LAS VEGAS — Energy, enthusiasm and a plea for unity and adherence to core principles marked Monday's opening general session of The 1 Credit Union Conference, the joint event cosponsored by Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). Dan Mica, CUNA's outgoing president and CEO, passed the reins to successor Bill Cheney, who promised to pursue U.S. credit unions' regulatory challenges with renewed vigor. Pete Crear took participants on a moving "tour" of WOCCU's world, making stops in Mexico, Kenya, Afghanistan and Haiti. And Good to Great author Jim Collins reminded participants that adherence to core values is the only thing that keeps even great companies from falling.
"Isn't it great to be part of the world credit union movement?" asked Mica in a now-familiar greeting, passing an oversized "key to CUNA" to Cheney. In recognition of Mica's 14 years of service, the National Credit Union Roundtable's Bill Raker, president and CEO of U.S. Federal Credit Union in Burnsville, Minn., read a proclamation lauding Mica's contributions. He also presented CUNA's former CEO with an oversized check representing a US$222,650 contribution on Mica's behalf to Credit Union House in Washington, D.C. The donation was made up of contributions from the 100 largest U.S. credit unions that constitute Roundtable membership.
Cheney spoke to the challenges still facing U.S. credit unions, including the recently passed interchange regulations, member business loan restrictions, and the need for capital reform and alternative sources of capital for credit unions. He acknowledged the hard work done by credit unions to date, but stressed the need for increased grassroots efforts in terms of both lobbying and education to oppose current and future legislation that could harm credit unions' abilities to serve members. "We have to be able to define our future," CUNA's new president and CEO said.
Cheney also referred to the conference's theme — "One World, One Event" — and the message of unity it conveys about the nearly 2,800 participants from 60 countries gathered at the conference. The theme was carried through by Crear, who talked about the "one credit union movement" that WOCCU serves, illustrating the great need credit unions fill in many of the countries in which WOCCU operates. "It's a movement that crosses boundaries and borders, has no language barriers and operates in as many different ways as there are members to serve," Crear said. "The one movement is something of which you all are part."
Crear's tour through Mexico, Kenya and Afghanistan culminated in a seven-minute video that looked in greater depth at WOCCU's program in Haiti. "Our efforts in Haiti demonstrate clearly the need for strength, for unity, for hope and for commitment to the credit union ideal," Crear added. "As long as we continue working together toward this goal, we will be the single best answer to the financial needs of all our members."
Collins carried on the theme of credit unions' advantage by pointing to the fact that great companies only remain great when they adhere to unshakeable core principles. Thanks to their member-focus philosophy, credit unions have a natural advantage over many for-profit companies, but they can't afford to think that their philosophy will make them successful in the absence of excellent management.
"There is one towering, giant truth," Collins observed. "Credit unions can be trusted and they are run well. Who on earth could promise a better deal to members? But it will be up to us to communicate to the next generation if we want to survive."
Collins also outlined his five stages of decline that affect many companies and the role that leadership plays in facilitating that decline. Leaders who succeed are those passionately committed to success, but that commitment must focus on the organization or its ideals. Leaders who focus on success for their own gains quickly lose ground, he explained. The credit union philosophy helps mitigate that self interest, but requires even higher levels of commitment in order to achieve its goals.
"What we stand for should never change, but how we do things should always be open to change," Collins said. "When credit unions first came into existence, it was the realization of a BHAG — a big hairy audacious goal. Now, what is the credit union movement's next BHAG?"
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 57,000 credit unions in 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.