Friday, June 30, 2023

SECU New Culture/New Direction - A Question of Trust, Part 7 

  Baseline. Prior to September, 2021, SECU had an uninterrupted 85-year record of growth in assets and membership, un-besmirched by sanction or scandal.

✅ The SECU Board tried to pull a fast one on the SECU membership with the awkwardly bungled "Fireside Chats" fiasco - a bumbling performance now permanently enshrined (thank goodness!) on You Tube for posterity and factual reference!It was now clear that "this Board" was not going to voluntarily meet its' duty of stewardship and fiduciary responsibility to 2.7 million North Carolinians. 

✔ So, I sought to enlist the help of the "Fourth Estate" - the press and media - to root out the truth. Business North Carolina (BNC) ran a feature article in February, 2023 on the "New/New" SECU, written by the editor, Mr. Dave Mildenberg. The article tried for balance and even-handedness - which pleased no one! By doing his job as a professional journalist, Mr. Mildenberg unitentionally triggered a whole new wave of "spin and obfuscation" from the credit union. The truth has taken a severe beating ever since.

✔ Over the last few months, Dave Mildenberg has followed up from time-to-time on the evolving swamp-saga surprises coming out of the "New/New". This week he happened to mention that the list of "hired gun" PR firms and political operatives under contract with SECU is growing - and, are well-armed and well-funded "to prove that you have lost your marbles".

Uh-oh, look out! Well, before the rest of the marbles get loose, thought it might be wise to pause and publicly declare the principles underlying this blog. Might as well give those "hired guns" a better target at which to shoot!

✅ The following comments were made to the African American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC - link) in March, 2021. Hope the remarks make it clear why I no longer believe that the current SECU Board understands the remarkable potential and promise of a member-owned and member-focused SECU... 

*April 18, 2021

“I am truly grateful to the African American Credit Union Coalition for this honor. The organization is remarkably successful and on the rise! I have known many of its leaders for a lifetime and have often sought, and even heeded, their advice! We shared a common bond – a belief in credit unions.

My life has been centered around my family, my wife Jean, and credit unions. Why credit unions? Because I could never accept that in America those who had the least and knew the least should always pay the most for financial services. I believe that credit unions were created to correct that injustice. In the words of Thomas Paine – a true revolutionary in all respects – “I have always objected to wealth achieved through the misery and misfortune of others”.

That economic injustice continues to thrive in our financial system today. Credit unions remain the alternative, the best hope, the answer.

We all confront an uncertain future, and many folks would like to rewrite the past. You and I know we cannot change the past. But if we have credit union leaders with integrity, courage and character; we most certainly can reshape the future…but changing the future is very hard work. Arthur Ashe, the great American tennis player, described the credit union leaders we need. Ashe said: “ True leadership is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, true leadership is the urge to serve all others at whatever cost.”

One word of caution as we look to the future and choose our new leaders; let’s make sure that diversity, equity, and inclusion is not a false guide, a false prophet. Can we really tell how diverse a credit union is by looking at the faces of our boards and leaders? Choosing our leaders by their race, their gender or their age is the old way – more of the same. We need a new way for credit unions.

And, the new way is to judge people not by how they look, but by how they think. As a famous preacher – I believe his name was King – said over fifty years ago: “Hopefully my children will be judged by the content of their character.”  Yes, let’s truly diversify and choose leaders based upon the content of their character. That is a more difficult, complex task, but our future depends upon it.

By the way, if you want to get a jump ahead on reshaping the future, try starting a little personal revolution of your own. Next time you are filling out a form and come to the question of “Race?”, drop down to “Other” and write “Human”. When you reach the ethnicity question, drop down to “Other” and write “American”. And of course when you reach the question on “Sex?”, drop down to “Other” and simply write in “Yes!”…and the world will begin to change!

Onward and upward – for all!… With the African American Credit Union Coalition leading the way!

Thank you again for this honor.”

✅ As I mentioned to Mr. Mildenberg about "losing my marbles"

😎 Dave, when I retired from work, I didn't retire from life!

Let the games begin... and may the devil take the hindmost!

Thursday, June 29, 2023

The "New/New" SECU - May, 2023 Financials 

  Baseline. Prior to September, 2021, SECU had an uninterrupted 85-year record of growth in assets and membership, un-besmirched by sanction or scandal. 

🔺No one should be surprised that the "New/New" financial trends at SECU continued in May:

Total assets - continued to decline dropping below the $50 billion mark to $49.88 billion - off $589 million in May alone.

Total deposits - same story, off - $500+ million from 4/30/2023.

Total loans - are growing, up $600+ million as the SECU Board continues to pursue a policy of overcharging 50+% of members, through the highly discriminatory risk-based lending (RBL) policy. 

🔺The greater concerns remain in the substantial failure of SECU to meet Board-approved budgetary targets, specifically in the areas of operating costs and delinquency/chargeoff controls.

✔ SECU will end the 2023 fiscal year (Tomorrow! - 6/30) @ 15% over the SECU Board's budget target ("2% of assets") which equals @ $75 million over the mark. Of greater significance is that actual 2023 operating costs of @ 2.30% of assets are 24% higher than SECU's traditional operating cost range of 1.86% of assets (see SECU Board approved scorecard below). Folks that 24% increase in the operating costs of SECU is costing you $220 million more every year. Are you seeing that much increase in benefits and service quality from your credit union? 

You already know the story on delinquency and charge-offs, which have soared in an improving N.C. economy.  The problem was not "The Fed" or some other concocted excuse to avoid the admission of mismanagement. Suffice it to say that charge-off levels for 2023 will be at least twice (which is tens of millions of dollars) the levels experienced since the "New/New" started weaving its magic less than 24 months ago.  

✅ To refresh your memory, here is the SECU Board's own "performance scorecard" from March, 2023. Delinquency/charge-off losses have soared and SECU operating costs ("expenses to assets") remain highly elevated over historical operating norms.


...while the SECU Board remains deathly silent, the numbers speak for themselves.