By David Adams
Each year at this time, MCUL & Affiliates evaluates the satisfaction levels of credit unions, develops priorities for the coming year, and once again seeks affiliation commitments from all credit unions in the state. When we ask for your affiliation, we know that you expect a high level of service for your dollars. Our mission day to day throughout the year is to provide the services and programs you need, at a great value to your credit union. So our planning process has to include an evaluation of the value credit unions receive through membership in MCUL.
MCUL’s core services are focused around four crucial areas: advocacy on both legislative and regulatory fronts; education and events that bring high quality at low cost; cooperative advertising and awareness; and information. Add to that the strong solutions-based services and consulting available through CU Solutions Group, and you can see that Michigan credit unions have numerous valuable resources to depend on.
All of these services cost money, of course, so we can hire the best talent and support our efforts through websites, publications, lobbying and other resources and materials that credit unions need. Since 2000, MCUL has kept a close eye on dues dollars and ways to generate subsidiary income to enable us to keep services at a high level while keeping dues very low. We have succeeded, and Michigan credit unions pay the lowest dues in the nation, covering just 13 percent of the league’s operating budget. Most credit union leagues get 65 percent to 90 percent of their budget dollars through dues. CU Solutions Group earnings are a major factor in keeping dues low, so it really pays off when credit unions utilize the products and services provided, such as Performance Pro and Compease, marketing services, website design and hosting, and the Invest in America discounts. Net assets are also at the highest level in the country, at more than $62.2 million, putting Michigan in a very strong financial position.
Being financially strong is one side of the coin; the other side is providing valuable services and support, which every staff member is focused on every day.
The battle to preserve the credit union tax exemption is the most important issue we have faced in recent years. Through relationships and hard work, our legislative advocacy team succeeded in gaining unanimous support from our Michigan delegation, all 14 representatives and both senators. This show of support, particularly from key players on tax-writing committees, is a good sign that credit unions will maintain their tax status. Michigan credit unions and members also contributed 28,000 contacts to Congress through CUNA’s Don’t Tax My Credit Union website, to go along with 1 million contacts from around the United States.
In the Michigan Legislature, foreclosure and consumer fraud are key issues we are working on to ensure that credit unions are protected from penalties for blight at abandoned homes, allowed a right of inspection for foreclosed properties in redemption, entitled to the homestead tax exemption on foreclosed homes, able to combat “card skimming,” and protected from “title washing” by moving to an electronic system for vehicle titles. These issues can result in high costs over the course of just one year and new laws will provide important protections. In addition, we are working on legislation to allow low-dollar, member PAC contributions.
But we can’t do this alone. New volunteers are always needed to meet with lawmakers and strengthen our message. The CUNA GAC in Washington, in February is an important event and an excellent time to be involved in political activism. As we get into the summer of 2014, our team will be focused on key elections and endorsements to best position credit unions for the next two years. PAC and corporate contributions and grassroots activities will be very important during the campaign and election process, supported by Grand Raffle, our biggest federal PAC fund-raising effort each year.
With thousands of pages of regulations from the CFPB, MCUL has been and will continue to be focused on helping credit unions navigate the new regulations and effective dates. In addition, our team is pursuing regulatory relief, including working closely with CUNA to influence their regulatory agenda and tackle issues relevant to Michigan and with the Department of Insurance and Financial Services. Relationships and regular meetings with regulators strengthen understanding of our industry and our position on issues.
Compliance with state and federal laws is critical, and one of the crucial support services available to member credit unions. Our compliance experts are drawn from the ranks of credit unions to provide information, coordination on outreach and educational needs, access to policymakers and assistance through the Compliance Helpline. A new web tool called ComplySight will be available in 2014 to help monitor and manage compliance rules, dates and examination preparation.
Credit unions need continuous training for staff, managers and executives, but MCUL recognizes the related time and financial challenges. That’s why our education staff has three priorities:
Planning is already well under way for several of our spring events, leading up to our Annual Convention and Exposition June 5-7. In January and February, we already have 15 webinar and audio sessions scheduled, plus the Lending and Marketing Conference, where the topic of technology will play a big focus, followed by Compliance From A-Z. Our premier event, the AC&E, will be in Grand Rapids this year and will feature mobile banking and “digital wallet.” Our 2014 education calendar will be released in the next month, and I encourage all credit union leaders and managers to look through it to find opportunities for their staff.
One of MCUL’s major initiatives, the CU Link cooperative advertising campaign, has made outstanding gains in awareness in just nine years – today, more than 60% of consumers are aware of credit unions, and more people would consider a credit union than a bank when they need a new account. Both credit unions and MCUL have increasingly stepped up to expand the media budget, so that more than $2.8 million was spent in 2013. Of those dollars, 65% were contributed by MCUL & Affiliates, making this an excellent value to credit unions. Part of this initiative is the new “Own Your Money” road tour, in which our CU Link trailer visits community events to meet and interact with people face-to-face. Credit union participation in this tactic is more than welcomed, as we replicate the feeling of friendliness and service that consumers can expect in their local credit unions. Our final event for 2013 will be at Noel Night in midtown Detroit on Dec. 7; we would love to see you there.
CU Solutions Group
CU Solutions Group supports credit unions with a few core products in the areas of technology, performance, marketing, lending and membership enhancements. The solutions we offer at CUSG are designed to add value and provide competitive advantage to help credit unions serve, grow and remain strong. To do this, CUSG continuously works to enhance current offerings and seek new solutions that will fill a need or provide additional credit union revenue. The revenue stream provided through this subsidiary allows MCUL to do things that other leagues cannot – such as providing $1.5 million annually in support of our CU Link cooperative advertising media buy and 50% dues rebates to our credit unions the last three years.
For 2014, look for a number of advances, innovations and new products from CU Solutions Group:
MCUL & Affiliates has a mission – helping credit unions serve, grow and remain strong. But our driving force is to add value to for you and to ensure that you enjoy very high quality services at very low cost. Your 2014 affiliation information will be arriving in the mail in the next couple of weeks, and we hope you will agree that the dues payment and voluntary contributions we ask for to support cooperative advertising, our CURE defense fund and the Michigan CU Foundation are all money well-spent.
View the “Michigan Priority Report” on CUBE TV for a video summary of MCUL & Affiliates CEO David Adams’ November Priority Report introduction.