"There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist, except an old optimist." - Mark Twain, 1903.
While I don't make a habit of arguing with the deceased (especially when we're talking about someone of Twain's brilliance), I think I'm going to dispute this assessment.
"There is no sadder sight than a pessimistic credit union employee, except a pessimistic credit union executive." - Matt Davis, now.
Don't get me wrong. There is plenty to be concerned about in the world of financial institutions these days. Over-regulation, a confused consumer base, as well as new legislation with unintended negative consequences for both consumers and financial institutions have wreaked havoc on even the most happy-go-lucky industry insiders. I get that.
But I also believe that it is times like these that should separate leaders from from the pack, the special from the mediocre, and the hopeful from the hopeless. Credit union leaders must realize that now is the time our members need us more than ever. Now is the time to make an impact. Now is the time to reach out to those people who have been pushed out of the system.
Here's why credit unions should be optimistic: we are uniquely positioned to help people through this trying economic time. Imagine being an executive at a bank. You go to your bank's board and say, "hey, our customers are really going through a rough time right now. Let's start making small, unprofitable loans to help them make ends meet. Let's modify loan agreements so our customers can stay in their cars or homes. I think we should also lower fees so we don't add insult to economic injury."
By the time the board stopped laughing, you would probably be out on the street just like your disrespected customers.
The promise of credit unions is that compassion can play a role in operations. Sure, budgets are tight. The financial services industry's future is uncertain. The economy will likely be rough for quite some time. But our members need us now.
My point is this (and it is intentionally controversial). The future of your credit union is far less important than the future of your members. Yes, I just wrote that.
Don't misinterpret that. While we are not in business for profit, we are not in business to lose money either. This, I realize. But some credit unions are so terrified to dip into the sacred cookie jar called capital, that we have used the economy as an excuse to hibernate when our members desperately need our help.
Swallow your pride. Spend some money. Take some chances on your members. Be optimistic that in doing this, you are being exactly what you promised your members you would be: a financial institution that they can count on, no matter what.