The Collaborative Connection

Raising the Bar on Partnerships 

Posted by Greg Michlig Tuesday, April 29, 2014 9:16:00 AM

As I was reviewing the most recent PSG Newsletter, I reflected on the many conversations I’ve had with both credit union leaders and executives of the various business entities we work with here in New Jersey since my arrival nearly one year ago. These types of conversations aren’t new to me. Of the 19 years I’ve spent in the credit union movement, 100% of them have involved interaction with or employment as a supplier to credit unions. I have sat across the desk from credit union CEOs and executives hundreds of times, discussing value proposition, service level expectations, corporate philosophy, and impact on the bottom line. Those discussions have been extremely valuable in shaping my perception of the business environment in and around the movement.

As chairman of Professional Services Group (PSG) of New Jersey, I have taken time to understand and evaluate the structure of our business partner relationships, the delivery of our partners’ messages and, in some cases, the products we directly administer through the organization. There are many positives, yet evolution is essential in the fast-paced environment in which we operate.

Internally, we are working on process improvements to be certain you understand the “whys” related to which business partners have been selected. Of course some of those reasons are (or should be) fairly obvious, such as being the nation’s largest credit union-owned, surcharge-free ATM network; having a long history of success with credit unions and being recognized as Barron’s #1 Financial Advisor in New Jersey; being founded by credit union pioneers and partnering in the success of the movement on all fronts for over 75 years; partnering directly with PSG and the New Jersey Credit Union League to launch innovative new lending channels; or providing access to national and international brands that offer discounted services directly to credit union members.

Other reasons may not be so obvious, and that is where I see room for improvement. As we move forward, it is my intent to have PSG provide more information on the strengths of our business partners, allowing you to get a jump-start on your due diligence in what has become an ongoing vendor evaluation process.

We will also be asking for more involvement from you. Whether through technology or in-person conversations, we have increased and will continue to provide channels to further increase the opportunity for you to provide feedback on new business lines, as well as existing and prospective business partners. While we fully intend to continue to bring new ideas forward, your voice in vetting those and providing additional ideas is essential. That is how, as an aggregator, PSG can best serve your credit unions and members.

Expect more on this topic in the second half of the year, as we work on raising the bar on our efforts in this area. I understand how important strong, trusted business partnerships are to your operations and place our responsibility to serve the affiliated credit unions of this state as a resource in this regard very high.

Was it Over When the Germans Bombed Pearl Harbor? 

A commentary on the reaction to NCUA’s proposed Risk-Based Capital rule.
Posted by Greg Michlig Tuesday, April 01, 2014 10:58:00 AM

I’m guessing many of you know the scene from the movie Animal House when Dean Wormer comes down hard on Delta Tau Chi Fraternity. If you don’t, you should stop what you are doing, write a comment letter to NCUA on the Risk-Based Capital proposal, and then rent/download the movie and watch it.

For those of you who do recall, you’re probably chuckling to yourself right now. However, in the context I’m thinking, you shouldn’t be. The scene begins with John “Bluto” Blutarsky (played by John Belushi) walking in to find his fraternity brothers and exclaiming:

“Hey! What’s all this laying around stuff? Why are you all still laying around here for?”

His brothers fill him in on what’s happened…the administration has laid the groundwork for expulsion of the fraternity and its members from the college. Blutarsky goes on with the well-known, historically inaccurate, yet strongly motivational:

“What? Over? Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”

Funny, I know…especially if you have seen it.

The reason this comes to mind, though, is that I have the same question for all of you when it comes to NCUA’s proposed Risk-Based Capital rule (available here).

“Hey! What’s all this laying around stuff? Why are you all still laying around here for?”

There has been a massive amount of information published in the press, provided by CUNA and NJCUL, and discussed at small meetings, large conferences, through Webinars, and on conference calls since the day this proposal was rolled out. The consensus is…this rule as written, will, among other things:

- Disincent many forms of credit union lending and long-term investments.

- Restrict capital investment, in order to re-establish acceptable risk-based capital levels.

- Increase the need for non-interest income.

- Increase the pressures for consolidation.

- In short: Cripple the credit union movement.

This is a BIG DEAL, folks. And to that, I say:

Was it over when the NCUA rolled out the Risk-Based Capital proposal? Hell no!

But you need to get up off the couch and run out the door (or to your desk) yelling “Let’s do it!”

We have held two of three collaborative comment letter writing sessions in New Jersey and have had minimal participation. This is disappointing.

We have heard people say a) this doesn’t affect our small credit union, b) I’m not good at writing comment letters, c) I don’t want retribution from the regulator, and the list goes on.

Simply put: a) regulation on one credit union inevitably affects all credit unions, b) there are tools, resources, and FREE workshops to help you craft your comment letters, c) if you sit idly by, they’ve already won the battle.

The New Jersey Credit Union League will be filing its first (there may be more) comment letter this week. If you have visited www.njcul.org recently, you will see this is the preeminent issue on the home page. There is a countdown to the closing date for comment letters and a tally of how many of you have stepped up to the plate. CUNA president/CEO, Bill Cheney, will be here for an NJCUL Town Hall meeting today and you can bet this will be a topic of significance.

This is a BIG DEAL!

There are a myriad of issues to comment on with regards to this proposal.

- First and foremost, excessive capital requirements, primarily on lending, but also CUSO investments.

- No recognition of the fact that while a credit union may remain “Well Capitalized” in the new system, the amount to reach the buffer credit unions now have above the minimum requirement is an additional $7.3B that will need to be raised.

- Length of time allotted to restructure balance sheets if passed, is far too short (18 months, vs. 2019 for banks to conform to Basel III).

- NCUA examiners have the ability to subjectively require higher risk-based capital for individual credit unions.

- With credit unions’ success in weathering the recent Great Recession relative to other financial institutions, is this rule even necessary?

- Is it in violation of the Federal Credit Union Act?

This is not the place to list all the concerns, but it is also not the last you will hear from us on this. 

The New Jersey Credit Union League will be sending information directly to credit unions regarding the financial and regulatory realities of this rule very soon. We will also continue to provide assistance through our Compliance Hotline (800-792-8861 ext. 112) and in league publications.

CUNA has provided great resources and documentation on this issue at www.cuna.org/rbc. There, in addition to a detailed review of the rule in several forms, you can find a calculator that provides more depth in its ability to analyze your current and projected realities based on this rule, than what you would find on the NCUA Web site.

This is a CALL-TO-ACTION, my friends. Whether a credit union or a provider for credit unions, YOUR LIVELIHOOD IS AT STAKE. It is not the time to sit on the sidelines, idly by. It is time to step up and say:

“Let’s do it!”

It’s a Man’s World…Or Is It? 

Guest Blog Post By: Candice Nigro
Posted by Greg Michlig Tuesday, March 18, 2014 9:48:00 AM

As a mom of three girls, there is a certain feminism that must be maintained so they know that they can be and do anything that they want to. I encourage them to make their own choices, even though it makes me nuts sometimes. Still, whatever I am doing must be working because while they love Disney princesses, they tend to be fonder of those that make their own way and don’t need a man to help them along.

The credit union industry is a very women-centric one. Daily, I meet or speak with more women CEOs and executive team members than any other industry I have worked in. In fact, of the 14 League employees, 10 are women. It’s nice to see that some of the stigmas of the 1950s have faded.

Since I started working with credit unions 10 years ago, I have seen more and more women promoted to top leadership roles and recognized for their talents and skills, often times surpassing men. I am more of a level playing field kind of girl, but it is encouraging to see that women aren’t being forgotten simply for being women in today’s day and age.

About five years ago, the World Council of Credit Unions created the Global Women’s Leadership Network bringing together women from credit union systems around the world to support each other, network, and help improve their credit unions, communities, and lives. They currently have 530 members from more than 40 countries.

The Network has regional chapters that meet throughout the year. An upcoming meeting will be held on April 8 right in my own state at Affinity FCU where women from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut will gather together and hear from two local women credit union leaders. I plan to attend; it will be my first meeting, but I am interested to see what it is all about.

Having the opportunity to meet other women in leadership positions throughout the industry seems like a no-brainer. I’ll learn a few things about how they have succeeded, about myself and equally as important, have stories to share with my daughters about successful women.

I’m lucky to live in a country and work in an industry that treats women pretty equally. Many cannot say the same thing. I encourage you to consider attending the event. And in the name of equality, I think a few guys should attend, too…maybe you’ll learn a few things.

Click here for more information and to register.

A Look Back at the 2014 CUNA GAC 

(This is a long one…)
Posted by Greg Michlig Tuesday, March 04, 2014 10:55:00 AM

About 20 minutes into my 188-mile drive to the nation’s capital, I was convinced it was going to be a good trip. The mix of songs on XM’s ’80s on 8 channel was fantastic and had me energized for the five-night trip to the 2014 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference.

With a slight delay from traffic around the National Zoo (it was a beautiful day), I arrived at the Renaissance Hotel with minutes to spare before my first meeting. From 2:00 until nearly 6:00, I sat in on the CUNA Governmental Affairs Committee meeting, held in the lower level of the Renaissance. Topics were wide ranging and set the stage nicely for what conference participants were about to hear in the coming week. From there, a dinner with colleagues and re-acquaintance with some long-time friends from throughout the credit union movement. 

Note #1: There are many benefits of attending the GAC…networking is one of them. I am a huge fan of in-person networking. I believe that genuine and productive conversations happen face-to-face. While in-person meetings are often hard to schedule, I value events that foster interaction with a large number of people.

Shortly before 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning, I was back in the same room in the lower level of the Renaissance for a meeting with the stakeholders in Credit Union House, credit unions’ “home away from home” in Washington, DC. This was followed by another meeting with the board and shareholders of CUNA Strategic Services. Then, the American Association of Credit Union Leagues (AACUL) luncheon and meeting, with the other League Presidents in attendance and the CUNA/ACCUL executive teams. A full slate for a Sunday morning/early afternoon.

Within an hour, I was off to meet some of your League’s board members who had traveled together by train and were getting registered at the Washington Convention Center. From there, several of us attended the special session on risk-based capital, while others went to a small credit union roundtable meeting.

Note #2: NCUA’s proposed rule on risk-based capital was a key topic throughout the GAC. As I entered the room for the session on Sunday afternoon, I commented that much of what had been discussed over my first 24 hours in DC was specific to this rule. This issue sat alongside the “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” initiative atop the GAC agenda throughout the conference. This is a big deal…I addressed it early in this blog, with a post on January 30, it has been discussed at roundtables in New Jersey, and it has permeated the dialogue with CUNA and the trade press. I encourage you to read whatever you can on the issue and comment to NCUA. NJCUL is available to work with you on crafting your comment letters.

Sunday evening marked the beginning of the numerous receptions surrounding the GAC and the opening of the expansive exhibit hall.

The full conference began in earnest on Monday morning, when the bulk of the 4,400 credit union attendees packed the general session room for comments from the likes of Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; Debbie Matz, NCUA Chairman; Pat Wessenberg, CUNA Chairman; and Bill Cheney, CUNA president/CEO.

Note #3: In my opinion, a can’t-miss moment of the GAC is the opening, featuring the Presentation of Colors by an honor guard representing all branches of the United States military, accompanied by the U.S. Marine Corps Band. Frankly, I get a little choked up at this every year.

At the tail end of the morning session, CUNA and the California/Nevada Credit Union League introduced a joint initiative in the launch of PowerComment. This is a tool to assist in preparing comment letters and is available to all affiliated credit unions. Visit www.cuna.org for additional information.

With sessions underway and the exhibit hall buzzing, the event was in full swing.

On Monday afternoon, we saw New Jersey’s own Jim Miller Jr., CIO, Liberty Savings FCU, on the center stage to accept an award for being among the nation’s best in providing direct financial benefits to members. Congratulations to the entire Liberty Savings team!

After navigating several more networking receptions, I had the privilege of seeing four long-time credit union champions honored at the annual Herb Wegner Dinner, presented by the National Credit Union Foundation. It was a moving tribute to those who have served the movement in exemplary fashion over the years. As a bonus, the dinner itself was excellent!

Sessions and exhibits continued throughout the day on Tuesday and blended into the evening slate of…you guessed it, receptions, networking, and dinner.

Several from the New Jersey contingent took the time to attend the NCUA meet & greet in the Convention Center. League Board Chair Linda McFadden and I spoke with Chairman Matz and board member Metzger. The conversations were cordial, but we were certain to note our concerns with regulatory burden and perspective, along with, of course, our dissatisfaction with the risk-based capital proposal.

From there a reception and then the New Jersey delegation dinner at Acadiana restaurant. Many of the 39 attendees from New Jersey joined us for a fun evening and, I’ll say it again, some great networking.

As the GAC began to wind down on Wednesday, activities for the Hike-the-Hill began to ramp up. With most of the delegation participating, a pre-meeting was held to review the issues of importance to take to our legislators on the Hill, including comprehensive tax reform, merchant data breaches, and member business lending. NJCUL Director of Government Affairs, Chris Abeel, led the discussion and brought in CUNA Director of Legislative Affairs, Michele Johnson, for additional perspective.

By early afternoon, we were walking the halls of Congress, with the knowledge that the comprehensive tax reform discussion draft released by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) left the credit union tax status untouched.

Following the meetings with our legislators, I can say that credit unions in New Jersey have some very strong relationships with both our congressional delegation and their staff. Of course, there is always work to do in terms of political and legislative advocacy, but from what I have seen, our approach is solid and effective.

To wrap up my final evening in the nation’s capital, I discussed some strategic initiatives over dinner with some colleagues and made a stop at the closing Gala Reception and Dance, where I ran across a few of our New Jersey folks enjoying the evening.

Note #4: Next year, I hope you’ll join us for the GAC. With credit union leaders traveling from throughout the 50 states and even internationally, New Jersey should be strongly represented. My drive was 3.5 hours… I like to drive, especially when the music is good…the train can get you there, or you can grab a quick flight if necessary. Relatively speaking, we are nearby. The content is great, the networking is valuable, the exhibit hall is educational, our New Jersey dinner is fun, and the Hike-the-Hill is meaningful.

The drive home seemed a little longer, as I was tired and had a head filled with ideas, issues, concerns, and follow-up items to tackle. It was a talk-radio kind of day. The best part was pulling in the driveway and having my 5-year-old son run out to greet me (along with an excited dog).

These trips are work. They take you away from your family and from your routine (if you are fortunate enough to have one). They consist of early mornings and late nights. They can be fun, but also monotonous at times. Most importantly, though, they are meaningful. And that, I believe, is the key to this event, and all that we do in credit unions. 

Click here to view photos of the 2014 CUNA GAC. 

Sometimes Numbers are Important 

Posted by Greg Michlig Thursday, February 13, 2014 10:22:00 AM

Numbers surface so many times in daily life. There are numbers that some choose to ignore—age, weight, debt payments, etc. There are numbers that are incredibly important—anniversary and birth dates, your mom’s phone number, your address, and, lately, the amount of snow we will be getting. Here are some numbers that are hard to ignore...

During the first week in February 2014, New Jersey credit unions appeared in search results on aSmarterChoice.org 2,104 times—nearly half the number for ALL of February 2013. The Banking You Can Trust campaign’s advertising on Comcast.net received a 1.10% click-thru rate, up from the 0.13% average in all of 2013. In short, our repetitive, multi-faceted marketing approach is generating results!

A new campaign as part of our overall consumer awareness strategy began on February 2. In the short time that the campaign has been running, as of this writing, it has generated 209 visits to bankingyoucantrust.com with the average time those users spend on the site being 5 minutes and 58 seconds. While visitors from this particular campaign only represent about 20% of all site visitors, the nearly six minutes they have spent on the site is tremendous compared to the average time spent from all other visitors at 1 minute 35 seconds.

Another powerful number from this experimental campaign is 28%. That is the percentage of visitors from the campaign who are performing credit union searches when they visit.

Stay tuned for more information on this and a formal reveal in early March.

Numbers also relate to Banking You Can Trust in terms of support from our credit unions. We are currently receiving more support from credit unions both in number of contributors and monetarily than this time last year. We are so thankful for this support, as without it, the campaign could not be as strong as it is. If you aren’t contributing to the campaign, please consider doing so. The contribution is small as it relates to the value currently offered to participants and we are laying the foundation for future initiatives that will continue to add value.

It’s also great to see our affiliates rallying together through increased support of other programs this year, as well. More credit unions have contributed to the very popular Reality Fair program and the partnership with the New Jersey Coalition for Financial Education—both of which are New Jersey Credit Union Foundation programs. Well done!

Why it’s important; overall engagement is up. Engagement is the key to creating better informed consumers and turning them into credit union members. Without credit unions’ participation it wouldn’t be possible and we wouldn’t have so many trusted partners to promote to consumers.

Regulatory Reaction 

Posted by Greg Michlig Thursday, January 30, 2014 12:02:00 PM

On Monday evening I decided it would be nice to do a little light reading. Instead, I started in on NCUA’s 197-page Proposed Rule on Prompt Corrective Action—Risk Based Capital. Let’s just say I didn’t make it all the way through that evening. I did, however finish up on Tuesday and, over the past couple of days, have taken in a series of other articles through the trades and from financial analysts.

The most important reading on this topic I have done, however, has been the emails that I have received from the CEOs of a few of NJCUL’s affiliated credit unions (along with several direct conversations). As has been documented in those aforementioned trade press articles, opinions on this rule vary and there are unique circumstances related to the application of the new measures depending on the credit union.

NCUA’s description of the proposed rule is, of course, logical and favorable. As I mentioned to those CEOs who emailed, their input provides necessary context when reviewing the information. As the state association for credit unions here in N.J., it is important to receive such emails and have the direct conversations I’ve had as well.

This is not a comment letter (although NJCUL will submit one) and the concerns with this proposed rule will be more universally fleshed out during the 90-day comment period and, certainly, during the CUNA GAC in a few weeks, but here are a few initial thoughts.

On page 14 of the draft (available here) it states that “Operating a credit union involves taking and managing a variety of risks…” Credit unions have shown that relative to other financial institutions, managing risk is a strength. While there is certainly room for adjustment to measurement of Risk Based Net Worth, this approach seems to significantly impair credit unions’ ability to take and manage risk in a way that will allow credit unions to grow. Furthermore, the proposal is heavily focused on concentration risk and doesn’t appear to take into consideration risk mitigation tools such as, but certainly not limited to, put options or rate structure.

I also find it interesting that the proposal also states, relative to potential additional requirements for individual credit unions, on page 86, that “(the rule) would provide that the appropriate minimum capital levels for an individual credit union cannot be determined solely through the application or a rigid mathematical formula or wholly objective criteria, and that the decision is necessarily based, in part, on a subjective judgment grounded in agency expertise.” Agreed, although there should also be consideration of the subjective judgment of the individual credit union’s management expertise in what could be a very sound risk-based approach that may or may not fit the rigid mathematical formulas and wholly objective criteria imposed through this proposed rule.

See what I did there?

The other part of the section that is bothersome is that, while subjectivity should certainly be an aspect of any major decision, what parameters will be in place to be sure that this subjectivity does not result in additional measures being imposed as the rule, as opposed to the exception? And whom, in particular, will have discretionary authority over whether or not additional requirements are necessary?

I could go on, but I won’t as there is still much discussion that needs to take place to fully understand the ramifications, pros, cons, etc. of this proposal. We’ll stay on it here at NJCUL and will more formally communicate relative to this issue in the coming weeks.

While I’m on the topic, you may have read in Tuesday’s Daily Exchange that I was recently appointed to the American Association of Credit Union Leagues’ (AACUL) Regulatory Advocacy/Compliance Advisory Committee. I am very pleased to be selected for this particular committee, noting that regulatory burden is a chief concern of nearly, if not all credit unions. I am looking forward to being the voice of New Jersey credit unions in this area and hope to positively impact the regulatory and compliance process through my involvement on this committee.

Engaging Young Professionals 

Posted by Greg Michlig Tuesday, January 21, 2014 8:43:00 AM

Age is both very specific and also relative. Depending on the situation, we may each cast ourselves as young or, um…otherwise. This goes for business careers as well.

What is a young professional? Is that label defined by the cutoff for the 40 Under 40 lists or the 30 Under 30 lists? The young professional groups we see and hear of today are said to have evolved from the Yuppies of the past (according to Wikipedia). For reference, Yuppies were defined as being in their 20’s or 30’s.

Depending on your path of entry into the credit union world, you may be a current young professional or, as the calendar has illustrated in my case, a former young professional. Either way, there is a point of reference for each of us and it is important that we recognize that in our industry.

It’s no secret that senior management in credit unions has matured along with the movement. Statistics will tell you that a large number of credit union CEOs are preparing for retirement in the next few years. While some of those positions may be filled by outside talent, many of the next CEOs will come from within. And hence, the position that person leaves will be filled, and so on and so forth.

As a leader, what steps are you taking to be sure that those in your organization are prepared to step up when the opportunity arises? As a young professional (YP), what are you doing to set yourself apart as a rising star? Together, are we effectively building our credit union community with top tier talent that understand and believe in the credit union difference?

You may have read in yesterday’s Daily Exchange that Aspire FCU's Melissa Nesi has been selected as N.J.'s representative for the “Crash” CUNA's GAC program, supported by Filene Research Institute and the Cooperative Trust. (In this case the magic YP age cutoff was 30.) As a participant, Melissa will attend exclusive events, network with the N.J. delegation as well as other YPs from throughout the country and have fabulous exposure to the largest credit union event of the year. She is also going to write about her “Crash” experience in her own words from the perspective of a young credit union professional. We will share her thoughts and photos in a feature story following the GAC.

This is a tremendous opportunity for Melissa, but it is also a quite limited opportunity in that N.J. can only have a single “Crasher.” That said, there are other ways to be involved.

The recent launch of NJCUL’s Creative You presents a YP development opportunity. While there are no age or experience designations for Creative You, the program has certainly engaged some of N.J.’s ambitious YPs in this, its inaugural year. Those participating will have the opportunity to hone their planning skills, delve into innovation processes, and develop and showcase their presentation talents.

Chapters offer an opportunity for YPs and non-CEO’s to be involved on a more local level. They also offer the possibility to gain experience through serving in leadership positions. I have seen chapters and regional groups thrive throughout the country through the engagement of YPs.

This past November, the North-Central Chapter held a meeting in Clark, N.J. where executives, vendors, and YPs were invited to network while enjoying an open bar and buffet. This unique and very informal event was specifically designed to engage YPs. Allowing for opportunities for peer-to-peer connectivity results in sharing of best practices and ideas, and growth of the “community” environment that has always been a tenet of a strong credit union presence.

We also strive to facilitate these peer-to-peer connections through the NJCUL roundtables. While the roundtables are not age specific, there are opportunities for professionals to make connections based on their areas of expertise. In some cases this may result in a YP connection or, perhaps, even a mentoring-type environment where a more senior leader is able to impart valuable knowledge from experience that would assist someone junior.

As I reviewed our educational offerings for 2014, I also had this in mind. You will find the same core operational subject matter throughout our education calendar as in past years, but we have also expanded to include more strategic and developmental topics. Most specifically, keep an eye out for Webinars related to tools for analyzing and assisting emerging leaders as well as some on delving into problem solving techniques and individual skills development.

If you are a “former” like me, how are you engaging your YPs in an effort to develop the next leaders of our movement? If you consider yourself a current YP, step up, be a credit union advocate, express your ideas, and ask the questions on your mind. The evolution of the credit union industry is ongoing, and together, through development and planning, we will ensure there are future leaders who are instilled with the values that make credit unions unique and essential and the skills that foster success. 

2014: A Look Ahead 

Posted by Greg Michlig Thursday, January 02, 2014 10:19:00 AM

Happy New Year! 2013 was certainly an interesting year for me personally and for the New Jersey Credit Union League as well. Actually, for me, I’d say “exciting” would be a more appropriate adjective.

The tail end of ’13 was hectic, to be sure. We prepared and finalized our 2014 budget and strategic initiatives, got the cuGreenLoans pilot off the ground, celebrated the holidays, and continued to spend a significant amount of time with our credit unions throughout the state. That said, I’m not one for excuses, so I’ll simply acknowledge the fact that I did not post to this blog in December.

As for 2014 and those strategic initiatives…this is where I sense the adjective “exciting” applies for all of us here at NJCUL. In August, we started to formally put the wheels in motion to identify what we can and should be doing differently, through all-staff strategic dialogue sessions. We spent a considerable amount of time discussing what we have heard from you, the credit union professionals of New Jersey, relative to our offerings. The NJCUL Board of Directors held a strategic planning session in October, which provided focus as we honed our strategy relative to our vision. Internally, we have processed our ideas in several iterations and have continued the dialogue on an ongoing basis.

Some of our initiatives will see implementation in 2014, while others are being developed to set the stage for what will come in 2015 and beyond. While not putting the cart before the horse with specifics, it is safe to say that we are working on some significant additions to the Banking You Can Trust campaign, designed to drive specific value for affiliated credit unions in terms of promotion and member acquisition. Outreach efforts will be increased in an effort to gather greater insight into the issues most important to you and processes will be implemented to ensure those issues become the focal points that drive NJ EDGE, PLAN, and READ. We will review our business partner platform to identify ways in which we can drive additional value for our affiliates. Metrics are being developed to quantify your involvement and engagement in League-driven opportunities, so that we may more formally recognize your contributions to the credit union community as a whole. I could go on, but the point here is to provide the sketch, not paint the picture.

As we look ahead to 2014, I see opportunity. As many of us have done in recent weeks, literally, the League has figuratively filled its plate full. But we have done so thoughtfully and with purpose, so we are able to accomplish the goals we have set forth. When the annual calendar turns again in just under 12 months, I hope you will look back at the year that was, relative to what we accomplished and positioned at the League and find amongst the adjectives that come to mind…“exciting.”

To your success in 2014!

Thankful 

Posted by Greg Michlig Wednesday, November 27, 2013 11:10:00 AM

Traditionally, this is the time of year when many people pause to take inventory of those things for which they are grateful. On this, the eve of Thanksgiving, I’d like to share a few of those items on my list.

Personally, I am thankful to be starting a new chapter in my life with all of you, here in New Jersey. My entire professional career has centered on credit unions and I am very pleased to continue in this industry alongside all of you. The opportunity to work in a cooperative movement where the common goal is to help people achieve financial well-being and, through associated efforts, live better lives, is tremendously gratifying.

In an environment where time is limited and people are increasingly value-conscious, we at the New Jersey Credit Union League are specifically thankful for our affiliated credit unions. Together, through shared resources, we are able to project a strong, unified voice in consumer, political, and regulatory advocacy. It is the recognition that we are better together that exemplifies the credit union difference and allows us to separate credit unions’ brand from that of our for-profit competitors.

I would be remiss if I did not recognize the League staff in this post. It is only through their continually thoughtful and tireless efforts that this organization is able to serve you through a multifaceted approach each and every day. I am thankful for their professionalism and resourcefulness, and personally, for welcoming me and my family as we have navigated these first six months together.

And, of course, I am thankful for my family and friends. Making a move of the magnitude my wife, three children, and I have made this past year is significant. Without all of their support, it would have been extremely difficult.

Finally, the list of those things for which I am grateful also includes, but is not limited to: ice cream, golf, being introduced to a whole new world of pizza pie, ESPN, music (all kinds), the Green Bay Packers, nights out with my wife, and hugs and kisses from my kids.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. 

How Are You Failing Forward?  

Posted by Greg Michlig Monday, November 11, 2013 11:32:00 AM

Yes, that’s right… failing… are you doing a good job of it? Have you heard of the concept?

It’s a phrase that stuck with me many years ago. I performed a quick online search to see how prevalent this topic is and found that it must have caught the attention of many others as well. There are books, blogs, columns, and full Web sites dedicated to failing forward. I clicked on the top result: www.failforward.com. The following statement is on the homepage: “Failing Forward looks different for different kinds of organizations.” Simple, but accurate.

You don’t really define how to fail, but you know it when it happens, right? It’s taking the concept of “let’s throw these ideas on the wall and see what sticks” to another level. It’s “let’s implement these ideas that are a bit edgy but could be game changing and see what sticks.” Some are simply bound to fail…and that’s okay. It’s what you learn by being innovative that will produce the successes that follow the set-backs.

This topic has come up frequently in my conversations with credit union leaders throughout New Jersey. If your credit union (and the League for that matter) is not looking for ways to move forward, it won’t. And, as the statement says, this will look different for each organization. Risk tolerance levels vary by organization and they should. This is not to say everything is a go-for-broke strategy…but it’s good to set stretch goals and test the limits of your comfort zone.

Now, it should also be understood that the “forward” piece of this strategy significantly outweighs the allotment for “fail.” There needs to be a measured approach to everything and if the results of your efforts show significantly more “fail” than “forward,” adjustments need to be made.

While discussing how this concept has played into the successes of one small-asset credit union I met with, I made a connection to another statement that has stuck with me for many years. It’s something my dad told me when I played high school basketball: “If you’re not getting a couple fouls, you’re not trying hard enough.”

Now, this went against what coaches had been preaching…move your feet, don’t reach, play the angles, DON’T FOUL! But it also made sense to me and has likely played a role in my approach to many things today. I certainly didn’t want to foul out of games and knew that if I was out there hacking everyone, the coach would pull me. But I also became more aggressive and less afraid of picking up a foul (or three).

I remember my final game of high school basketball like it was yesterday. Our team had been ranked as high as #2 in the state within our division and we were in the regional finals. For much of the night I guarded the other team’s top scorer. We had a good team defense and I helped to hold him in check, relative to his usual performances. We went to overtime…and lost. I fouled out at the very beginning of overtime (on what even the radio announcer said was a bad call, by the way).

To use the cliché, I left everything on the floor. Our team was terribly disappointed by what we deemed a failure, but it was also a learning experience. We moved forward and knew that we were stronger because of all the hard work we had put in as a team. We learned that in the grand scheme of things, this would hurt for a while and then fade mostly to the back of our minds. I believe it was a factor in making us more determined in all of our endeavors, leading that group to many successful careers in business.

When you think of it, only one team gets to hoist the championship trophy at the end of each season. Knowing this, athletes choose to “get in the game” despite the likelihood that their last game will be a loss. But that does not deter them from doing whatever they can to make that last game a win because they know they will be better for it in the long run.

Are you in the game or on the sidelines? Do you have the tolerance to fail forward…even a little? Give it some thought. If we all fail forward a little, I believe that as a movement, we can move forward a lot. 

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