“Banking should not be exciting,” Clay W. Ewing, president of retail financial services at German American Bancorp, a community bank in Jasper (Indiana), told The Times. “If banking gets exciting, there is something wrong with it.”
The preceding quote was taken from a New York Times article "We're Dull, Small Banks Say, But [at] Least We're Profitable." As a marketer for a $200 million credit union, I'm not sure how to take this statement. On one hand, Ewing is absolutely correct. The flashiest financial institutions (read: WaMu, Bank of America, Lehman Brothers, Citi, Bear Stearns, Wachovia, et al.) who made high-priced gambles on mergers, acquisitions, lending, investments, and promotions took the hardest falls in the credit crisis. By trying to be "exciting" (read: wildly profitable), these banks took on wild risks that have clearly proven to be devastating to the world economy.
Sure, small banks and credit unions have felt the collateral damage from the credit crisis. Rising unemployment, investment losses, lost consumer confidence, and their associated effects were virtually unavoidable for all businesses, financial institution or not. But these scrapes have been very minor in nature compared to the blows goliath, more "exciting," banks and credit unions have suffered. The financial institutions that took the conservative (read: boring) approach to lending and investments over the past 20 years are the ones to escape this banking crisis with the cleanest balance sheets, the least public disdain, and the more promising futures.
On the other hand, my family's livelihood (and I'd argue the livelihood of our credit union) depends on my ability to help make banking (err, credit unioning) exciting...or at least more exciting. I work for a credit union that carefully controls operating expenses, makes conservative lending decisions, and invests in only the safest instruments on the market. But that doesn't stop us from trying to make our organization as "exciting" as possible.
So the question is this: Can a financial institution, long-term, be exciting AND profitable? Is "dull" the best way to run a credit union? If so, why don't we have more than our current, paltry share of the nation's deposits?