Sunday, October 15, 2023

SECU - Playing Fair?

   Had hoped that things at SECU might settle down after the Annual Meeting and Board election, so decided to "go coastal" with a very good friend... 

But then the CEO of SECU in-artfully decided to pour a bucket of gas on the results with a wide variety of less than diplomatic remarks to reporters after the Annual Meeting... one was “Jim Blaine doesn’t play fair,” quoted by David Mildenberg in BusinessNC (10/10/23 - link) .

One member, a decades-long volunteer, took Ms. Brady to task for her comments and received a sharp and lengthy rebuke. Here's part:

"From: BRADY, LEIGH <>
Date: Fri, Oct 13, 2023, 5:58 PM
Subject: Statement on Jim Blaine"

"Good afternoon Ms. [long term SECU Advisory Board member] –"

"I understand that you had concerns about my statement regarding Mr. Blaine providing misinformation and not playing fair. My comments do stand and I had provided the reporter [Mildenberg] with some context, but he did not publish the items." [Ms. Brady then proceeds at length with her concerns].

😎 But let's focus on this one:

"Playing fair would be allowing differing views in order to provide for healthy debate on a topic, but that is just not happening. Playing fair would have been Mr. Blaine agreeing to meet with McKinley Wooten, Bob Brinson and Jo Anne Sanford last year to discuss his concerns (he refused)."

First, I agree with Ms. Brady that a healthy debate has not occurred about the unhealthy performance of SECU over the last two years - risk-based lending tops the list as most destructive, but its a long and growing list. Ms. Brady feels that her unsuccessful, anonymous attempts to post on this blog was unfair. Perhaps, but a $50 billion institution with numerous hired-gun crisis managers, PR folks, and with evidently unlimited member dollars to spend should give Ms. Brady a pretty "bully pulpit" from which to debate.

But, as has so often occurred over the last two years, the flat out untruth of the second part of the quote is what has made a "healthy debate" so difficult. Ms. Sanford, whom I've known for years, did email me after the 2022 Annual Meeting resolution and asked that I  meet with the 3 board members as Ms. Brady noted. Here was my response:

✅ Jim Blaine

Nov 19, 2022, 1:55 PM
to Jo,,, bcc: Mike Lord
"Dear Miz J, [Sanford]

Thanks very much for the response.

First, I would like to be sure to reaffirm that the invitation to meet came from you and the SECU Board, not me. The resolution approved at the annual meeting requests a response to the full membership, not a discussion with me.  My concern with meeting with a small "committee" of the Board (composed of the only 3 folks on the Board I have worked with - not exactly a random sample!) is that it is widely believed that the SECU Board is split on many of the issues being discussed.

If in fact divided - which wouldn't be at all unusual for most boards -, I would not feel comfortable in having any remarks I might make not subject to challenge nor inquiry by each of the individual SECU Board members. Perhaps the best route at this point is to defer a potential meeting until after your meetings with the Advisory Board chairs next week. A full explanation from the Board of the reasoning behind your decisions may hopefully resolve all questions and concerns.

I do understand that the SECU Board has a difficult task in responding fully in a reasonable time frame. Would note that many of the more thoughtful member letters being emailed directly to the SECU Board are being widely circulated, which is increasing the importance of a timely response. If your group wishes to meet with a former CEO, you might want to contact Mike Lord, particularly given his strong condemnation of the Board's approval of risk-based lending.

I remain entirely willing to meet with the Board if it would be beneficial. Hopefully, the official SECU Board response to the member approved annual meeting resolution will suffice to clarify the questions asked.

Wishing you the best,

Jim Blaine" 
[Ms. Sanford did not respond further]
😎 Ms. Brady, a copy of the full email string with Ms. Sanford, has been sent to Mr. Mildenberg at BNC, so he can work on getting his quotes from you right in the future. Know you won't want to imply that the 3 SECU Board members who received the email were...well, whatever, but if you want to "walk back" a few of your recent high-octane, low fact remarks - even apologize maybe? - Would be more than happy to post them under your name on this blog....
... C'mon let's play fair!



  1. I can’t believe Leigh Brady of all people talking about fairness. Leigh and this board have played a dirty unfair election which thank god with you and your helpers has slapped them in the face. Would like to know how much money was wasted between advertising and road shows. Can’t wait for next year, I will be campaigning even more.


  2. Memo To: CEO Leigh Brady

    RE: Well…Everything

    Many, including myself, were hopeful when you were named CEO. You said many of the things members and employees had wanted to hear after the disaster that was Jim Hayes. “We’re going to slow down, pause, review everything.” Hayes had set the bar so low it was practically impossible not to look better in comparison. Unfortunately you wasted that opportunity by pandering to whatever group you spoke to and telling them what they wanted to hear. Leaders have a vision and lead from a position of trust, they do not flip flop and waffle. They are above all else trustworthy, consistent and fair. You don’t become a leader with a title, it’s earned every day. Sadly, most realize you’re not the leader they had hoped for as you have been inconsistent and squandered the trust put in you.

    Let’s take last Tuesday as an example. You were “disappointed in the outcome” of the vote? Perhaps you might have said “what we’ve witnessed today is the democratic process in action”? You and the Board came off like “how dare anyone question us”. Instead of Chris Ayers listening to member concerns and responding with “thank you for your comments” each time like some kind of poorly constructed robot you should have been up there addressing those concerns. Leaders lead. Doesn’t it concern you for just a millisecond when you see the passion of members so opposed to the direction of the credit union? Apparently not.

    One of the biggest challenges you failed at is relating to many of SECU’s members who unfortunately live from paycheck to paycheck. You’ve never worked in a branch, and by all accounts you’ve never struggled in life (and that’s no crime) but you clearly can’t relate to someone who is one car repair away from financial disaster. Instead you are full steam ahead with Discriminatory Based Lending. (This after telling different groups you wanted a “pause” to re-evaluate and potentially make some adjustments to DBL.) There’s that pesky trust thing popping up again.

    Do you know what it’s like to surrender your financial good standing because your child has cancer and you can’t work for 6 months, you lost your job through a layoff and it took you 4 months to get reemployed? Those events affect credit scores and yet SECU employees now have no way to offer these members any interest rate relief, no exceptions to the DBL rules. SECU is going to penalize you for life happening based on a number supplied by a vendor - it’s Lazy Lending.

    The best example of your disconnect are your own words to SEANC explaining your child would not have to get the C or D paper interest rate because you could cosign and she’d be able to get the A paper rate. WHAT?? That makes DBL ok? Your own “example” clearly makes the points about why DBL is so unfair.

    Just because you can take advantage of these members does not make it right. Just because it may still be the best deal in the marketplace for these low score folks does not make it right. Making additional income on the backs of those members that can least afford it is disgusting. Is this what you want your legacy to be? How you and this Board are treating the very members that built the organization into the powerhouse it has (had?) become is unconscionable.


  3. By the way, don’t believe you’re a bad person just not the person to lead SECU into the future - too much ego, too much disconnect. Leaders are stewards, not anointed kings and queens and you and the Board (at least 8 of them) have lost your way.

    Rumor has it that your crisis management company, APCO, rushed you and the Board out of the ballroom area after the vote on Tuesday was finalized. What were they expecting some kind of riot? Hey, just curious, they wouldn’t be writing memos for you and other Execs would they? Some of these memos do not sound “normal”. Not sure how much of the member’s money is being spent on APCO but might be easier and cheaper to stop creating so many crises in the first place. Honesty and transparency are pretty good alternatives and don’t cost a dime.

    Oh, was wondering if you’re still paying Cornerstone $600,000 of the member’s money a month to… what do they do again? I know Jim Hayes did not have the ability to manage the organization and had to have help. Is that still the case?

    The employees are equally confused by your actions. The branches decimated by transfers to internal departments, the Call Center grossly understaffed, compensation studies that drag on for years, internally top heavy with highly compensated execs getting large signing and then milestone bonuses, no clear career paths anymore, more new job titles than anyone can keep up with, no clear merit system anymore, giving small bonuses instead of merit increases to keep base pay low. Care to take a guess at where employee morale is currently?

    Anyway, should the Board lose 3 more seats to Member Nominees next year I’d like to be the first to congratulate you on your December, 2024 retirement. Well deserved.

    1. Love all of this!

    2. It is four 4 seats next year. McKinley Wooten, Bob Brinson(the biggest disappoinment on "this board"), Stelfanie Williams, and Mark Fleming. Bye bye corruption!

  4. "Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom."
    Thomas Jefferson

  5. So much of this just seems like sour grapes and embarrassment over talking up these new policies for months/years only for it to be proven that they are unpopular with both members and employees.

  6. “The supreme quality of leadership is integrity.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower
    you either have it or you don't ...

  7. We are a nation in decline and it's no different for the "Industry Standard" cheerleaders!

  8. How could you live in the SECU environment for 35 years and think this way? Seriously ... if you thought the banking system was the best way, why didn't you jump ship years ago? What kept you at SECU? Did you not believe in the core tenements? I mean it's not like JB and the crew changed theirs! Were you living a lie?
    And I ask the board members these same questions.
    Some self reflection needs to take place, and maybe just maybe SECU isn't the right fit for you... unless you find the sheep here an easy target!

  9. Real estate deals are one of the longtime known ways to line pockets. Why are this board selling irreplaceable properties? Wade avenue and north hills. Big bucks exchanging hands, maybe under the table?

    1. Who says the property in North Hills is being sold? Where did you hear that?


      Above are two of the articles concerning North Hills.

  10. Takeovers usually don't happen overnight, there is plotting and planning behind the scenes... everything that has played out didn't "just happen".
    'They' knew JB and ML would be retiring and when that transpired, the wolves pounced!
    A feeling of betrayal. You can only be betrayed by those you have trusted and given your loyalty too.
    A Kiss on the cheek comes to mind...

  11. I thoroughly enjoyed attending the Annual Meeting and was absolutely delighted with the comments members made and the results of the voting thereafter.

    One thing that left me highly puzzled was if McKinley Wooten is as highly "invested" in the business and best interests of SECU as he says he is, then why did he use a vast majority of his time at the meeting playing on his phone?

    1. McKinley Wooten was on his phone the entire time. Did not give any attention to the membership when they were speaking

    2. Because in his mind, he's taken care of. He doesn't have to worry about eating his next meal or paying the bills. Why should he worry ...
      He's doesn't REALLY need this board stuff to cramp his style ... you don't think he should have to humble himself to the peasants do you?

  12. JB you have grit and values. These people have all shown themselves to be liars. They don’t want to face any truths from individuals or collectively from the members of the credit union. Thank you for doing the right thing. Thank you for encouraging others to do so as well. I’m sorry you have to waste all your time proving yourself to be who you are. Quit lying, Leigh. Quit hiding from what the collective has voted for.

  13. Someone needs to go find their (she) passion! That’s what we have been told for the last two years!

  14. And LGCU will have branches now across the state That's not just a digital model. Let's be fair and work out a deal with their board and just keep helping them.

  15. Why did they stop putting the annual compensation for the president in the annual report. I liked see that Our president made my yearly salary in 1 month. But not anymore. I guess now that make in one week and don't want us to know.

    1. Interesting isn't it? Mr. Blaine's was always in there. Why did it stop with Hayes? What was there to hide with his and now she/her salary? All while some of us have been here over 30 years and never once questioned our salaries. We have been here to serve our members and took great pride in it. We had a member come in recently and ask about birdhouses. She hadn't realized we stopped that service also. She didn't want to drive almost 3 hours to the place to buy some. Another unhappy member.

    2. Frank was a hero and mentor to many of us on so many facts of life. The birdhouses are still available. Frank lives on, but Leigh brady just sucks, always will. At keast up here in Warren county.

  16. used to put a lot of things in the annual report that aren't there any more. "transparency" ha!