Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dress Code...

My sister's oldest daughter, who lives in Asheville, N.C. (guess I could just stop right there, but...)  got married a while back. She and her husband are world class, professional whitewater paddlers and nature guides. Interesting and unusual kin! 

The wedding was conducted out in the wilderness, well off the beaten path, by a full-blooded Cherokee "dreamweaver" high priestess.  The chic white gown of the bride was gracefully paired with pink flip flops, while the groom wore his best racing stripe accented wet suit. The vows - a bit too lengthy and graphic for most - were self composed by the couple and sing-song chanted in a somewhat obscure Nepalese dialect. Bells and incense added to the panache!  

The bride's father, who is French-Canadian, wore a dress kilt, even after I had sent him a copy of the movie Deliverance for discouragement.  The groom's family, who are connected to a local outdoors adventure company and who are all serious, "long-haired" kayakers, were resplendent in Jimi Hendrix, 1970's-style tie-dye and Greek sandals.

Believe it or not, I was much relieved by this wide array of fashion - I had expected much less! 

Why? Because prior to the wedding, when I had inquired about the appropriate dress code for the occasion,  the polite response had been...

That "Miracle On 34th Street" Letter...



FDIC Letter



Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Diet Twinkies...

If that headline didn't make you laugh, you need to have your pulse checked!

By the way, Diet Twinkies come in a "two-pack" for added caloric savings.... got to imagine that low fat Twinkies are "the next big thing", so to speak...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Famous Last Words ??? ...


Wild Card?
"I know you still have heartburn over issuing credit cards to all branches.  Promise we have to review each charge in order to code it properly to the General Ledger.  If we see anything odd or crazy we'll let you know."

"We have great branch leaders.  I really don't think we'll see any...

Monday, December 28, 2015

Internal Auditors: Truth Tellers...

Why don't folks talk to internal auditors?  Because most folks feel it's pretty difficult, if not impossible, to tell an internal auditor anything.  Equally, most folks believe it's rather exceptional to ever discover an internal auditor who is willing to listen.

I've often wondered if God has an internal audit function? Y'know, someone of supreme knowledge continually remarking on the multitude of imperfections which arise in the world. Could Satan have been the first internal auditor? An archangel cast down in exasperation for excessive pride and kibitzing? The comparison may not be as far fetched as you might think. Certainly many a CEO has come to view an internal auditor as a "Prince of Darkness" and muttered prayers for the transportation of the "infernal auditor" to some high-temperature place of unpleasantness.

Unheavenly conflict over the internal audit function, when it surfaces, is often brutal, extremely visible, and always destructive to an organization. The source of "the heat" usually derives from friction in one of three areas: 1) professionalism, 2) reporting, or 3) trust. These are "tinder" issues where even a slight spark may result in a major conflagration. Let's see why...

Sunday, December 27, 2015



" Never wrestle with a pig.  

You'll both get dirty and..."

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Tipping Point ?

Assume that many of you may find the
following observation a bit too subtle, but sometimes it's that way with a "sea change" in life....

Mr. Roger Dick is a long-term, experienced, successful, community banker in North Carolina, highly regarded by all in the financial industry.  He is currently the CEO of Uwharrie Capital Corp. which is the holding company for several local N.C. banks, including Cabarrus Bank&Trust, Anson Bank&Trust and Bank of Stanly which are in the greater Charlotte area.

Roger Dick was interviewed not too long ago by The Charlotte Business Journal  about community banks, TARP, and the economy in general.  His bank had decided to issue stock to local, individual stockholders to repay its TARP obligation. When asked why this more difficult, perhaps more expensive, method of repayment was chosen; Mr. Dick said the following:

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Rants and Raves...

Over the ridge, and perhaps,
 over the edge?

Mitchell News-Journal:

     Extra! Extra!

*  "I know I need to lose wait when I go to the doctor and he says:  "Stick out your tongue and say 'oink, oink'!" [Wait? Wait?]

*  "It seems I impress myself more and more each day."

*  "I want to comment on the rant about women mistreating their husbands.  I agree with that.  There are a lot of women who mistreat their husbands and don't respect them.  Then there are women like me who are single."

*  "I don't understand why people drink cows milk; calves grow up and get over it."

*  "Washington does not know what is best for me.  Washington has become an Obamanation!"

And this month's winner of the "I'll-have-to-give-that-some-more-thought, wide-world-of-wonderment" award… 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The FDIC and Miracle on 34th Street


Well, I finally heard back from the FDIC!  The official letter of response was a tour-de-force of precision and clarity.  No room was left for doubt nor argument.  The logic was crisp and well-reasoned; the legal opinion definitive; even the letterhead oozed with quiet, self-assured authority.   Without question the gig was up, fini, chapter closed.  Mr. Robert C. Fick, legal counsel of the FDIC, had written the final scene in the Credit Union remake of Miracle on 34th Street.  And, as the cameras panned toward the heavens, the screen faded into the credits…

Huh? What? Miracle on 34th Street??  Oh, you came in late; well, let me bring you up to speed.

Awhile back, several folks connected with the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors (NASCUS) ventured over to the FDIC – the “other” federal deposit insurer – to talk about capital, risk measurement, insurance, state/federal cooperation, corporate governance and more!  We met with FDIC Board member at the time Tom Curry, who in a former life was a Massachusetts’ financial regulator.  Mr. Curry is a very bright man, well-tempered by hands-on-in-the-trenches practicality, and a broad-based, all-institutions experience.  Mr. Curry is also extremely well-seasoned in “real politick.”

The discussions were terrifically beneficial, the insight
enlightening.  These days so many of our regulatory “experts” are one issue, one trick ponies with a very thin range of understanding.  It’s always wonderful to stumble onto an impresario – someone who grasps the subtleties of the larger circus!  Mr. Curry is such a man in the financial regulatory world.  Time well spent!

On the issue of whether or not credit unions could qualify for FDIC coverage, Mr. Curry was certain and convincing in saying the answer was “no.”  Despite the fact that the FDIC insures all sorts of commercial, community, industrial, cooperative banks and several flavors of thrifts; all in the room who had done some prior legal research (including us!) agreed with his opinion.  Still, it was intriguing to hear that the actual question had never officially been asked.  Mr. Curry indicated that a letter of request sent directly to the FDIC Chairman would be the proper channel and protocol if we wanted "to press the issue".

Thought about it for a couple of weeks.  Maybe it was the time of year.  After all, it was Christmas, the season of hope, the season of joy and giving.  Maybe it was because I’d just finished watching the 1947 move classic Miracle on 34th Street.  Maybe it was one too many glasses of Albuquerque Gruet Champagne!  At any rate, wrote up a letter of request to the FDIC and, right before Christmas, dropped that sucker into the mail....

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Gracias A La VIda...

Think we're all reminded at this time of year of the proverbial admonishment: 

"It is more blessed to give than to receive".

But we are all on the receiving end of the greatest gift of all...

Monday, December 21, 2015

Enlightening The Membership.......


Wait a sec...
In the dark?!?
"On the 25th we lost power for four hours and once again our employees did an excellent job of helping our members in the dark....."

Y'know, it's fun having co-workers like this...

Sunday, December 20, 2015

If You Seek Change...

"You must be the change you want to see in the world."
      - Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Is Not Easily Conquered....

Mr. Tom Paine
"These are the times that try men's souls.  The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their Country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and women.  

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have the consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. 

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; 'tis dearness only that gives everything its value..."

- Thomas Paine

("The American Crisis", December 19, 1776)

[If you will stand up for yourself, others will stand with you.]

Friday, December 18, 2015

Juris Prudence...

Bring it !!

Have a co-worker who has recently waded into a nights/weekend law school program.  She's a double left-handed perfectionist for whom no detail is too small to pursue.  Full-time complex job, full-time Mom with teenagers, caregiver to elder parents, and now law school - talk about a mid-life crisis!

The future lawyers were given the following message on their new profession by the Dean...

Thursday, December 17, 2015

"The Peters Principle"....

Your move...
Tom Peters easily makes everyone's Top 10 list of management gurus over the last quarter century.  

The author of "In Search Of Excellence", the business leadership classic, has had a lot to say about the rise and fall of organizations over the years. Mr. Peters invariably finds "the taproot" of organizational success or failure to be.... Hey, we all know the answer to that... and we don't even have to read the book!  

Last time Peters was scheduled to speak at a CUNA conference, he told Credit Union Magazine he would be "preaching"  a mantra of "destroy and reimagine" to the credit union faithful in attendance.  Peters said:

"I'm a strong supporter of decentralized organizations that have energetic and talented people who are allowed to try any darn thing that comes to mind. You act your way into thinking more than you think your way into acting."

"We need some people who are disruptive - those who'll roll their eyes when "(Fill in the blank as appropriate)" talks about an outdated idea and who will say under their breath, "that's so 2009"[or 1979!].  The alternative is obsolescence, failure, and - plain and simple - evaporation."


It is getting mighty "dry" in some CU quarters....  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Killed By Friendly Fire...

Well, from one of the comments yesterday, it would appear that a long-time credit union friend - Birddog, down among the pines and peaches in Georgia - is on the verge of becoming a former old friend. 

At best his patience is growing very, very thin with me! (He's certainly not alone!) It's about the prolonged pushing and shoving over CUNA.

There are many forms of "collateral damage" - long-time friendships for example - which arise when "open wounds" are not cleansed and dressed properly. Untreated wounds have a tendency "to fester" the longer the raw flesh is left exposed.  Birddog, a proud and distinguished Vietnam vet, probably would agree with all that; but would add it's even more hurtful when "the wound" appears to be the result of "friendly fire".

The CUNA Board and senior leadership claim to have decided to move to "Choice" after an awkward year and a half of public flip-floppery, but have continued to fail in their duty to act. Think Birddog and his fast-fading friend have strong agreement at least on the idea of "a sense of duty" - we are accountable to our families, our colleagues, our communities... and our friends.

The neglect of inaction by the CUNA Board and senior leadership leaves credit unions exposed and "in harms way" unnecessarily.  CUNA may shortly be in violation of its own bylaws, the leagues have been "hung out to dry" by the continuing uncertainty, and credit unions' confidence in ambiguous promises is not exactly growing stronger.

Perhaps most importantly, CUNA has shown no apparent sense of vision as to how to create a discussion within the credit union movement about what our future should look like. 

Since you now apparently have a "Choice" wouldn't it be nice if you were given a "Voice"?

Does the CUNA Board and senior leadership believe they can handle that critical dialogue with a couple of bylaw amendments, a token dues reduction, with the same board, same committees???

While you await instructions from CUNA, you might like to start thinking about this...

"Realism and the U.S. Credit Union System"
... Birddog, it's written by another CUWarrior!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"GREAT" Choice...

CUNA appears to be heading into its third year of irresolution.  

Granted both the CUNA Board and CEO Jim Nussle have made grand pronouncements of "bold action", "important steps", "greater options", "greater engagement", "greater value", "greater accountability", "greater advocacy", "greater access"... kind of "greats on your nerves" after a while doesn't it! 
Selling a Whopper?

But as they say:  "Talk is cheap, where's the beef?"

Q:  Really how long does it take to enact the "Choice" (direct credit union membership in CUNA), which the Jim Nussle says the CUNA Board has approved?

A: 20 days! [Know it's hard to find a lawyer in D.C., but... even so just 20 days!]

It's as easy as 1-2-3!!! Here's the scoop from the CUNA Bylaws (bottom of page -"About CUNA"):

1) The CUNA Board has the authority to recommend a bylaw change. ( Sect. 3.8(f) Powers)

2) The CUNA Board must give members 20 days notice of a special meeting to vote on a bylaw amendment. (Sect. 3.4  Special Meetings)

3) Two thirds of the members voting can approve a bylaw amendment electronically, by mail etc in lieu of meeting in person. (Sect. 6.1 Amendment Procedures)

What changes would need to be made?

That Can't Be Right...

Sleeping on the job...?

- Jim Nussle

[There must be something wrong here?!?]

Monday, December 14, 2015


Don't know about you, 
but lots of intelligent credit union folks suspect they've been...



Is this the best CUNA can do under fire?
Looks like yet another wasted year in the making!

As a Republican, Mr. Nussle should be careful of "his friends"...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Rants And Raves...

Well worth a subscription:

[... and around Mitchell County!]

*  Well, it's miracle season again when grown men, who claim they can't work, climb 100 feet up in a tree in freezing weather, to wait hours for the chance to drag a 200 pound deer 3 miles up hill, over rocks and ice, back to their brand-new, leased pick-up truck.

* Deer meat is delicious if you know how to cook.

*  The new sidewalks over on Harris Street are finally in, but they forgot to do anything about the potholes there.  But that's okay, we'll just drive on the sidewalks for a while.

Another way to fix climate change?
*  History will show that blaming climate change on people and passing all these laws is like throwing the virgins over the cliff or into a volcano to appease a false god.

And, then there was this...

Saturday, December 12, 2015

North Carolina: First in Flight...

A former Mayor of Charlotte, in an interview on the history of North Carolina's largest city, was reported to have said, when asked how the site for the airport was chosen:

"Because that's where the planes landed."

Hard to argue with that kind of logic, but ....

Friday, December 11, 2015

Batter Up!... Keep Your Eye On The Ball!

Here come da' judge?
Well, since Mr. Jim Nussle and CUNA have so convincingly demonstrated their leadership capabilities, the endgame focus now switches over to NAFCU. 

An unbelievable opportunity for national
dominance has been handed, gift-wrapped to NAFCU on a silver platter by the "really-don't-get-it, evidently never will" crowd at CUNA. The question is whether or not the NAFCU leadership - staff and Board - can "get over the past" and rise to the occasion.

"In them old cotton fields back home..."
What's the problem? The issue with NAFCU is that NAFCU took a half-step this summer in changing its "membership rules". That "bold", much acclaimed move to permit state-chartered credit unions to join NAFCU was really "much-ado-about-not-a-whole-lot"! State charters weren't actually offered full, equal membership rights in NAFCU. State charters were only invited to join as "associate members", which simply means state charters have full rights to help pay the cost of operating NAFCU, with none of the privileges of membership/ownership in NAFCU. State charters are sort of modern day "tenant farmers" over at NAFCU - y'know "sharecroppers" on the plantation. 

Here's how you know from the NAFCU bylaws:

* "Federally-insured state chartered credit unions and corporate credit unions chartered under state law may become associate members of the Corporation."

* "Associate members are not entitled to a vote."

* "A person may not be elected as a director unless such person is a current Board member or the CEO of a federal credit union..."

So, the good news is you can purchase exceptional educational and compliance services - perhaps the best in the business - from NAFCU at reasonable prices; and you can purchase national political advocacy through NAFCU - also of exceptional quality - at costs one half to two thirds lower!

The bad news is as associate members, NAFCU is not obligated to represent your best interests as a state chartered credit union. In fact, NAFCU is obligated first, foremost, and by its charter/bylaws to put federally chartered FCUs' interests first - period. 

Can't happen, doesn't matter? Think a bit about the overhead transfer rate, think about the question of whether federal law should pre-empt state law, think about the question of federal supervisory fees, think about the issue of private insurance..... yes it does matter!!!

No way!
Would you ever hire a lobbyist who couldn't promise to represent your best interests - even at half price?!? 

So, what is the "golden opportunity" available to NAFCU?

CUNA In The Moment...

The "MOMENT" has arrived!!!!

... and a "STAR" is born!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

CUNA 's Kodak Moment...

"CHOICE" - permitting credit unions the option to join either a league, or CUNA, or both. 

Today's the day! Let's see if the CUNA Board will accept its elected duty to Americas' Credit Unions - and the Leagues - this time around. It's been difficult to determine over the last year whether the embarrassing indecision suggests weakness in CUNA senior leadership, weakness in the CUNA Board - or both.

Credit unions want "Choice".
But, let's not rehash, at this late date, all the supposed "intricacies" of the decision on "Choice". Most of those "concerns" are manufactured, supported by slender logic. What is fact, is the credit union movement has fundamentally changed and that credit unions want "Choice" - and want it now. That fact is based on CUNA's own survey data - period.

If doubts and divisions remain strong, CUNA has available an easy solution - a one year test/pilot. Simply amend the bylaws effective 12/31/2015 to permit credit unions to join directly without required league membership. The CUNA Board has the authority to do that today and can have CUNA members vote electronically on the amendment prior to year end 2015.

Let's see what happens, let's see how "Choice" actually works in practice. Let's spend the next year openly discussing  how to reform CUNA (if needed and why), how to improve advocacy, what organizational/board structure might take us into the future. Why that sounds downright democratic, cooperative even!

If the problems outweigh the benefits, let's vote "Choice" out in December 2016 - and permanently bury the idea! No harm, no foul. A very low risk strategy; exactly the strategy ("test market") that all prudent businesses deploy.

But everyone's worst fear is that the CUNA Board will today make the only bad decision available - again! - and keep this "wound" open by delaying "Choice" implementation until 2017. 

Further delay - the only bad decision available to the CUNA Board - will be the last straw for many credit unions and we can all mark today down as CUNA's...