Posts From August, 2013

Lending a Hand 

Posted by Greg Michlig Friday, August 30, 2013 10:11:00 AM

It’s no secret that increased lending activity is a primary goal for the majority of credit unions. A strong loan portfolio equates to healthy performance relative to many credit unions’ key ratios. It’s also no secret that loan growth is lagging here in New Jersey, as opposed to most other states. Statistics have pointed this out for an extended period of time. And now, with the NCUA’s Quarterly U.S. Map Reviews presenting visual representations of this over the past two years, it stands clear that there is work to be done.

This has been a regular topic of conversation from the time I first met with the NJCUL Board of Directors to as recently as two days ago when I was visiting with a credit union CEO. As we discussed, I see this not as plight, but as opportunity. Here at the League, we are continually looking for ways to assist you in getting the message out to the many who still view credit unions as savings institutions and not lenders of choice.

Later this morning we will be meeting with some of the key players involved in the green energy loan initiative. This has been a priority since my first day on the job here in New Jersey and has also been a monumental task. The model here in New Jersey is different than those in other states where such loans are offered, meaning there were and still are many variables to address. We have cleared many of the hurdles that stagnated the project and, I am pleased to say, we are moving towards the pilot and implementation phases of this initiative. As a matter of fact, included in the key players at today’s meeting will be representatives from seven potential pilot credit unions. This opportunity won’t be for all credit unions, but it will provide a new lending channel for those where there is a fit.

The Banking You Can Trust campaign is also heavily tied into lending. By building overall awareness through the campaign, we are inherently promoting the value of credit unions as a trusted source for financial services. In most spots, there is specific reference to consumer lending.

Business lending is also a topic in select Banking You Can Trust ads. As we read about MBL growth throughout the credit union movement, we need to be sure we are taking steps to ensure that same growth surfaces here in New Jersey. I have engaged a variety of credit union CEOs from throughout the state and from a wide span of asset sizes to discuss how NJCUL can provide resources and expertise to help drive member business lending. As we evaluate the options and continue this dialogue, I invite you to contact me (gmichlig@njcul.org) with any thoughts you have on this topic.

And, of course, one cannot discuss MBL without acknowledging the need for MBL reform. We continue to present our case to legislators that increasing the 12.25% cap to the proposed 27.5% is essential to credit unions’ ability to provide lending to businesses in need. Credit unions have proven they are there for small businesses, while commercial bank lending has decreased by 10% over the past five years.

On a final note, just a quick reminder that the New Jersey Credit Union League's 79th Annual Meeting and Convention is just around the corner: September 29, 2013 to October 1, at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J. Many of you are set to go, but if you haven’t already done so, please register today. I am looking forward to seeing you all there!

It’s All Semantics 

Posted by Greg Michlig Friday, August 23, 2013 10:52:00 AM

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked about the adjustment from living in the Midwest to living in New Jersey. And as many of you have heard me respond, it hasn’t been that different. Of course there are words my family and I say that are different here than in Wisconsin, but that has not caused us any significant trouble. (Apparently lollypop is the appropriate word in Jersey, not sucker).

In working through a transition in a business, as we are doing here at the New Jersey Credit Union League, it is important to be sure that the semantics of the discussions don’t impede the task at hand…whatever that may be at the time. Of course, being that I am the key element in the transition here, I have been spending a good deal of time with the staff to be sure we are on the same page.

Why am I sharing this? Because it is a universal issue, whether in one-on-one relationships, in the office, with business partners, or any other communication you may have. And, because I received an email today from a long-time associate who sent me this video on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=31JjddNinQk. This is important, because it is the exact same video I shared with the League staff during one of our recent strategic dialogue sessions. As I said at the time, I may think that what I am saying is clear, but I also understand that even the simplest of messages can be misconstrued.

You can rest assured I am confident that all of us here at NJCUL are very much on the same page. I believe our dialogue sessions have been very valuable and staff has indicated they feel same.

As I continue with these posts and other communications, I encourage you to reach out to me if my message is not clear. Going forward, these posts will become much less about me and more about the new initiatives we are working on. I anticipate this will generate more questions and I hope you will feel comfortable sending me a message or giving me a call to discuss.

Speaking of those new initiatives, we have spent a good amount of time working on one that we plan to introduce very soon and launch at the NJCUL Annual Meeting and Convention. We’re working collaboratively to complete the initial program design, which will be centered on innovation. Along with this program we have been putting a great deal of time into several other initiatives addressing such issues as green energy loans, member business lending, and healthcare reform.

Finally, as this is posted, I am in Washington, DC attending the Swearing-In Ceremony for new NCUA Director Richard Metsger. I look forward to meeting him and broadening the lines of communication with NCUA, a good continuation of our efforts to identify and avoid any potential semantic barriers between the agency and our credit unions.

Making Strides with Reach 

Posted by Greg Michlig Friday, August 09, 2013 12:26:00 PM

Three months into my role here as League president and I am now seeing many paths emerge for the organization, our member credit unions, myself and staff to walk down.

As a team, League staff and I have begun working on new and exciting opportunities for New Jersey credit unions. Some of those ideas center around the cooperative advertising campaign, “Banking You Can Trust” and ways we can improve not only its reach of consumers, but help credit unions generate more worthwhile leads from our advertising.

We have been beefing up our social media efforts on the consumer advocacy front. Our utilization of social media in the past couple of months has earned us a tremendous amount of new followers of our Twitter handle @BankingYouTrust.

Generating interest through social media has also had a tremendous impact on our consumer advocacy Web site www.bankingyoucantrust.com. The site has garnered more unique visitors in the past month than any other, since its launch last year.

As a team we plan to work on ways to attract more consumers to our social media channels and not just industry insiders, politicians and other credit unions. Starting a conversation with New Jersey consumers about financial services, education and the benefits of using a credit union will be a focus in the coming months and year.

Your participation plays a vital role in the success of those efforts. As we continue efforts to expand the “Banking You Can Trust” audience, promote the Web site and Twitter handle to your members and, if you aren’t already, consider participating in our shared advertising campaign.

As I mentioned to the attendees at the NJ DNA meeting in Bloomfield last evening, the “Banking You Can Trust” and “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” messages are synergistic. While “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” is essential to our continuing efforts to defend credit unions’ tax status, it is also a tremendous opportunity to talk about the value proposition of credit unions.

Last Friday while I was in Boston at the AACUL meeting, League staff were on the Asbury Park boardwalk speaking directly with consumers about the benefits of credit unions (under the “Banking You can Trust” banner) and for those who were credit union members (and they tell me there were quite a few) they discussed the Don’t Tax My Credit Union initiative. Many of them even filled out postcards as part of the League’s postcard campaign. The League’s grassroots postcard campaign is similar to campaigns done in previous years. We ask that any interested credit union staffer, volunteer or member complete postcards in support of the Don’t Tax My Credit Union message. Postcards can be obtained through the League’s Director of Government Affairs Chris Abeel. If you are interested in participating in this effort, please contact him at cabeel@njcul.org or 609-448-2426 ext. 127.

Stay tuned for more in the area of reach with our consumer advocacy efforts.

Impressions of the 'System' 

Posted by Greg Michlig Friday, August 02, 2013 8:00:00 AM

This, the second installment of The Collaborative Connection, comes to you from a hotel desk in Boston. It is Thursday evening and I have just spent a full day with fellow League presidents and executives, CUNA board members, executives and staff, and select guests. My intent was to spend time thoroughly delving into the impressions I have had of the credit union system in place through the CUNA/League structure over the past few months. However, what has taken place today, while well in line with the impressions I had prior to my arrival in Boston, will require brevity in this week's post.

We went long today... very long. And the day is not over. As with all such events, there are dinner reservations and ongoing conversations to take place throughout the evening.

The dialogue in the League presidents' room today was in-depth, compelling, collaborative and, perhaps most important to you, centered around the success and issues facing credit unions and the movement. As the conversations (and debates) rolled on, not a soul made note of the fact we were continually passing the timed benchmarks on the agenda. A thorough discussion of the issues was paramount, the time of day was secondary.

Whether at the CUNA America's Credit Union Conference last month, through the discussions today or at any point in-between, my experience within the system has been that the leaders of this movement are fundamentally driven by addressing the challenges of and driving opportunities for your credit unions at every turn. Perhaps this comes across as self-serving, but this is exactly the type of environment I had hoped to find and is very much in line with my philosophical approach. At its very core, what I have seen is that, it's not about CUNA or the Leagues, but it is about the credit unions and ultimately the members.

You may say, that's how it should be. And I agree. However one cannot dismiss the questions and comments that arise regarding the value of affiliation or the cynicism that sometimes creeps into conversations. I am certain that my time to address these issues as one with a fresh set of eyes will not last long. So while I can, I want to tell you that your concerns are heard, your pain is felt, your successes are celebrated and your affiliation is highly valued, to an extent that is much more deeply emotional and authentic than you may imagine. I have been impressed and I am proud to be a part of this system.

And with that... I am late for the next scheduled event and most certainly do not want to miss an opportunity to discuss additional ways to positively impact credit unions with the fine folks from the Filene Research Institute, who have graciously invited me to dinner.