Re-centered Cape Fear Chapter rides tide of leadership, cooperation
Thursday, July 12, 2018
Wrightsville Beach, NC--When nearly 200 members of the Cape Fear Chapter of Credit Unions gathered June 19 for a CEO panel at Shell Island Resort on Wrightsville Beach, their energy was unprecedented. Credit unions as cooperatives have a history of peer exchange, but for many on hand this was new and different.
Following dinner with an oceanfront view, the crowd moved across the hall to better hear the panel of Riegelwood FCU CEO June Bigford, Marine FCU CEO Jeff Clark, State Employees’ CU CEO Mike Lord, and LGFCU CEO Maurice Smith. Right away, the panel recognized what was happening.
“I came from banking and haven’t seen this before,” Clark told the crowd the meeting and of their cooperation in general. Smith called it credit unions’ “secret weapon,” and Lord praised the open-door approach to sharing ideas including things that haven’t worked but can help others learn.
From there, they took turns responding to questions on marketplace uniqueness, online versus brick-and-mortar, grassroots advocacy, balancing growth with member focus, sustainability, risk-based and indirect lending, and more.
The time had come for renewal among the area’s credit union professionals. Once members of the broader Southeast Chapter, they had missed gathering for more than three years as a convenient central point proved elusive and attendance had declined. In 2017, Wilmington and Jacksonville credit unions joined in establishing the Cape Fear Chapter and its leadership. They continue to welcome any outside the coastal area who were part of the Southeast Chapter and seeking connection.
Lord and his on-stage peers set the bar high for the next few meetings of the Cape Fear Chapter. They addressed the perils and opportunity in technology. Bigford noted that reaching full potential in rural areas means paying attention to delinquency, employment, and community growth. Clark recognized generational differences in defining courteous service, as well as the sensitivity in evaluating physical locations where they may be members’ only option.
Regardless of how services evolve, Lord said, every person has a role in credit union relevance. With plenty of branch activity, each of them can make a difference by remembering that credit unions serve people, and that people vote with their feet.
“Here’s how we win,” Smith said in joining Lord’s challenge. “With all new services, they don’t have members or accounts. How do we compete? Keep doing what we’re doing, telling our story, serving our members.”
For the Cape Fear Chapter, that story promises to continue for some time.