by: Stephen Nelson, Vice President of Credit Union Support, Utah Credit Union Association
I recently talked with a credit union president who expressed fear that the day of credit unions has come and gone. He pointed out that most “successful” businesses last about 50 years, and that many credit unions have already exceeded that lifespan.
When I asked him why their time to meet that great big regulator in the sky had come, he said, “Because we’re not willing to change.”
Clearly, that broad statement isn’t true for all credit unions. Many of them continue to thrive and grow. I suspect that these credit unions are the ones that saw the need to change, and were willing to endure the pain necessary to modify their operations and business models.
And it is painful, which is exactly the reason why so many companies aren’t willing to do it.
I wonder: isn’t death more painful?
Maybe not. Maybe it’s easier for a president to coast to retirement then let the board merge the credit union. I suppose that’s happened often enough, and I can’t criticize anyone for it. The members of a credit union might do some criticizing, but if no members care, anymore, then no one has any cause to criticize.
Even so, as I do planning sessions, many credit unions profess commitment to the idea of changing. They like the theory behind it, and the potential results they see. Yet, they don’t make the hard decisions necessary to change. Why not? I think they’re either afraid of the work, or afraid to fail. But if they’re going to fail, anyway, why not take the positive risk and change in a way that might bring success?
Of course, maybe it’s beyond everyone’s control. Maybe NCUA is just trying to squeeze most credit unions out. But I suppose that’s a topic for another blog.
Stephen Nelson is the VP of Credit Union Support at the Association. He’s worked in the credit union movement for ten years in various capacities. www.utahscreditunions.org