Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Go see Maxed Out -- a look at America's debt crisis

First of all, I have not seen Maxed Out. I saw the trailer a couple weeks ago and was intrigued by its promise to show me how the “modern financial industry really works.” Watch it here, at the movie’s fansite: MaxedOutBuzz.com. Looks interesting, no?

Here are some blurbs from the movie’s website:

    Maxed Out reveals the secrets of the new bank. John Ballew, a Midwestern banker whose neighborhood bank has been merged so many times he's lost count, tells us why suggestive selling is the primary qualification for working at a modern bank.
    Maxed Out reveals that the financial industry's best customers are the broke and the bankrupt. The most profitable niche of the industry is called "alternative" or "sub-prime"—euphemisms for a business formerly known as loan-sharking.
    Maxed Out delves into the heart of the information business. David Szwak, a prominent Shreveport attorney, reveals that 90 percent of credit reports—those forms that now determine whether we get a job, a home and insurance—have errors on them, yet the credit bureaus aren't doing anything to correct the situation.
Obviously this movie is anti-bank. I don’t know if it mentions credit unions at all, or if it offers any solutions for people looking to get out of debt. After reading the cast of “characters”, including Suze Orman, Bud Hibbs, Alan Greenspan, Elizabeth Warren, I’m optimistic there will be some impressive and insightful commentary.

Maxed Out is playing in limited release. It will show at Seattle’s Varsity Theatre on March 9. Check here for show times in other cities.

Side note: the director was raised in Seattle and the movie showed at last summer’s SIFF.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Poised with Promise

This year it was recommended to me, as the Relationship Manager in Auburn, that the Auburn Branch of Verity Credit Union support the Miss Auburn Pageant by sponsoring a young contestant in the pageant.

What does that mean? Well, it means that Verity would support our own candidate both with financial assistance and with moral support from the credit union staff throughout our candidate’s pageant journey. It was a great idea, (thank you Kathy) and it’s been a delight from day one.

The pageant is kicked off with a VIP Hour at Emerald Downs where the public, the sponsors and families are introduced to the young women embarking on this trek to self awareness, confidence and poise. Because Auburn boasts the largest amount in financial scholarships for a pageant in the entire country, we watched 23 young ladies come forward to win the coveted title and the scholarship that accompanies it.

Ashley T. was our candidate: a vibrant, well-traveled, determined young lady with her eye on business or perhaps photography in her professional future. Her eye was also, as were the other contestant’s eyes, on the prize: several scholarships to be awarded. Ashley, a member of DECCA, is an accomplished writer and an editor for her high school yearbook, not to mention that she looks stunning in her black and white evening gown.

What many people fail to recognize about pageants is that they are a golden opportunity to put one’s best foot into the future. A young lady in the pageant learns poise, grace, how to speak, how to gesture when speaking in public, and most importantly in this world of Victoria Secret models, self confidence. I applaud all the contestants for their courage, their vision, and their promise…a promise of a bright future for each one of them!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Verity Credit Union’s Blog Making Industry News

Recently, Verity Credit Union was featured in the well-regarded industry magazine, On-line Banking Report, as being one of the most innovative financial institutes of 2006.

Verity has also been asked to speak at the well-attended Net.Finance 2007 conference in April.

Lastly, Verity Credit Union was recently quoted through a podcast in the leading industry blog, Opensource CU.

I am proud to boast that we have a board of directors and management team who are willing to try new things, a staff that is dedicated and talented enough to keep a blog going for over two years and a membership base that appreciates and participates in this type of dialogue.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Who gets to say when paper checks go away?

Or maybe the question is, "Will they ever go away?"

Like many other financial institutions out there, we offer free Bill Payer and we used to have a checking account that rewarded members with a dividend if they consented to receive their statements and communications with us electronically. And yet we continue to have thousands of members that use paper checks, no matter what incentive we offer. I have yet to hear of a bank or credit union getting rid of paper checks altogether, but it appears that one particular mass retailer might be discouraging their customers from using paper checks. Or maybe it was a lapse in training?

A friend of mine experienced this and she blogged about it:

"I recently got back from a quick trip to the grocery store. I've been putting it off for over a week now. I find that now that I don't have my own income, I procrastinate doing things that involve payments. Grocery shopping is high on the list of things I would rather do with K... part because two kids, two parents... part because, then he can pay for the goods.

I'm used to using my debit card when I'm out. It's convenient and it takes the money directly out of my account. But, I only have a debit card for my account, not our joint account. That means that while I have been unemployed, I've had to write checks for groceries. UUUGH!

My dislike of the paper check is apparently shared by many. I've pulled out my check book numerous times these past several months and I hear moans and groans from those in line... as was the case tonight. It made me think about the time I went to Walmart when they just opened.

It had been opened for maybe a week. I had to get some necessities late at night (they are open 24 hours) and, of course, I had to write a check - I can't believe how much just one can of formula and one package of diapers cost! The cashier looked at me like I was insane. When I asked for a pen, her expression changed from obvious disbelief to sheer panic.

Cashier: "Are you going to write a check?"

Me (I hate obvious questions): "That was the plan."

Cashier: "Uhhh"

Me: "You do accept checks, right?"

Cashier: "Uhhh... I'm not sure. They didn't cover this in training"

She had to call a manager over. The manager had to consult with someone over the phone. They consulted other cashiers and eventually I was able to write my check.It made me wonder... am I really the last of a dying breed? I'm not a fan of the paper check... but at the same time, shouldn't stores be equipped to take all forms of payment... or if they aren't, have it posted on the doors and at the registers? The whole ordeal took nearly 10 minutes... but more annoying than that, I left feeling

Of course, I still haven't gone in to get a debit card to that account because it requires both of us to be there... and when we have time together, we don't want to go to the CU (sorry Verity!). I'm not sure I really have a point... and I know it's taken me a long time to get to the end of a pointless blog. I guess I just felt like sharing my thoughts on the paper check and the experiences I've had surrounding them lately. Perhaps if anyone associated with Walmart is reading this... they could put in a request to include the acceptance of paper checks into their training."

What do you think? Will paper checks go the way of the dodo bird or are they here to stay?

BTW, I emailed my friend and told her she didn't need to go into a branch to get a debit card. She commented back on her blog-- thanks for the shout out, K!

"Kayce said...
Now that's customer service! Granted, I used to work at the Credit Union... but a staff member there read my blog and took it upon herself to email me and let me know that I can call to have a debit card issued on the joint account... no need to go into the branch!Take note Walmart! She wasn't sure what the proper procedure was... but instead of trying to talk me out of using the debit card, she asked around and got me some answers. I like that about this company. The employees take it upon themselves to take care of their members and make them feel important. If you are in need of a financial institution, I'm still a big fan of Verity Credit Union. "

Shameless plug, I know-- but seriously, will paper check usage ultimately be replaced by debit cards and online bill pay?

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Aw yeah, share the love!

On this special Valentine’s Day posting I wanted to share the love. (Is someone’s HR Alert sounding?) In this case I’m talking about employee referrals. We have many employees who come to Verity through referral by another employee. Not only does this make my job easier, it also helps us foster a dynamic corporate culture. Kathleen Miller, one of our Member Service Reps at our Beacon Hill Branch, recounted her story:
"Last Fall I was pondering going to work for a former boss at a large financial institution when I ran into my neighbor, Melanie Mosshart, at our mailboxes. She is always fun to talk to and was really excited to tell me about her new job at Verity.

After hearing her rave about the company and discussing some of the products, my interest was definitely peaked. She gave me a promotional Passport card and said that she’d let me know if she found out of any openings. I got online and checked Verity out. It’s pretty rare to hear someone talk about their job and company in such positive light so I checked it out! I applied for a position at the Beacon Hill branch during the 10 for 10 promotion and anticipated waiting to hear anything when I got a friendly call from the HR department! The hiring and training process was an absolute breeze and having medical insurance available right away, (even for part time!), that’s amazing to me.

I am very happy here and have learned a lot already. As far as Verity University, the self study STAR books and online training is really helpful. Other companies that I have worked for seem more interested in production than encouraging their employees to further their education. I have met a lot of really fun and talented people here at Verity and it has all been a really positive experience for me!”

Call me a nerd, but it really excites me to hear stories like these. Kathleen – and don’t call her Kathy – has since transitioned into a fulltime role at the branch. She exhibits a lot of great attributes that we look for in Verity employees. I’m happy to say that this is just one example – I’d need another set of fingers to count all the referrals we currently have at Verity. Now that’s sharing the love…in an HR appropriate way, of course. :-)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Real Life Myths Exposed

Last week a friend introduced me to a show called Mythbusters. The premise of this show is that these two guys go around trying to prove if myths are true or not. Important things like if a jawbreaker is heated in the microwave and then bitten into will it blow up (the answer is yes and it will burn you pretty bad). In the spirit of my new found knowledge I thought I would share the answers to two of the more interesting myths I have encountered.

Myth Number One: Pirates wore eye-patches to cover their glass/hollow eye.

This turned out to be false. The real reason (beside the obvious fashion statement) is that it allowed one eye to adjust to the dark more quickly. They were constantly going below deck where it was dark. By simply moving the eye patch to the other eye they were able to see their way around more quickly. It was simply a method to improve their night vision.

The weird thing is when I first heard this my reaction was not that I was surprised or even impressed. My reaction was how did I never, in all my years on this earth, wonder why the eye-patch. I just sort of accepted that was what pirates did, sort of like taxes and death. Random tangent but seriously have you ever questioned the whole purpose of an eye-patch for a pirate?

Myth Number Two: Nice guys finish last.

This one I became the myth buster on (but not with the same title as that would be a copyright infringement). Look at the two nominations that were submitted for this month’s winner of our Extraordinary Feats Award. It is people like Pete that make me glad that I work at Verity Credit Union (and it isn’t because of his endless candy supply...well maybe it is a little).

Nomination 1:
I would like to nominate Mr. Pete! Mr. Pete ALWAYS greets everyone with a smile, and is always ready to help with anything that he might be able to assist with. I think he goes above and beyond with his kindness towards all employees and members, and demonstrates what it means to be a great roll model. For those of us who have had the pleasure of attending the 7 habits classes, I think that Pete creates his own sunny happy weather- and shares it with all who come in contact!

Many times, I have been in the Branch, and at every opportunity to serve- he is there. This, I believe, goes a long, long ways in having the best Quality Service for our members. It is obvious that he takes great pride in what he does, and for this I believe he deserves to be recognized with an Extraordinary Feats Award.

Nomination 2:
Extraordinary can sometimes be found in the beauty of a very ordinary day. Take your typical day and you will find Pete offering to help most anyone that comes his way, whether this has to do with branching, staffing, or eating Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. He is this beacon of light that shines on us and warms us with laughter, kindness and joy. He cares and now I will give my soap box speech about caring: you can’t pay people to care; they either do or they don’t. He does. This is good.

When I think of extraordinary I think of the kinds of things that we would want our ideal employees to do. Be a model of our corporate culture, promote servant leadership and strive to make things (no matter how big or small) better. Pete does that. I think it’s inspiring. If you need a specific story, here goes:

I was working on a Saturday and Pete noticed. He said, “what are you doing here?”
“Trying to crank things out but my computer is all frozen right now. That’s so frustrating because I can’t get it fixed” I replied.
He nodded in empathetic agreement and said, “but you look fabulous, just so you know.”
I laughed. Pete has a way with words.
Not five minutes later he sends Val over with an interoffice envelope. She said, “I am supposed to give this to you but not bother you in case your crank is turning.”
I open the envelope. It’s filled with candy.
My day is better, because of Pete.

Pete is both a nice guy and a winner. Clearly, with the help of Pete, I have proved this myth wrong. I think there could be a future career in this for me.