big fan of demonstrating consistency in policy application.

This case was different.

Carrington had in fact paid her premium. Only, she had shorted the payment by one cent. That's right, a penny.

In a world where employees are empowered to be empathetic, use personal judgment, and bend rules when necessary, the fix here is easy. A Discovery Benefits representative, upon informing Carrington that her premium was not paid in full could have said:

"Our system shows that you did not pay your last premium in full, so unfortunately we're going to have to... Wait a minute. You were short a penny. Mrs. Carrington, this is silly. Do us a favor and pay an extra penny next time to cover this shortage. I'll leave a note on your account that you accidentally sent in the wrong amount. You can make it up next time. Please remember that the monthly payment is $289.45."

But that's not what happened.

Instead, Carrington was informed that her coverage was getting canceled and that she would be on the hook for the mounting medical bills associated with chemotherapy.

"A penny off? Well, that was stupid!"

"Lost your job? Not our problem."

Instead of dealing with this problem on a human level, Discovery Benefits clearly addressed it as a policy matter. A black and white issue. Instead of being empathetic, Carrington was instructed to send in a check or money order for a penny or face the cancelation of her coverage.

How strict are the policies and procedures at your credit union? Do you give your employees the authority to bend the rules when it is appropriate? Is your staff so concerned about a penny, or a check hold, or a firm credit score requirement that they lose sight of the human element of a situation?

Policies are important. People (and common decency) are more important.

Time to Get Rid of Deposit Insurance


Want to fix safety and soundness concerns at credit unions? Want to make member ownership and the democratic process mean more at credit unions? Eliminate the NCUSIF.Seriously, get rid of it. Get rid of the FDIC Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) as well.I realize this cannot (will not) happen, but it needs to. Here's why:1) We need an environment of healthy risk. Our regulators are charged with maintaining the health of deposit/share insurance fund pools. Their goal is to minimize risk. But while too much risk is clearly not healthy, zero risk is a problem as well. A financial system that allows for zero risk doesn't help entrepreneurs get ideas off of the ground, doesn't help borrowers that need help the most, and doesn't allow the flexibility necessary to adapt quickly enough to changes in consumer need."Dude... Haven't you read about that thing they call the Great Depression?" you're likely wondering. "How about all of the bank and credit union failures in the past couple of years? Consumers need protection."You're right. There were many lessons to be learned from the Great Depression. The most important one, of course, was that we have an obligation to make sure consumers and investors are provided with reliable information about the financial institutions they do business with. Deposit insurance doesn't improve the reliability or transparency of information, it makes information irrelevant. That brings me to the second reason we need to abolish deposit insurance.2. Deposit insurance doesn't protect consumers, it harms them. Deposit insurance puts consumers at risk, even if indirectly. It's expensive. Although credit union members have never lost a dime of their insured funds in the history of the NCUSIF, and no taxpayer dollars have ever been used into the fund, its administration and the opportunity cost of maintaining a $20 billion organization (and keeping $10 billion in liquidity from consumers) is significant.The story is worse for the FDIC's fund. Underwater by $21 billion, and losing on average nearly $2.8 billion/month due to bank closings since July 2008, the FDIC DIF has seen better days. Unfortunately, these aren't simply paper losses.Where does this money come from? (After all, it is a zero sum game.) Recapitalization of these funds requires some combination of increased money supply (Treasury prints more money), taxpayer funded bailouts, and special assessments charged to financial institutions. The result is a vicious circle of some combination of higher taxes, more expensive financial services, more bank/CU closures, more consolidation (less consumer choice), and inflation."Great. So what you're saying is if a depositor's financial institution goes under, it's OK that they lose their life savings?"Well...yes. That sounds awful, but let me explain with my third reason we should abolish deposit/share insurance.3. The deposit/share insurance safety net discourages consumer due diligence. You know why people deposit funds at risky financial institutions? It doesn't matter if the bank/credit union fails. Their deposits/shares are covered. What if they weren't? Consumers would be forced to scrutinize the institutions they choose to do business with, be more skeptical of "too good to be true" offers, and take more ownership of their financial decisions (who they bank with, which products they choose, etc.).The financial literacy crisis in America has been exacerbated by an almost ever-present consumer safety net. Want busin[...]

Let Your Checkbook Do the Talking


Danielle Chatfield-Beres is one of my favorite people in credit unions. As an amazing credit union marketer, Filene i3er, Partnership Symposium attendee, and all around awesome person, seemingly everything she's ever been involved in has become better as a result. One of my favorite stories about her was a decision not so long ago to leave her position as a rockstar credit union marketer to take a job at another credit union to become...a controller. She had aspirations to be a CEO someday, and that seemed to be the most logical way to position herself to make that happen. I love that.

Anyway, that's a long introduction to the point of this post. On the CUDE listserv the other day Danielle posted her frustration with the way Dick Durbin's interchange amendment has been discussed publicly by merchants. The basic argument on their side is that interchange (or swipe) fees are simply another case of meaningless profiteering by financial institutions.

Danielle has had enough, and posted what I think is a very clever way to fight back:

"My new protest weapon against interchange:  My own checkbook.  Specifically, my ability to give big box retailers precisely what they are purportedly after...a return to the good old days of the expenses of dealing with cash and checks.

I resolve to dig out my checkbook from under the dust bunnies and walk into a big box retailer, select about $10 worth of items to purchase...and proceed to the checkout counter with only my checkbook in my hand and my driver's license buried deep at the bottom of my purse where I'll have to spend a minute or so searching for it.

I'd love to get 25 or 30 of my closest CU friends to join me.  I'd love to have others across the country do the same.  I'd love it even more if we made it such a concerted event in different locales that we could REALLY get our local media to pay attention and bring a camera to watch how much people adore having their checkout lines clogged up with people paying by check.

I've read the interchange compromise summary.  I've watched the hearings.  I know this particular battle may not be won.  But at least we can make a loud enough point about it that when consumers start seeing their account fees rising, we can give them certain legislators' contact information so they know who to thank for it."

 I love this idea. I hope you do as well, and will join us on this.

(Now if I could only find that checkbook...)

Upright and Locked Positions


I'm 5'7". Unless you're blue and live in a little mushroom village, that's not tall. Still, I am almost always cramped and uncomfortable on airplanes. And when the person sitting in front of me reclines his seat (I'm talking about you, Mr. Snoresalot), I have no space at all. I couldn't imagine how horrible flying would be if I had eaten more vegetables as a child.

I know the score. I know that the more seats you can jam into an airplane's cabin, the more revenue each flight can generate. I know that people have learned to expect discomfort on planes. I also know that there's a reason first class seats are more expensive. If you want flying to suck less, you have to have money.

Banking sucks too.

The more transactions a teller can perform in a day, the lower operating costs become. Consumers have learned to expect lines, discomfort, and divided attention. Special lines (or account terms, or phone numbers) are open for special customers. If you want banking to suck less, you have to have money.

I'm not sure what my point is other than to say this: 1) Don't recline your seat on a plane; 2) Efficiency is important, but you need to balance it with service; and 3) Seems like there's an excellent opportunity for planes, banks, and credit unions to redefine first class, and eliminate second class.

We have an obligation as credit unions to be as efficient as we possibly can. I'm in absolute awe of the credit unions who have succeeded at focusing on the training, processes, and strategies necessary to minimize operating expenses. Still, I would have to think there's an appetite out there for premium banking relationships (no waiting in line, no automated phone systems, 24/7 accessibility) open to the masses. Price it right, and you may find that there are people out there who are willing to pay an annual fee to make their lives less miserable.