Posts From October, 2013

We’re 26th! 

Posted by Greg Michlig Thursday, October 31, 2013 9:28:00 AM

Each month I receive a listing of the Don’t Tax My Credit Union advocacy efforts by each state. League Director of Government Affairs, Chris Abeel, and I discuss these numbers and consider the next steps as we continue to explore ways to engage the credit union community in the campaign.

The numbers are good. New Jersey’s credit union advocates have stepped up and produced significant numbers of contacts to our congressional delegation. In fact, we are well on our way to logging more lawmaker contacts than on any other issue in recent memory. The tally of grassroots campaign contacts has or will soon exceed those in support of H.R.1151, MBL reform, and municipal deposits.

When I look at the comparative numbers to other states, however, I am concerned. New Jersey is 26th in total lawmaker contacts logged through mutual League and CUNA reporting. These would be in the form of e-mails through the CUNA Grassroots Action Center, postcards (as distributed through the League), toll-free calls, and Twitter messages directly to members of Congress. There are certainly contacts that take place outside these measures and perhaps those would move us up a few slots, but the overall positioning on the page compels me to bring this to your attention.

There is another correlation here and to some extent, it justifies where we stand. New Jersey sits at 28th in terms of number of members. So, theoretically, we are mobilizing in the Don’t Tax My Credit Union fight to a level relative or perhaps even slightly better than other states in those terms.

Herein lies the concern: New Jersey is the 11th most populace state and has the 9th most credit unions of any state. To me, this says there is tremendous opportunity to engage consumers and band together for a louder voice both here and in Washington. Our consumer advocacy, in many terms, goes hand-in-hand with our political advocacy. The Don’t Tax My Credit Union initiative presents an opportunity to share the message of why credit unions are different and positioned to be the best financial partner to consumers.

In my last blog post, I touched on the need to take it upon ourselves to proudly share our credit union message whenever the opportunity presents itself. This includes making sure staff and board members are equipped to share the “elevator pitch” of why credit unions, as not-for-profit, cooperative financial institutions, are a unique and present value in addition to low rates and fewer fees. It also means they should be aware of the tools available to them for political advocacy.

It sounds simplistic, but in the highly operational and compliance intensive environment that is the reality of day-to-day credit union life, taking time to discuss the structural difference and social good of our efforts may take a back seat to “getting things done.” If you are already doing this, fantastic. If you are not, I encourage you to take the time to engage your personnel in this conversation. If our boards and internal teams are passionate about the credit union difference, they can ignite the sort of grassroots effort that will move us all forward.

Here at the League, we will continue to look for additional opportunities to boost credit unions’ voice. In addition to efforts to defend credit unions’ tax exemption, we continue to see significant growth in awareness through one of those opportunities—the Banking You Can Trust campaign.

From all reports and metrics available, word of mouth advertising is still the best way to communicate a message. This includes social media and is the basis of viral campaigns. How incredible could it be if a few more people from each credit union staff or board followed @bankingyoutrust on Twitter or shared the Web site on Facebook and from there had even one friend do the same? I believe those rankings in the 20’s would trend upwards. The pace at which that happens is truly up to each and every one of us.

Unite for Good! 

Posted by Greg Michlig Thursday, October 17, 2013 9:23:00 AM

If you are reading this blog, I’m sure you know that today, October 17, 2013, is International Credit Union Day. It is a day set aside to commemorate the credit union movement’s impact on the financial well-being of its members. It is also a day to reflect on the rich history of the movement and the growth we have achieved by staying true to our mission of “People Helping People.”

This year we join with over 50,000 credit unions representing more than 196 million members, in over 100 countries, under the “Unite for Good” theme. This theme is indicative of the nature of credit unions, where we rally behind our shared values as a movement through collaboration and aggregate strength.

New Jerseyans have been hit hard by the economic climate and the realities of Superstorm Sandy. Along the way, credit unions have been integral in the path to recovery through their community involvement, financial education initiatives, and their traditional focus on members’ needs as not-for-profit financial cooperatives. Many of the programs credit unions have enacted to improve the financial well-being of their members have been developed through shared knowledge and cooperative endeavors that are only possible through a collaborative approach that is truly unique in the financial services industry.

As a movement, we need to take it upon ourselves to proudly share our credit union message. Not just today, but whenever the opportunity presents itself. I encourage you to take the time to look back at the history of our movement, understand where we’ve been and why we continue to be the best financial partner for all consumers. Then, individually, take the initiative to more boldly spread the word of the positive impact we make for our members each day.

I also encourage you to continue to look for new ways to engage in the collaborative process. At the New Jersey Credit Union League we have been working towards this very goal. A key element of our mission is to “create a collaborative environment that adds value through shared services, consumer awareness, and innovative market development.” One new way in which we are doing this is through the recently announced Creative You program.

Creative You is designed to give anyone, from credit union leaders to frontline staff, a forum to share their ideas on how credit unions can continue to innovate and evolve to best meet the financial needs of their members and ensure a robust movement here in New Jersey. Whether presenting concepts relative to the credit union, statewide, or universal level, Creative You affords the opportunity for forward-thinking, ambitious credit union personnel to take the stage and showcase their ingenuity.

This program also provides a venue to foster collaboration between credit unions. While teams may be comprised of individuals from a single credit union, Creative You is also open to individuals wishing to work with professionals from other credit unions in an effort to tackle important issues facing the movement. NJCUL will even work with individuals to coordinate groups upon request.

Whether through Creative You, the Executive Leadership Series, NJ PLAN, or any of the other collaborative initiatives presented by the League, your involvement is the key to our collective success. We are here to lead and we are also here to listen. Participate and encourage others at your credit union to do the same.

So, let’s take a moment to celebrate our history and successes today, more actively share our message going forward, and continue to discover new and exciting ways to “Unite for Good.”

Happy International Credit Union Day!

A Word of Thanks 

Posted by Greg Michlig Friday, October 04, 2013 9:31:00 AM

On the heels of the NJCUL’s 79th Annual Meeting and Convention, there is no doubt that there are many people who deserve recognition for their efforts. The question is, where to start?

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “it takes a village” used in instances like this. If that’s the case, then the village planner for this event would be none other than Yvette Segarra, Manager of Special Events. She’d probably be the sheriff as well! Events like these are a tremendous undertaking and Yvette takes great pride in putting together a program, from start to finish and exhibit hall to annual meeting that does not disappoint. Based on the comments I heard and have received, it was mission accomplished this year in Atlantic City.

The rest of the village is extensive and diverse. It includes the NJCUL Board of Directors, the full staff, exhibitors, hotel staff, speakers, entertainers and, of course the credit union personnel and volunteers who take the time to attend.

Having attended countless credit union conferences and meetings of all sizes over the years and, as a staff member involved in the management of many such conferences, I know what it takes to execute a successful event. Your NJCUL staff was most certainly up to the task.

From processing your registrations to preparing your registration envelopes pre-conference, to greeting you at the registration desk; From evaluating and signing speakers to assisting them with their on-site set up and making sure the rooms were prepared; Whether arriving a day or two early to be sure the hotel and AV was ready or arriving before you in the mornings to make sure everything was in order for the day… there are many things going on behind the scenes that you have no reason to be aware of… I could go on and on. It was “all-hands-on-deck” and throughout the convention I was continually fielding comments assuring me that all hands were performing to an exemplary level.

To be honest, it didn’t surprise me. This staff is comprised of people who work very hard and have your best interests in mind at every turn. They want you to walk away with exceptional value through content and a smile from the fun you had along the way.

I’m sure it sounds like I’m bragging and, of course I have a biased view. If not for the high praise I heard on-site and through follow-up emails, perhaps my tone would be slightly more muted. Either way, it would not have diminished my view of the mission-centric approach of the team here at the League.

I was also told that the conference attendees were as engaged as ever. The exhibit hall was busy (along with the dance floor). The general session room was packed and the breakout sessions were highly attended. Participation in the New Jersey Credit Union Foundation’s silent auction was up. With the sun shining outside and the slot machines ringing below, these indicators say a lot about the dedication of the attending credit union representatives and their commitment to their members.   

Thank you to the board of directors for their ongoing support and participation throughout the Annual Meeting and Convention. And thank you to all attendees, exhibitors, sponsors and partners who helped make the 2013 NJCUL Annual Meeting and Convention a huge success!