Saturday, April 19, 2014


April is financial literacy month and in a nation where nearly 44 percent of households are liquid asset poor, one can quickly understand why it’s important to call attention to this topic.

To be liquid asset poor means if a family was to encounter an out-of-the-ordinary expense such as a broken water heater or medical bill, the family would have to borrow money to pay it. And that’s just the tip of the problem. If they are among the 56 percent of consumers who have subprime credit scores, their only recourse may be turning to a high-cost, predatory lender and we all know the rates Pay Day Lenders require!

Who are the liquid-asset poor? 
According to the Corporation for Enterprise Development and its Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, the “majority of liquid-asset poor are white (59%), employed (89%) and nearly half (48%) have some college.”

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Several weeks ago I learned some disturbing news. Back where I grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania, the decision was made to tear down the building which served as the parish church and parochial school I attended all throughout my early childhood. Hearing about this and seeing the pictures seemed to suddenly thrust all the precious memories I have of my grade school experience, the Polish Nuns and serving as an altar boy into a dark and stomach-wrenching void.

The last time I felt something similar was when I watched Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia be imploded in order to accommodate the new baseball field, Citizens’ Bank Park. All those memories of going to ballgames at “the Vet” as a kid with my Dad and brother were turned into ashes in a matter of a few seconds. Or were they?

I know I’m not alone in experiencing the kinds of feelings these situations evoke. Such occurrences are common to all of us. They are part of the fabric that is time, and as time marches on, change inevitably keeps up the pace—sometimes in sync; sometimes a whole lot slower. It’s all part of life’s journey and experienced by all of us everywhere without exception.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

International Credit Union Day—How Will You Be Celebrating?

Back on Saturday, October 2, 2010, I published a blog post on this site featuring 12 simple ways to mark your observance of International Credit Union Day. Three years later, it goes without saying that all 12 ideas continue to hold value for any credit union searching for that special way to call attention to their distinguished heritage.

So once again, here are my 12 ideas for making October 17th, this year’s International Credit Union Day, a memorable occasion for your staff, your volunteers, your members, and really, your entire community!

I.      Make your members feel like owners. Host an Owners’ Day Party.

II.     Review and closely examine the definition of a cooperative. Understand the meaning of the business model it describes. Ask yourself what makes your organization a co-op?

III.    Have a meeting with staff to identify the Seven Cooperative Principles and evaluate how your organization embraces each one. Are they posted publicly for all to see?

IV.    Invite the local business reporter to the credit union to meet and greet the staff and your members. This is a great way to help the reporter develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for credit unions and the cooperative difference.

V.      Participate in other International Credit Union Day activities sponsored by your local League, CUNA and WOCCU.

VI.     Develop special messaging to your members talking about co-ops, the cooperative difference, and what co-ops stand for in the community. Display the messages in your lobby, in electronic statements, in your mobile banking application, on your credit union’s website, and on your social media channels like Facebook and Twitter.

VII.    Sponsor an art competition for youngsters of the credit union asking them to draw a picture of a cooperative. Publicly post the images in your lobby and your website. Offer awards to the best drawings.

VIII.   Leverage your relationships at the local chamber of commerce or rotary club to serve as a presenter during the month of October to talk about the cooperative business model and the values and principles on which it is built. As part of this community education effort, talk about your credit union as one of the many organizations built on that model. (If you missed the chance to do it this year, get your name on the list for next October!)

IX.    Sponsor an essay contest in collaboration with the local high school. Offer a grand prize of $1,000. Make the essay topic: How cooperatives and their distinct business model deliver better value to the American consumer.

X.     Host an open house of your credit union. Roll out the red carpet and invite folks from the community to stop in and have a coffee, have a donut and find out what a credit union is all about. Include a local radio station to broadcast LIVE from the credit union branch to further attract public participation in the open house. And don’t forget to invite the public to bring along cans of food for donation to the local food bank!

XI.    Cooperate with other co-ops in your community to create an organized referral effort where each cooperative helps to promote awareness of one another.

XII.   Organize a community day where the staff of your credit union goes into the community to help low-income and underserved families do repair work, painting and cleaning on their homes. Invite your members to join with staff, shoulder-to-shoulder in providing these services on Community Day as a way to mark National Cooperative Month—People Helping People.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Five Simple Rules for Safeguarding Reputation

(Originally published June 3, 2013 with Credit Union Times)

Reputation management—protecting and safeguarding the image and good name of your credit union—should always begin and end with your ambassadors—every employee; from the corner office to the mail room. It's a collective responsibility, one in which we all share.

As a matter of fact, the strength of any credit union's effort to manage its reputation is only as strong as its weakest link. All it takes is one person's fumble and the public perception of your credit union could be severely damaged for days and months on end. And, that fumble is not just limited to getting caught with your hands in the cookie jar. It could be as simple as not responding to a customer inquiry, something tweeted out of emotion or not properly addressing a member who has been wronged by an unfortunate billing error.

Managing the corporate reputation can be a tough assignment because people are more apt to share stories of mistreatment and dissatisfaction. Somehow, telling others to avoid an organization that has wronged them seems to temper the human psyche. It makes one feel better, as if justice has been dealt for the wrong that was committed.

One thing is for certain; always remember that the smallest of grievances can scar your good name just as easily as a headline misdeed. If left unchecked, sooner or later you can count on them to come back and bite you.

Finally, to ultimately be effective, reputation management has to be a continuous and ongoing process. Everyone on the credit union’s team is on stage, not just for the shift but 24/7, so it’s important that everyone be constantly reminded about their role and the influence they exert on the success of the organization. It’s a responsibility we all share—not just to the credit union—but to one another as professionals, as reputation ambassadors, and as people helping people.

Here are my 5 simple rules for safeguarding the reputation of your credit union. Feel free to add your rules to the list as well.

1) Always acknowledge and respond politely and professionally to others.
It's the littlest of things that can make the biggest negative impression. Respond in a timely manner to your e-mails and phone calls. When someone e-mails you a simple question, don't choose to avoid them by simply not responding to their inquiry. Choosing to ignore or not acknowledge a person is a sure way to sow seeds of frustration and disrespect deep within their perception of you.

2) Keep your word.
If you say you're going to do something, do it. There is no better way to undermine your credibility and detract from your authority than by not keeping your word or breaking a promise.

3) Behave as if you’re always on stage.
Whether at the office, behind the wheel or at the grocery store, behave as if you're always on stage. Like it or not, you're a public figure because you are associated with an organization serving the public. They may not know your name but more often they will remember your face from working the teller line at the credit union.

4) Be prudent in what you post in the social media. 
Do you really want to post that political comment? What about Facebook and all the photos of you with a cocktail in hand at all those Happy Hours? They may present you as the life of the party but they can also make you out to be a big lush as well, more focused on partying and drinking rather than on your responsibilities. Really, do I want to trust my money with you?

5) Be present to the other person. 
Make people feel important by giving them your utmost time and attention. Look at them in the eye when you are shaking their hand and being introduced, not over their shoulder at the next person whose hand you'll shake. When attending a meeting, engage those with whom you are meeting. Don't be texting or paying more attention to your e-mail and Twitter feeds.

Now, be sure to share these Five Simple Rules with others. Remember, it’s a responsibility we all share.