If we could start again, what we would do differently? Would our leaders take the same path if they were given the opportunity?
Here's a sample of what I would have done (if of course the stupid law, and common sense, wouldn't get in the way).
I would make democratic control mean more on the individual credit union level. I would make ownership mean more than just an annual vote. I wouldn't pay monthly dividends. Instead of encouraging member investments in various share accounts, I would make member deposits THE investment. Members would get equity shares in the credit union instead of regular dividends, and would be able to cash out at any time as long as there is a willing buyer (which could be the credit union itself). As the credit union becomes more successful, the value of member shares increases. As the credit union makes poor decisions, those values dip. Thus, members would have a vested interest in the health of their credit union.
I would place a cap on an individual's deposits in any one credit union, and lower the share insurance on each account to, say, $50,000. No single member should be allowed to have excessive equity in, or control over, any credit union. Likewise, no member should be allowed to deposit less than the credit union's par share value each year. This membership requirement will encourage growth and member involvement, while weeding out the members who do not value their membership.
I would rethink the idea of dues based memberships in trade associations. We are a cooperative movement, directed by volunteers. Any trade group we form, then, should be on a free and voluntary basis. Don't want to share ideas? Cool, don't. Want to? Nice, welcome to the club. Credit unions shouldn't have to pay to collaborate with other credit unions.
Trade associations, instead, would take the form of think tanks...staffed by democratically-elected volunteers with strict term limits. These associations would help form a national brand, serve as representatives to community groups and government officials, come together to address concerns of the movement, and decide, with the help of their constituents, which technology investments to make. These investments would be the property of the credit union movement, and could be used at no charge by any credit union that contributed (personnel, money, or any other assets) to the project. Start up credit unions would also have access to these technologies for a period not to exceed five years. At that point in time, they would be required to pay their portion of the initial investment that all other credit unions made to develop the technologies.
Corporate credit unions would only be able to invest in or borrow from other credit unions. Likewise, natural person credit unions would only be able to invest in or borrow from other credit unions or their own members.
Finally, no member could apply for a loan unless he/she has been a credit union member for at least 12 months.
Of course, my credit union system probably wouldn't have survived 10 years...but I thought it would be fun to think about this. The fact of the matter is that most credit unions have done a very good job of staying true to our mission. That's what keeps me passionate about the movement. I do think, however, that we can do better. Your thoughts?