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The first task new board or supervisory committee members must accomplish is understanding their role at the credit union.
“We need to make sure whoever we have in these positions know their role and understand how they should interact with the credit union,” says Sue Landauer, partner with Forensic Accounting Services Group LLC.
The board of directors is primarily responsible for establishing policies, setting strategic goals, and overseeing the hiring and firing of the CEO, while the supervisory committee is tasked with looking at the system of internal controls and making sure they are adequate and functioning as intended to ensure safety and soundness.
A panel of board and supervisory committee members explored the role of communication in board/supervisory committee member interactions during the 2021 CUNA Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance Leadership Virtual Conference.
While boards meet monthly, supervisory committees typically meet less frequently but are invited to attend all board meetings.
Many credit unions use board portals to disseminate information. This allows credit unions to provide up-to-date information in a timely manner and a place to store documents that may need to be reviewed in the future.
“Data in and data out it critical,” says Chelsea Treboniak, a supervisory committee member at $1.5 billion asset SAFE Federal Credit Union in Sumter, S.C. “[The portal] must be built and accessible.”
As meetings shifted to the virtual space during the pandemic, Western Vista Federal Credit Union adopted more electronic communication, says Crystal Mancera Meisner, executive assistant at the $204 million asset credit union in Cheyenne, Wyo. This increased board nominations by eliminating the hesitancy members felts to making board nominations and allowed members from presenting new and fresh ideas.
The mode of communication is also important to consider. While face-to-face communication is often most effective, some individuals thrive with email or texting, says Kurt David, board member at $302 million asset LOC Federal Credit Union in Farmington, Mich.
“People have different styles of learning and absorbing information,” David says. “Be sensitive to what is best for each member and communicate in all styles instead of just one.”
Board and supervisory committee members must be aware of their capabilities, their role and function, and how they contribute to the success of the credit union, Treboniak says. These factors also are key to creating relationships between the board, supervisory committee, and leadership.
“Once you recognize where your place is, it’s easier to establish those relationships,” she says. “Respect and trust are critical to the success of the relationship. They’re earned, not given.”