Is our trust in the power of the NCUA, our need to be compliant, and our faith in old designs the reasons our results leave us with a shrinking existence?
Recently Chip Filson emailed me wondering where to go next with his series on the NCUA’s management of the Temporary Corporate Credit Union Stabilization Fund and distribution. Good work, strong arguments, and passionate about the need for all of us to push to right the wrong in the way history will record this solution. It most likely has run its course, and Chip was wondering how to sum it up, push it forward, or reconcile all of that work against the dismal response from our industry. And while I have seen some recent angst when CU CEOs compare their refunds to their lost investments for the bailouts, I imagine that this episode will go down to “it sucks, but it’s how the world works.” I thought I might share my response to Chip with you.
“Chip, I hate that I am writing this, but like you I wonder – will your diligence pay off here or is the machinery (NCUA’s propaganda efforts) going to roll on by as the parade watchers (credit union stakeholders) turn their attention to new attractions? There is probably not a good reason to expect action from anyone in the CU industry and a tiring reader base, so who could you appeal to that might want to make a stink about this at a higher level? Government watch dogs, a higher-level player who wants to point out sins of past administrations or solutions, etc. Most likely no one. I believe we should now think more about the future. How can you stage this not to be just about righting the past (NCUA mismanagement), but to be more about changing things today for the future? Who might want to be on the NCUA board and sees this mess as a campaign plank for their election/selection?
I remember the day my father told me that he and my mother did not have control over the world and how it would treat me. It struck me that maybe I was smaller than I ever realized in relation to everyone else around me. I could not appeal directly to the powers that shaped my world; I did not have a voice that was easily heard by those who could ignore my hopes and dreams; I was afloat and the concept of control of my own destiny seemed a child’s fairy tale.
It is possible that the credit union industry will one day face the same “in your face” awakening about much of what is fears and embraces about the NCUA and regulations as a motivator and comfort. It will see that false hopes in the NCUA, our insurances independence, and our government’s backing of cooperatives. Will it crush us or free us? Will we go silent for a lack of thinking anything will change or will we search harder for the right people to influence and push for what we need? Will we be even less likely to push the edges of design or debate with examiners as powerless messengers of a system without representation or will see the need to agree to disagree and act to shape new destinies with our consumer-owners?
Without a doubt the real powers in our industry already understand the false hopes of counting on those who really are not empowered to change things. The winners in our industry already see that “going along to get along” with directors and NCUA messengers fits their short term existence, but there is a potential that one day the rest of the industry will awaken to the idea that compliance with someone else’s ideals for what they should be is only a suggestion, not the iron clad, all empowered design for success. It is time to reach for more, time to jump the track and push for a new regulatory approach.
We need to elect or influence the election of NCUA directors. NCUA director candidates must be able to declare platforms that they believe in, and will work towards. We need an agency that has a CEO who can lead the agency and work with directors. We need a functioning entity with cause, vision, and something more than a governmental employee’s hope for a long-term job and a pension. We need a future where the industry understands the boundaries that both constrain us and foster us – the boundaries that we evolve with an agency willing to be transparent and communicative on par with their expectations of us.
And while much of this seems like a fairy tale’s outline for change, I would rather work on that than suffer working through fooling myself that the current design of the NCUA will ever yield different results.”
Wow! Looking back I managed to vet a whole lot of stuff, include mom and dad’s teachings and fairy tales… but did I say anything that will inspire Chip to push credit union leaders to act differently? Can we change our behaviors in response to recognizing through our faith in these systems we have adopted bad habits that need to change:
- Over capitulating to external powers
- Over paying for compliance without searching for not needing to comply–both rules and the peer pressure of “best practices”
- Put seat warmers on a pedestal without examination, and accept committees as leaders over our vision empowered
- Over trust group think and under trust their community’s needs – their local membership needs
- Count on others more than we count on ourselves
I know all of us like to go to sleep thinking that while we sleep the good guys are on duty and through their powers of control we have nothing to worry about, but I am quite sure that we all need to rethink trusting the NCUA’s powers to fix things will suffice. We overpaid for the Corporate Crisis and will for every crisis if we do not. Tell me why I’m wrong.
P.s. Most nights I do not sleep because I know that my world is safe in the hands of those in control, I sleep trusting with faith in the fact that every day members have goals that inspire our efforts, our work, and our hopes. There is freedom in trusting chaos and yet unrealized success.