You will be hearing lots about recent federal Canadian draft legislation that allows credit unions to move beyond their historical provincial domains into a national marketplace. It will be an interesting debate.
To start off there will be a lot of new rules the new federal ‘credit union’ will have to operate under. But wait a second. Lets establish who and what this new entity will be. Will it be a ‘credit union’? I don’t think so. It will be a co-operative bank. Someone once said if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck it is a duck. And you don’t even have to look at the new set of rules that the co-operative bank will have to live under. Just look at what has happened in other co-operatives. Agricultural co-operatives (grain and dairy) have evolved from being co-operatives to corporations because their size dictated it. They needed more capital to grow. They just couldn’t find the capital from the membership or from the equity they had built up. They had to go beyond these two sources and that forced them to evolve into a corporation that could access capital markets. That happened with them and that is about to happen to credit unions as their size expands. They have a corporate model for growth that will eventually reach a point when there needs to be a choice to continue in some fashion as a credit union or to move to become a co-operative bank. I support this legislation as it follows historically what has happened in the co-operative system. Just make sure your members vote for it and realize if it walks like a co-operative bank and talks like a co-operative bank then it is a co-operative bank and not a credit union.
PS. This is one paragraph of what appeared in an Edmonton newspaper in response to the question about a credit unions going national.
In his 2010 federal budget, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Ottawa will draft legislation that allows credit unions to incorporate federally. Credit unions welcomed the move, saying operating outside their traditional provincial boundaries will give them more options to expand.
When a newspaper quotes “Credit unions welcomed” the move they must make sure they list the credit unions that have this opinion. It needs to say that this opinion is not held by most as a reason for welcoming the draft legislation.
Besides myself there are a lot of blogs that are in hibernation at this point. It seems strange but a diet of Twitter seems to have evaporated the desire to write. Taking the bit of thought of many people seems easier than spending time following someone’s complete train of thought on a subject. Are we becoming enamored by small bits of text in a quick series? This will date me but I remember the show Laugh-In. What made is so unique and unusual was the shortness of each film clip. It made a huge impact and had the effect that a one room TV scene became almost obsolete. MTV hit us with even shorter clips to coincide with each drum beat of music. Now Twitter seems to be the snippet induced mind candy. Yesterday was my 3rd anniversary of Twittering and there has been a evolution in usage and acceptance. At the start was the challenge of how long it would continue, just like blogging and email. The answer probably will always be whatever technology or system we use will continue as long as it is relevant to those that use it. Maybe for some of us we just need to write more.
All the Nikon equipment is getting ready and charged up for the trek downtown. There should be a huge crowd in Vancouver today as the sun is shining and it is a typical winter (but really early spring) day here. Looking outside you begin to think ‘Lawnmover’. This is Canada as was expressed during the opening Olympic ceremonies. Of the 5 of us traveling downtown 2 are born in Canada, 1 is born in Canada but is Irish, another is born in Germany and Canadian and one is born in Denmark and is still Danish. Even amongst one’s friends and relatives you can’t be removed from the Canadian multiculturalism. There is something special about that and I think we finally have told the world we aren’t afraid of celebrating who we are. So Gung Ho Fat Choy 恭 喜 發 財, Happy Valentine’s Day and have a great Olympics, eh?
Over the past few days I have had a number of long discussions with other credit unions and credit union suppliers about where our system is headed and what the challenges are.
First it seems important to realize that though we all call ourselves credit unions there is a difference behind the scenes. There are the large credit unions and the small credit unions. For the most part the size of the credit union is a differentiator in more ways than we might think.
Small credit unions must focus and understand who they are in their marketplace and what they mean to their members. With any organization of limited resources, use of resources must be dictated by need. That use of resources needs to be structured under the credit unions vision both now and for the future. They key to initiate and accomplish the vision is the ability to hold and keep a strong culture based on what I would call the 3 i’s. [Apologies to the Filene Institute for any confusion with their i3 program] Those 3 important i’s are:
Independence. This would mean that the credit union values and maintains its own sense of who it is and how it fits into the cooperative system. It means that by being independent it is accountable and responsible for its own decisions. I think credit unions have become lazy in not attempting to understand vital areas of their operation, specifically technology. They rely on the advice of others and haven’t taken the time to realize the extent and future challenges that may be in store for them when they make decisions about a banking system or switch provider without sound evidence. Knowledge starts first from admitting ones ignorance. The beauty of the credit union system is that most credit unions are willing to share any information if one begins at that humble position.
Innovation. This means keeping a key strategy that smallness brings, the ability to turn on a dime when it comes to creating and producing a product or service. When you see innovation as a strategic weapon you will be amazed at the possibilities available. You turn from the depressing “we can’t do that” to the positive “why can’t we do that”. It is very powerful when your energies are used in developing things your member wants instead of cloning what others already have.
Integrity. No credit union will last when it neglects this aspect of who they are. You cannot operate in a healthy fashion with your members or in the marketplace without this. The trust that you have will disappear when you forsake a culture established on having integrity. Sometimes it can be painful but whatever the loss, the gain is usually magnified by remaining true to who you are.
There are large credit unions that also have these attributes in their culture but because of their size they may not have them woven into their everyday fabric as much as a smaller credit union. Sometimes size diminishes the possibility of such. Small credit unions have less of an internal political life and because of this tend to approach problems differently within the credit union system. You can solve problems easily when the operational issues are solved. It becomes very difficult to finalize anything when politics become so dominant.
I haven’t been a big fan of the Olympics or maybe I should say I haven’t been a big fan of the IOC since the Mexican Games in 1968. (the Plaza de las Tres Culturas was the scene of the Tlatelolco massacre). Why any government or organization puts itself into that type of circumstance is puzzling. Then the IOC’s ban on blogging. The legalism of the IOC has certainly expanded and the only purpose that seems to be apparent is the need to protect the IOC and the corporate sponsor. Lost in all of this is the athletes. We have seen so many articles about everything but the athletes. It is now refreshing to be able to see something different and after tomorrow all of this corporate noise will become secondary.
For those that want the Olympics in their hometown good luck. The end result will be great and most are excited. It took 7 years to get here.
Monday is the day I get off and today is the first day in weeks where nothing, absolutely nothing, was on the calendar as a meeting, appointment, conference call or emerging work to be done. One wonders sometimes what people do on their days off and why it is more important than you think to plan nothing.
When the kids were younger and at home there was always the family time. Home was the revolving center and the noise and energy was its heartbeat. It would be nice to repeat those eventful days. Then the kids move on and one should start thinking of what you plan to do. Sure you can always work. The in-basket and email in-folder is bottomless. Then there are the library of books, too many to count, that would be great to finish. And the list goes on.
It is important that sometimes you don’t need a planned day, that it can be moments of serendipity. Today I found a real great song that will be played dozens of time. There is a kids video “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” that I need to watch. (that is somewhat work related…) and getting back to reading a bit of ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” by Michael Chabon. The sun is also out with the blue sky inviting me to a walk on the mountain. Some say the internet is a time waster. When you start following those items that you have an interest in, I really can’t see that as wasting time. If we had a limited capacity to learn then it could be considered wasting time. So far there haven’t been too many people that have had to shut down their intellectual curiosity for anything other than a lack of time. The best reason of all to be serendipitous are the words of Sandy Denny’s song “Who Knows Where the Time Goes“.
I spent this morning drinking coffee around the kitchen table with 4 young individuals from Oregon and Maine credit unions. It was great to hear their enthusiasm for the credit union system. They had concerns but they also saw that it took work and effort to effect change and help move the credit union system towards some fundamental goals. We compared notes and saw that a lot of our membership comes from referrals from members and people who know about the credit union in the community. That word-of-mouth event is key. There is no manual or how to here. It is plain and simple. The cooperative culture that is set in the branch is noticed by the membership to the point of telling others about the credit union. You can’t can this stuff. It won’t pickle. It just is.
The problem starts when the growth button gets pushed to the detriment of the cooperative culture. There is a fine line here. Everything will grow. Vegetables grow. You can add fertilizer and whatever else to make them grow bigger and faster but there is a limit. If you push it too hard you vegetable is something else. This seems to be also true for an organization like a credit union. It can grow naturally or you can push it until it becomes something else. I am pretty sure we know what that something else is.
There is a lot of work to consider when growing your credit union. From our discussions this morning I think the next generation of leaders understand what it takes to create a strong and healthy credit union without too much manure.
Finally 2010 has appeared and we are half way through January. My life has been somewhat hectic up to Monday. There was a court case pending (personal) that was adjourned for 5 months pending a mediated settlement. It was interesting to live under the cloud of a 10 day trial only to find that at the 11th hour all parties agreed to a decent 5 point plan. Why we couldn’t have done that a year ago is beyond me. It is nice to have that cloud disappear.
Christmas was good with our oldest son and his wife coming down from Prince Rupert and the youngest from Copenhagen. As soon as we are together it seems we are saying goodbye to each other.
The credit union had another good year. It has always had an ‘organic’ growth capacity of anywhere from 3 to 5%. It may not grow fast but it is growing. What isn’t necessarily measured or shown on a financial statement is probably of a greater benefit. We arrived at the $44 million asset mark with basically the same number of members 1,800. The number of employees has dropped and is now at 10. All of the back office development has paid off with some substantial savings in manpower. What I think this shows is that when you have a strategy and direct your resources to fufill that strategy you may set some timelines that are unreasonable. They may be based on a 12 month calendar which is not necessarily the timeline you will see the benefits. Maybe the timeline will be measured on when the experience level of the staff is on average over 3 years or maybe when the percentage of users of a certain product reaches 25%. One should not forget that the goals you set can move beyond a monthly measurement. We are still part of developing products and with MDI should have a Blackberry, iPhone version of our internet banking product in a little over a month. This mobile version will not have all the features of a desktop browser version but it will have the most popular ones and it should move to cover more features in the future. The next big change will be the transition to chip cards.
I was asked to sit on a provincial credit union committee to establish a future card strategy for credit unions. With the power of the embedded chip we really don’t know what will be in store for us as this new ‘computer on a card’ feature unfolds. And of course 1 Credit Union Conference is in Las Vegas in July. That will be the CU event of the year.
Yesterday I was able to participate along with Morris Partee, Trey Reeme, Robbie Wright and Fred Brown on the CUWaterCooler internet radio show. The one and only problem was it was too short! We just seemed to get going and time ran out. We had some interesting discussions surrounding a variety of topics. Hit the site to hear the session. Congratulations to Matt Davis for starting the project. It is a winner!
Yesterday I was out and about and purchased a gift for the staff. This last year, 2009, has been a little stressful with the economic conditions and redefining some of our jobs. We’ve worked pretty hard, have met or exceeded our targets and are all looking forward to next Saturday’s Christmas party down at the Granville Island Hotel. So what can you do for staff that never seem to take their coffee breaks and are always giving 110%? Buy them a deluxe Royal Professional Saeco Espresso/Cappuccino machine. So far today everyone has had at least one very enjoyable cup. The downside in this is Starbuck’s, they won’t be seeing us very often. And someone said it would be really nice to be able to offer our members a fresh Cappuccino when we are sitting down discussing something with them. That is exactly what I mean about the people who work here — they are always thinking about the members.
At various points in our professional careers be it in business or volunteer work we are called to move a vision or strategy forward. Sometimes it is revitalizing the status quo. Sometimes it is building something from scratch. Rarely is it the creation of something totally new.
There is a difference between building and creating. Before you start on either path you need to know the difference. We tend to think in terms of creating something when we really only have built something. Being truly creative in business is not the norm. One example could be the use of debit cards versus cheques. Another could be the ability of accessing accounts by use of the internet. The concepts were totally different but after the idea came into play the process was built. Was the original idea creative or just a build?
Much of what I see in the marketplace is building on something previous. Sometimes it is the evolution of an older product or service, sometimes it is a greater number of features with a product. What have we seen that is truly creative?
What we need to do is continue the building but also be able to be creative. That means making sure the business has the ability to be creative. Creative concepts truly rejuvenate our entities. When someone says it can’t be done or that isn’t the way to do it, well, that is the time to get creative. We all have the same tools at hand, it is the creativity that usually makes the difference. It isn’t such a science but truly an art. Next time you need to move something forward think about it from this point — is it something I need to build or is it something that possibly could be created.
One of the most interesting aspects of working in a credit union is the knowledge that one accumulates about financial services. I spent some time with four individuals these past days giving advice on how they may want to proceed with some of their plans. It took a bit of time and it wasn’t difficult. On further reflection I wondered where they could have gotten those insights.
I am listening to the audiobook “The Outliers” on the commute to and from work. One chapter talked about the 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in any field. It seems that anyone that has been in a profession for a period of time has accumulated those hours to become such an expert. We have all practiced our trade. But the key here and specified in the book was that someone was given the opportunity to becoming experts by allowing them the resources available to learn. That someone, who I would call an employee, should be given that opportunity within the credit union to develop and practice those skills that allows them to become an expert. It is not that everyone is going to have the ability to give every kind of advice or become an expert, that would be impossible, but when you have seen a circumstance or event take place and have learnt what the best way to approach the solution is, you will be called upon to share that solution.
What is difficult is to create that culture of learning in order for individuals to develop into experts in their field. It also comes at a price. Most individuals that are mentored will excel in a specific area of knowledge beyond what you are at. It takes time. 10,000 hours means practicing for 3 hours a day for 10 years! There will be but a few that arrive at the truly expert level. It is imperative that any organization practices the transfer of knowledge and gives the ability of all staff to acquire that knowledge. This should be the norm. This should be the culture that everyone understands it to be. Expertise is usually developed in a specialized area and financial services certainly is specialized. Maybe it isn’t all about ‘arriving’ but just that there is a ‘journey’ that counts.
One of the most surprising aspects of Twitter and blogs has been the ability to tap into a huge amount of knowledge that is current and relevant. Something is hot off the press everyday. Marrying what you experience in the workplace with the Internet offerings puts all of us in a remarkable environment. It is up to each person though to take the opportunity to practice and share the knowledge afforded them. For employers or bosses it must be a given. It is something social media does offer.
First off, I can’t believe the time between posts. That needs to be fixed.
We (credit unions) all have members, the law says you have to be a member to transact business with a credit union. Some credit unions have differentiated themselves by calling their members ‘customers’. The perception that seems to be driven here is that membership should have some value, it should be something that points you as being different. Membership implies ownership and with that you have some means of directing the course of the business usually by a voice at the voting booth. (there is another issue!) But membership in anything these days has a different set of values than when these organizations were originally setup. There is a book called ‘Bowling Alone’ which points to the deterioration of organized ways in which people relate to one another and are active in civil life. But that organized way of the past has changed. We can now begin the establishment of a relationship in a virtual world. Creating that type of relationship does not mean that human interaction in the future won’t include face-to-face events. It just means I don’t have to sign up for bowling by going to the bowling alley.
That may be the problem in the transition we are now facing. The membership (meaning) we required in the past is no longer a vital part of our future. Our usage of something is not dependent on us physically being there. We can be part of numerous transactions or events without leaving our home which in the past was not possible. Maybe the biggest issue is to create a new word that signifies this. The capacity to understand membership is difficult in our day and age and it comes with some baggage (we don’t have the time to belong to anything). Our interests don’t need to lie in a specific geographic area in order to see the value of a social networks. We need to view membership not as being optional but as being something different. The pillars are there for the older structures but they have also been expanded into areas we still need to determine.
Yogi Berra commented on the value of social networks by saying, “IF you don’t go to somebody’s funeral, they won’t come to yours.” If we don’t translate membership into something relevant it indeed does become optional.
Made a quick Mind Map of yesterday’s visit to Santa Fe
After these years of blogging the reasons behind it sometimes needs to be revisited.
I choose not to have a blog about business or under the banner of the credit union I work for. It had to be a personal view of whatever topic was to be written about. Being a spokesperson for your employer under the banner of an individual seems somewhat convoluted. Your thoughts would never be 100% yours. Similarily I did want to bring personal aspects of my life into play. The goal was to make it interesting, bring some discussion forward if possible and enjoy writing.
But there is this incredible challenge to somehow hold back at times in what is being written. You really don’t want to offend anyone by being too blunt. One’s pet peeves certainly aren’t everyones. Then there is the political realm. Some have called me a socialist, others a right wing capitalist. People’s politics are not necessarily linear either right or left and certainly not at the extremes. I’ve never met a true socialist or right winger, there is always a hint of the other realm when discussing something. When people really consider the actions of government and what it does to the ordinary citizen and themselves there is a commonality. Discount the challenges of an individuals economic status and means and most people are humanitarians. Maybe we all yearn for good and truthful government. We really are very altruistic.
When I look at the wealth of individuals I know it is apparent that we are doing pretty good these days. But that doesn’t give me reason to neglect those that are on hard times. There is no easy solutions for homelessness, drug addiction, problems with mental health, sickness, or poverty. Most of these issues don’t touch our lives and when we see them in our families or friends there is a silent pain created out of empathy. Those people that are not empathetic are of the greatest concern.
The ancient Greek poet, Pindar, has some wonderful insights that hold as true now as they did 2,500 years ago. Humans haven’t changed that much.
Forge thy tongue on an anvil of truth
And what flies up though it be but a spark
Shall have weight.
Pindar did have something to say about the challenge to sometimes keeping your thoughts to yourself. He did answer the question for me and put some meaning into why one blogs.
That which is not the grace of God is better far in silence.
Finally made it to August and the start of 4 weeks of holidays. Tomorrow and Wednesday will be the errand days to pick up everything that we need before we head south. Luckily the U.S. dollar is cheap right now so it is like your holiday just cost you 20% less. It should be raining by Thursday also so the departure is perfectly timed. 😉
Holidays do tend to go too fast. Before you know it you are back at work looking at an overflowing in-basket. But this year will be the strongest attempt to stay disconnected if only for my sanity. I think you can become too engrossed in your work so your personal life and what you really like doing gets put on the back burner. There is a huge backlog of books to read. I am currently reading The Greek Way by Edith Hamilton. It is a thorough exposition on the contrast of the ancient Greek culture with our modern concepts of life. It does seem much of the way we begin to think about the world around us still is influenced by this culture. The contrasts between then and now are not that great in certain aspects of your life but our modern way at solving problems, discussion and how we think is always changing. The Internet has started to make us realize the extent of individuals opinions and the ability to see this is slowly beginning to have some effect. I don’t think anyone knows where this will take us in the future.
It is a cloudy cool Monday morning and the list of things to do is just growing and well as thoughts around the following.
July and August on the Freeways. Once July rolls around the commuting time around here sometimes doubles. Everyone hits the road for the summer weekends and summer holidays. This morning CUWarrior tweeted “It’s easier than you think, people: stay in the right lane unless you’re passing someone”. He is right. What I love is those people that never use their rear view mirror and are oblivious to the line-up of vehicles behind them. Couple that with an extended cell phone call by the driver and you start thinking about alternate transportation such as bicycles.
Video killed the radio or Tweeting killed the blog. It does seem that conversations keep getting limited by the 140 character limit. Last week someone commented on a blog and before you knew it everyone had attached lengthy diatribes about the matter. It does seem if you have something to say that hits a nerve people will write something. Just typing this blog compared to quick Tweets does present a different challenge. Maybe blogging will become refined with people blogging because they really like to write. Maybe the next killer product will be a hybrid between Twitter/Blogging and Facebook.
The Olympics. I have to admit I am not a big fan of the Olympics. After the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City with the Tlatelolco Massacre, the Olympic games in Munich, and now the huge pool of tax dollars being spent in Vancouver for next year’s games, it seems it is something of a facade. If its intention is to bring athletes together, something is getting lost in all the money spent and problems surrounding these Games. What I would like to see is a list of all the individuals who attend the opening ceremonies that make up the 47% of tickets that were not available for public purchase. Our provincial housing minister stated that the homeless problem might be solved with $100 million which the government currently doesn’t have. Yet the bobsled run was built for $104 million. Here is your choice, homeless or bobsledders, bobsledders or homeless. We will end up paying for the event but thank God I am not forced to watch any of it.
BC Lions. Friday’s nights game was very entertaining. Sure we lost but it went down to the last minute. It isn’t everyday you get to see the backup quarterback and a receiver kick the punts. A smaller but very noisy crowd.
Beta testing. Got picked to be a beta tester for a wonderful program. It is always fun to really spend some time taking a program apart and thinking about its possibilities. And sometimes you get to uncover the easter eggs.
Father’s Day and the first day of summer! Seems like yesterday it was Christmas. This means the kids are out of school cramming themselves into the malls, that the freeways will have all the holiday warriors with their campers out in the fast lane of the freeway and everybody you try to phone in the next 2 months will be on holidays.
The big event at work starts tomorrow. We begin upgrading various software systems in preparation for the launch of MemberNote3 on Wednesday morning. There is a lot of clean up work and final testing to do. We have notified all the members via email or text messaging that service will be a bit unstable the next few days. By the end of the week we should be up and running which will be a huge benefit to everyone.
I am taking Friday off to volunteer for a national church convention at UBC. Having never been an usher before this should be interesting. Maybe tomorrow I’ll head over to WalMart and get some tips from the greeters.
On Sunday I was googling this, that, and everything and came upon a site which was about German speaking Russians. My grandparents on my mother’s side were German speaking and were born in Russia which I could never figure out. Well this site and wikipedia entry gave me some great information. As I read further there was an entry with my mother’s maiden name (Kelln) and the village where my grandparents were from (Holstein). Some of the information was familiar so I sent off an email.
Today I received an email from Edith Bottsford which detailed some fascinating information. The family has roots back to a Hans Kolln from Meimersdorf, Germany before immigrating to Holstein. Hans was a merchant in Germany. He was a widower and with his 4 sons arrived in Holstein May 26, 1765. He would have been born in 1718. There is a family chart that I need to get which will bring the family tree forward from that time.
What is also interesting is that my father’s family, which are English, go back to a census in the 1750’s in London England where it is noted a Blishen lived. I looked this up when in London at the National Archives (also saw the original Doomsday Book there). The middle of the 1700’s is more than enough to find one’s roots.
As Canadians when we are asked where we are from the discussion usually leads to where your family is from. Up to now I was sure about the English side but not the German side. Now the answer can be I am a Canadian from English-German heritage or an English/German Canadian. It really doesn’t mean much as so many others can point much farther back. It just gives you an idea of where your roots are. Our youngest son lives in Copenhagen, Denmark. The circle eventually completes itself.
The night before last (early Monday morning) there was a break-in at the credit union. It has happened before and you know it will happen again but when it does happen it sort of freaks you out. The guy threw a large boulder through the front plate glass door, ran into the branch looking for computers and came away with an old HP scanner. There was a lot of glass and of course it happened at 3:00 a.m. so someone had to attend the branch with the police when the alarm went off.
The real freaky part is the video. You can usually begin to comprehend what has happened after an incident like this occurred but when you actually watch it, well I am not used to that. It is like reality TV where you work. I was thinking of downloading it to YouTube but just our luck this guy will have some rights and sue us. Today’s header shows the guy in action.