08 February 2009

Legends of Financial Services

I went to Salem, Virginia, on Friday to watch country music legend George Jones in concert. This was my first time seeing "The Possum" live, and quite honestly, part of me wishes I hadn't. It's not that it was a bad concert. Quite the opposite, actually. For a 77 year old man, Jones can still entertain. His amazing voice, beautiful songs, self-deprecating jokes, and youthful enthusiasm have a magnetism that few other performers can claim.

But I noticed something odd at the side of the Salem Civic Center stage. There were two laptops lit up on a small table adjacent to the stage. One was clearly controlling the backdrop display - an amateurish powerpoint-type collage of pictures and animations that changed from song to song. The other laptop had scrolling text on it - almost like a karaoke monitor. When you looked at the front of the stage, you could tell that that's exactly what was going on. There were two monitors facing away from the crowd that were clearly feeding/reminding/coaching Jones his lines.

This setup consumed me for the entire show. He still forgot his lines 6-7 times. Seemingly, the crowd (whose average age was somewhere in the neighborhood of 85) knew his songs better than he did. And I would wager that Jones was sober as a judge. Compounding matters, he announced after the first few songs that this was his 51st year of performing. Many of the songs he sang Friday, he has performed every show for 51 years!! Most of them, he wrote!

And he still needs his lines fed to him?

It made me think about credit union news of the past several months. Have we forgotten our lines? Have we forgotten our 7 Cooperative Principles? Are our 100 years of age starting to show?

When Johnny Cash died, I promised myself that I would try to see all of my favorite artists while I still could. Since then, I've been privileged enough to go see Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and now George Jones in concert. Those memories are mine forever, but I'll admit that each let me down in their own unique ways. The trouble is once you place someone or something in your mind as having legendary status...it's really tough for it to live up to expectations.

In the middle of Jones' set, he started joking about drinking. He said that he had recently discovered his new favorite drink...water. "I wish someone had told me about this sooner," he laughed. Then, he did something that really made me sad. He started pitching his George Jones branded water - White Lightning. Are you freakin' kidding me?!

Is that what credit unions have become? An aging legend who can't remember his lines, and looks to make a sleazy buck at every opportunity? Sometimes I wonder...

If your credit union doesn't want to do things the right way, I hope you'll consider ending the tour. Convert to a bank charter, and allow those credit unions who still care about our founding principles to take the stage.


Ginny Brady said...

Great post! I think your analogies are right on! Credit unions have been thrown into a tizzy in the last two weeks. It remains to be seen if we can use the wisdom of the last 100 years to get through this crisis. Are the 7 cooperative principles still viable? Perhaps I'm an idealist but I'd like to use them as the basis for a response to NCUA's Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for corporates.

CU Potential said...

Sometimes, I have this naive belief that no credit union, no matter how misguided, is beyond redemption, though it may take more change than they are comfortable with to position themselves for a successful future as a CU.

I'm not ready to abandon any CUs to Mutual Savings Banks yet, but I am ready (and willing) to abandon some of the people that took the CU to that point.

robinbannks said...

Nice review of "No Show's" show...

Don't fret over the Kareokee...even The Boss had it one going during the Super Bowl half time show. The damn things are built into the floor of the stage!
Guess that's what happens when from acting foolish during your youth.
By the way...where am I?