First, a Thanks: Then Songs, Digs & Data

By Frank J. Diekmann

Diekmann Frank

Before tackling this week’s interesting mix of items from CU Land, including CU-people-turned songwriters, how this year’s March Madness Cinderella was compared to a credit union, and what’s happening in mergers outside CUs, I want to thank Harland Clarke for becoming the latest company to sponsor’s CUTomorrow Conference.

Harland Clarke joins Catalyst Corporate, CU*Answers, CUNA Mutual’s AdvantEdge Analytics, and Emery Financial Group as sponsors on the meeting. Their support is what is allowing us to price registration of CUTomorrow at just $499. This meeting is designed to be an old-fashioned, credit unions-helping credit unions event in which peer group-leading CUs share their successful strategies for new membership growth, building walletshare, onboarding new members, lending, cutting costs and more.

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The meeting is set for Sept. 9-11 in Austin, Texas and WILL sell out, so if you're interested in a budget-conscious, compact event that offers ROI for CUs that want to see tomorrow, go here for more info and to sign up.

A (Credit Union) Song in Their Hearts

No doubt working in credit unions has led many to turn to music to capture their moods, wishing they could write a song to sum up their day or even careers. On the good days an upbeat hosanna-singing choir performing “Joy to the World of Collaboration and Helping People.” On the bad days a sad melody and lonely sax riff to accompany “The Thrill is Gone Compliance Blues.” And on most days Queen-like mashup of both styles in a “Co-opemian Rhapsody.”

Perhaps that’s why the CU community has recently had a number of songs either written or performed by would-be credit union contestants on The Voice. These include a tribute to the first credit union in the U.S., “The Ballad of St. Mary’s Bank,” by long-time credit union writer Paul Thompson, which can be viewed here.

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And more recently, Lisa Brown, CEO of Tallahassee-Leon FCU, recently teamed up with Eric Durrance, lead singer of Tobacco Rd Band, to pen the song, “Sweet Tallahassee.” The song and video, which were sponsored by the credit union, recently premiered at the Challenger Learning Center’s IMAX theater.

Brown is lifelong friends with Durrance, who made a splash in the country music scene as co-writer of the Top 10 single, “Eight Second Ride” and founder of Tobacco Rd Band. The song seeks to highlight positives about Florida’s state capital and features local first responders.

The video can be viewed here,

I Don’t Think It Was a Compliment

March Madness fans have never been driven madder than this year, when there isn’t a bracket in the country that hasn’t been busted, wadded up and shot basketball style toward a waste basket (where it likely bricked).

The big upset in this year’s college basketball tournament was, of course, #16 seed University of Maryland Baltimore County’s defeat of #1 seed Virginia. Apparently seeking a metaphor to illustrate just how small and undersized UMBC was/is compared to UVA, Art Thiel, writing on Sports Press NW, referred to the school as Maryland Baltimore County Credit Union Mini-Mart.

And maybe that ain’t so bad. Credit unions have long been upsetting #1 seeds in the financial marketplace tournament for some time.

Behind the Headlines

The economy is booming. The stock market is setting new records. Home prices are soaring. All in all, the economic news looks good, but…

As I wrote here recently, it seems we’ve seen this scenario before, and it wasn’t all that long ago–even Millennials remember this one.

Other numbers recently reported show that behind the headlines there are a lot of people struggling, and many more will join their ranks in the near future.

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For instance, one-in-five Americans say they have more credit card debt than emergency savings, according to a Bankrate study that also reveals another 12% said they had no credit card debt, but also had no savings. It is the highest rate Bankrate said it has ever seen, although there is some good news to be found with the company saying trendlines show more Americans are making progress on right-sizing the equation between credit-card debt and emergency savings.”

Meanwhile, credit card losses are surging at small banks. “Missed payments on credit cards at small banks have risen sharply over the past year, a sign that their cardholders are taking on more debt than they can handle,” the Wall Street Journal reported. The charge-off rate at small banks hit 7.2% in the fourth quarter, up from 4.5% a year ago, according to Federal Reserve data.

And all that comes as reported total credit card transactions and outstandings hit a record during Q4 2017.

Not saying all of this means anything definitive about what might be reporting in a few years, but…

Credit Unions Are Not Alone

Plenty has been said and written about the pace of mergers in the fourth quarter within credit unions. But CUs are not alone. According to the FDIC, during Q4 2017 among banks mergers absorbed 64 institutions and two institutions failed. (There was one new bank charter granted.)

Frank J. Diekmann is Cooperator in Chief at and can be reached at .

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