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5 posts categorized "December 2010"

December 22, 2010

A Holiday Message from Ron Daly



I was watching "It's a Wonderful Life" this week and the story of life with and without George Bailey.

I quickly realized that there's a little "George Bailey" in all of us in the good work that each of us do personally and professionally for those we encounter along the way.

We realize our successes are because of each of you and we are able to create "George Bailey" moments that you should feel good about. Because of your business and our relationships we were able to:

  • Sponsor another child's wish in the Make-a-Wish Foundation
  • Sponsor "a Night at the Prom" for sick children at Children's Hospital in the DC area
  • Donate to the Children's Miracle Network and the Cherry Blossom Gala
  • And the most special – five years ago at a Children's Miracle Network Gala we successfully bid for a piggy bank decorated by a little 2-year old girl named Olivia. Olivia was very sick and waiting for a heart transplant. This year my family and I ran into a 7-year old energetic Olivia at a CMN event.

As 2010 comes to a close, we'd like to take this opportunity to extend a heartfelt thank you to our partners, clients and newsletter subscribers. In this day and age we often focus on all the bad things going on and lose sight of everything else. Take a minute and reflect on all your "George Bailey" moments…I'll bet you'll feel a little smile coming on during that exact moment.

Everyone at DigitalMailer wishes you a prosperous new year and we hope that 2011 is everything you want it to be.

Best wishes,


Ron Daly and the DigitalMailer Team

P.S. - Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the dedicated men and women serving our country.

December 21, 2010

Winter Green: Why Cash is King for the Holiday


by Ron Daly 

We're only a few days away from Christmas and I have all my shopping done. Best of all? I only had to go one place. The ATM!

I got my wife and kinds just what they money. Now, I don't want to hear all the naysayers out there with your "but it's the thought that counts!" and "that's not the Christmas spirit!"

Well, you don't know people like knows people. According to this article

...In a recent survey conducted by Western Union and Wakefield Research, more than half (51 percent) of respondents agreed that they would prefer to receive cash more than anything else this holiday season.

Luckily for consumers hoping to receive the gift of cash this season, 52 percent of gift-givers plan to give cash for the holidays given the current state of the economy. This is an increase of eight percentage points from last year’s survey results.

For many, cash is the perfect gift – it always fits, no one wants to return it. In fact, three-quarters (75 percent) of consumers have pretended to like a holiday gift they received, so it comes as no surprise that 64 percent of people agreed giving cash as a gift helps keep gifting stress-free, making both the giver and receiver happy.

That's a little more than half of everyone surveyed planning to give cash. So, I'm not in bad company. 

I'd like to drive a nail in all the claims that cash isn't a great gift: 

  1. "It's not personal" - Untrue. Cash is the gift you give to someone that knows you. It says "Look. I love you, you're great, I want you to have the gift YOU want, not what I THINK you want." They'll get it. And they'll thank you for it.
  2. "It's not in the Christmas/Holiday spirit" - Really? Because if I remember my nativity scene correctly, two guys brought spice and incense and one guy brought GOLD. And you know why? Because he couldn't think of anything better so he figured "hey, everyone can use gold."
  3. "It's a cheap way out of buying a gift" - False. It's environmentally friendly. Instead of driving to a mall or a department store, driving home, waisting wrapping paper and tissue paper AND a cardboard box...I'm making ONE stop and Christmas is done. If anyone gives you flack about it, it's just because they hate the environment. Shame on them

Okay, confession time. I actually DID buy presents. But I'm thinking about next year. And the article we mentioned earlier brings up a great point. In a year marked by a lot of "in-between" - are we in a recession or out? Are we healing or hurting? - giving someone cash means they can do what they want. If they treat themselves to that iPad or a new wardrobe, so be it. But if it feeds their family or pays their bills? That still feels like Christmas. Helping people get by is pretty important, too.

...AND WITH THAT, it's officially the end of blogging for the year Twenty-Ten. We've had some great times sharing with you, learning from you and talking. You're the best readers a blog could ask for. From me, Jimmy (my henchman -- err, blog manager), all our guest authors and friends, thanks so much, Happy Holidays and we hope your 2011 is the best it can be.



December 13, 2010

The New "Da Vinci Code": Credit Card Agreements


by Ron Daly 

If Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, needs some brain food for his next book about little-understood ancient texts, he should look no further than credit card agreements. I understand the language in these things for the most part, but for some of them it STILL feels like I'd need an entire library, the Mona Lisa and Tom Hanks to help me figure it out. 

I bring it up because of this article from Reuters, "Trying to Read Credit Card Agreements" by Felix Salmon. An interesting read with a lot of interesting findings. From the article: 

How long will it take to get readable credit-card contracts? My guess is somewhere in 2012, if we’re lucky. Right now, although we’re moving in the right direction, we’re also moving far too slowly...

And of course there’s no point in reading this kind of thing: I doubt one cardholder in a hundred could even begin to say what it means to “honor claims of privilege recognized at law.” I certainly couldn’t.

According to this article, four out of five adults don't have the reading skills to understand the wording in these things. And fifteen pages long? People these days can't be bothered to read the expiration date on milk.

So, what's the solve here? How can we make this information clear, concise, and easy for anyone to understand? 

I have some thoughts based on some hot trends in information sharing. 

1) A YouTube Video

Pros: People can watch a video of their agreement terms rather than having to parse text; you can have audio AND video, which means you can highlight the points you really want to hit with dramatic music and text.

Cons: The stupid comments; The idea that if you're going to make a YouTube video it has to be "funky" and "Gen-Y" (and yes, people are using Gen-Y as an adjective). 

2) Infographics

Pros: Turns tough-to-understand information into eye-catching graphs that are easy to understand.

Cons: The alternative to being too hard to read is being too simple to understand thoroughly; tough to take seriously, which people SHOULD do with a CC agreement.

3) "Twitter-izing"

To clarify: No, not a Twitter account of a CC agreement - instead, you'd make it so that no portion of the agreement was more than 200 characters or, say, thirty words.

Pros: Keeping it concise means people don't feel overwhelmed; would require that long passages be broken up into manageable chunks; tough to use a lot of "three-dollar words" when you're on that tight of a budget

Cons: See the section on Infographics. 


Clearly, there's not a great "social media" approach to credit card agreements. So what IS the answer? I think Anthony Demangone sums it up very well in his recap of the same article

What are you trying to say?  Once you know that, say it as clearly as possible.  There are times when we must use precise words or "legal terms of art."  Outside of those times, though, writing or disclosures should be clear and easy to understand.  Don't use 50-cent words when a nickel buys you exactly what you need. Don't force readers to choose between confusion and reaching for a dictionary.  And you should hire a monkey to slap you whenever you use any of the following terms in a document meant for general consumption: heretofore, whereas, or any Latin phrase.  

Hired-slapper-monkeys aside, this is an issue we'll need to address as a best practice before we're required  to address it as a regulation. Elizabeth Warren is already eyeing this topic (thanks again to Anthony for the link), so you'd better bet your boots it's going to be someone's headache at your CU. 

What steps are you taking to act on that bit of information? What steps have you already taken to make your CC agreements better? Who should members call to help with any misunderstandings about terms? Could any old employee help you take care of it? 

Leave your thoughts and feedback below. 

December 07, 2010

Are YOU Proud to be a Credit Unionist?


by Ron Daly

What IS a "credit unionist"? Having just made it up, I'm not sure, but because so many of you hate being called "bankers", we've got to come up with something else. If you've got better ideas, I'm all ears.

Why do I ask if you're proud to be one? Because the ABA has created a website called "Proud to Be a Banker".

At this website, you can read stories of bankers and banks that "contribute to and improve their communities -- from economic development and small business lending to philanthropy and financial education." That's according to their "About This Blog" section.

Basically, it's the feel-good stories of banks, big and small, across the country. And why? Maybe it's because of all the things banks CAN'T be proud of over the past few years. Maybe it's because WikiLeaks, in between torpedoing our current diplomatic efforts, threw out a vague threat that they'd reveal some SERIOUS dirt on a major US bank in 2011? Whatever the reason, there's now a mill for this warm-and-fuzzy grist. 

Where's ours? 

Where do credit unions go to talk about the good work WE do? I know it's out there, so why can't you just reach out and grab it? In one source, at one time? 

Because no matter what you think about our industry, the truth is that nobody's going to give us a leg-up. Not for free, anyway. At some point, we're going to have to be heard by virtue of the noise we make for ourselves. This "Proud to be a Banker" thing has some good ideas (listing stories by state, sorting by type of good deed) that could be adapted.

But what about showing the total charitable and community development contributions of CUs that have submitted stories? Let the numbers speak for themselves.

What about pictures, like little head shots, and contact info so that you can get in touch of the people contributing? 

We could do this, folks. We should do this. 

What do you think? 


December 02, 2010

Should We Horse Trade Taxes for Capital?


Well folks it that time again when the government starts looking for ways to cut the $4 trillion deficit before our great, great grandchildren are born... 

From the article "Deficit Reduction Panel Report Calls for Elimination of CU Tax Exemption"

A report that is likely to be voted on this week by a presidentially appointed commission on deficit reduction recommends eliminating business tax expenditures including the tax exemption for credit unions.  The panel doesn’t mention the credit union tax exemption by name but the report released today describes these expenditures as "another name for spending through the tax code."

The report concludes that the changes to tax and fiscal policy are needed because the country is "on an unsustainable fiscal path. Spending is rising and revenues are falling short, requiring the government to borrow huge sums each year to make up the difference. We face staggering deficits."

Here’s some more information on  the Deficit Reduction Panel Report. The 18-member commission, whose members were appointed by President Obama and congressional leaders, is scheduled to vote on Friday. Congressional leaders have said they will allow a vote on the recommendations if there is support for the report by 14 of the 18 commission members - by the last rumor, there were 7 supporters already.

They need money – the CU industry needs captial.
So the big questions that are sure to ire some in the industry...
Should we trade CU taxation for an alternative capital structure for CUs?  (win/win)

What if the current is too strong and CUs are taxed anyway? (win/lose)

Should we maintain the Status Quo and go for no taxes and no alternative capital? (lose/lose)

How many CUs will actually pay a dime in taxes?

Wouldn’t well managed CUs with alternative capital be able to thrive and prosper by being able to use the capital to grow their business? (there are some CUs that want to strategically snap up bank branches and expand but their capital is holding them back)
These questions have been quitely whispered at conferences and meetings so let’s hear it.