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October 21, 2008

On Greed and Fear: How Credit Unions get the most out of the crisis.

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by Ron Daly

Came across an article today written by Warren E. Buffett. Buffett knows money, I think that's safe to say. Read his very good article here.

Anyway, he said something in his op-ed piece that really stuck with me:

"A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful."

This was one of those things that, on the first read, was smart sounding. But reading it again gave me a clarity I hadn't expected. It made me think about our industry and how we SHOULD be looking at the opportunity presented.


Now, more than ever, attention is placed on the stability of credit unions versus big banks. In the midst of the big earning days of low-rate loans and bum securities, banks were greedy and CUs were fearful...fearful of loaning and mortgaging irrational sums. Naturally, lending money to people who couldn't afford to pay it back turned out to be a bad idea.

So now comes the time where CUs are thriving and banks are scrambling to make up the difference. Is this the time to drop marketing? Is this the time to be weak-willed when it comes to drawing members? Quite the contrary.

Now's when CUs need to:

1) Market Hard
2) Consider their next round of member rewards and incentives
3) Become the "Bull" of finance, not the "Bear".

You are worthy of attention, CUs - you made the right decisions at the right time and you're getting praised for that. Now's your chance to be greedy when the other financial institutions are fearful.

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I know that CUs in the past have been hesitant to go for the jugular when it comes to certain bank practices. The messages of "We're more than a bank" and "We care about our members," while true, were meaningless to a general audience. It is still staggering the number of people at large who cannot adequately describe what a credit union is.

There is a fine line between smart aggressive marketing and fear mongering. If you are looking for guidance, look no further than Apple.

Apple has taken Microsoft to the ropes for Windows Vista, criticizing the company for the problems associated with the Vista operating system. These attacks have been even tempered, and caused serious damage to Microsoft (causing them to fund a $300 million "image makeover").

People are nervous about the financial sector, and the message of "safety and soundness" simply isn't enough. Go on the offense, your audience may finally be ready to hear it.

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