This Article first appeared
in the January 2001 issue of the Callahan
Credit union CEOs have two
jobs. One is running the credit union, assuring that the fundamentals are in
order and that members are well satisfied. The other is making sure the credit
union is not swamped in the recurring crashing waves of the future but rather
is prepared for the future by evaluating new technologies and partnering with
entities that will assure the credit union is — if not just out ahead of the
crest of the wave of the future — then at least near enough to be carried along
without being left behind nor crushed.
These are two jobs, two occupations,
both full-time. If one is a 40-hour-(ha!)-a-week job, then the two jobs together
make 80 hours. There is not enough time in a day to do both well. And yet both
must be done well.
Someone might say that one job
is more important than the other, that assuring good fundamentals is the more
essential because if the fundamentals go south then there won’t be any credit
union left to steer into the future. Someone else might say that leading the
credit union into the future is more important because if you cannot lead then
the credit union will end up just as dead as if the fundamentals went bad.
Of course, they are both right,
which is why every credit union CEO has two vital occupations, neither one of
which can be neglected. This is the reality of credit union CEOs today.
One Huge Job After Another
I am looking at the two busiest,
most diverse months in my experience as a credit union CEO. The demands on my
time are tremendous, first at the credit union, but also time spent at conferences,
committee meetings, strategy sessions and the like.
I actually thought this was going to be a relatively quiet period. Naively,
I thought that after H. R. 1151, I would be able to turn my attention to tackle
some long-neglected affairs. But just as soon as 1151 ended, my energies were
enveloped by the Y2K problem.
Is it ever possible to run fast enough to do all the things your heart knows
has to happen if you are going to help the credit union move forward to fulfill
its potential? There never seems to be.
But while all this anxiety is going on over finding the proper ways to meet
the legal environment, computer problems and competitions of the future, there
are the fundamentals to worry about. Is the credit union growing sufficiently?
Are members satisfied? Are enough loans being made, and are they good loans?
Is the delinquency rate low? Is the capital ratio high enough?
We tend to have a notion that running a credit union is like building a pyramid,
that the effort is always upward. In reality, doing a good job of running a
credit union is cyclical. You have to go back to look at and struggle with things
you worked on a year before. These are the fundamentals. If you don’t pay attention
to them, they will turn bad on you in a hurry.
But the expectation level in the financial institution field is amazing. If
I get all the fundamentals running the way they should, members will still get
sucked away from the organization if a better product or service comes along.
I have to prepare for future competition. Thus simultaneously I have to harvest
the trees I planted in the past and plant the trees that I will be harvesting
20 years from now. Generally this means going outside the credit union in search
of other intellects and energies compatible with ours in order to be able to
put new products and services to work for members.
Evidence of Interdependence
In a way this is all healthy. The fact that I am drawn out of the credit union
to help plan for the future says to me that I work in an interdependent environment.
It says I am not in a stand-alone enterprise but have to exchange ideas with
others. Generally, it is in these exchanges that the good ideas bubble up, the
breakthroughs are made, the synergies are detected and new goals are established.
So it goes. We need two hours for every one we get. That’s just the way it is.
The pace is terrific, and I have to accept it. I do accept it. And if I am forced
to do two things, I also have the satisfaction of doing two things: helping
to run an outstanding credit union at the same time as working to make the credit
union movement even better for the future.