Six Insights That Might Keep You Up at Night

CUNA's E-Scan report is full of insights, revelations, and snarly comments.

November 19, 2010

I really like to read CUNA's Credit Union Environmental Scan Report (E-Scan), especially on those nights when I’ve substituted apple juice with high-octane coffee, and ingested 15 cups of it.

It’s not that the information isn’t useful. Quite the contrary, it’s so full of information that, around page 23 of this 104-page behemoth, your brain will explode.

Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

I know what you’re thinking: “You mean explode, just like the last time I read the National Cred­it Union Administration board’s explanation of the corporate bailout?”

James Collins
James Collins is Credit Union Magazine's humor columnis.

Exactly. In any event, I read the tome and managed to glean a few revelations that stuck with me:

1. My dream of becoming the world’s best shrub planter is still alive. Yep, the growth of landscaping jobs exceeds even that of computer programmers. And, from experience, they perform a more essential function.

In fact, there are plenty of jobs and careers expected to have strong growth over the next few years—all of which are outside our current targeted demographic. This leaves us in a quandary—ignore the trends or change our demographic.

2. Consumers are dumb. Okay, that’s not exactly what the report says. I was paraphrasing. Actually, it says you wouldn’t believe the junk consumers will put up with from their existing banks—high fees, hid­den charges, variable rates, and more.

None of it is quite enough to force them elsewhere. It’s like the boiled frog analogy. If you place them in boiling water, they’ll immediately jump out. But if you place them in cold water and then slowly turn up the heat, you’ll have frog soup in no time.

3. Your credit union will have a social media site. Tired of the debate over whether it should have one? Let’s put it this way. While it might not be created by your personnel, and it might be created by some fanatical upset member, the truth is you will have that site (imagine “”).

4. Financial institutions overbuilt. Even after the failure of some 73 banks in 2010 alone (as of May), including the likes of Washington Mutual, we still face lackluster demand. I might not be a rocket scientist, but if you slash supply, and demand still drops, that’s not a good balance.

5. Politics stinks. It doesn’t matter who did what or who’s in charge. The only question on people’s minds: “How can we never have this happen again?”

This leaves all of us—banks, credit unions, and thrifts alike—in an increasingly regulated environment.

Five insights gleaned from 104 pages doesn’t sound like much (unless it’s a senior thesis), but it’s a start. Many other ideas, suggestions, and snarly comments appear in the E-Scan. It’s well worth the read.

And the restful nights are free.

JAMES COLLINS is CEO at O Bee CU, Tumwater, Wash. Contact him at 360-943-0740.