The President's Perspective
by Jeff Olson
President/CEO
1/4/2021

Greetings and Happy New Year!

Let me begin our 2021 Memo “kickoff” edition by wishing you all a Happy New Year!

I sincerely wish you all a bright new year filled with many blessings, good health, and a lot of success. I saw a great graphic (shown above) over the holidays that really reminded me about choices we can make and how we all can focus on a fresh new beginning as we launch into 2021. HOPE is a great optimistic theme for each of us, for our families, our members, and for our communities as we plow ahead. That is not a New Year’s resolution, but a simple personal choice we can all make moving forward. After all, 2020 set the bar low, so any positive outcomes or developments will be welcome!

2021 marks my 13th year at the association. I am truly blessed and enjoy the opportunity to work in the credit union movement on your behalf. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” We will continue working hard, providing value, and increasing our relevancy to credit unions of all sizes as we strive for positive outcomes for our credit unions and our members. I want to again express my sincere gratitude for the opportunity to be your partner in advancing the credit union movement here in the Dakotas and across the nation. Credit unions truly are the best financial choice for consumers, families, and communities.

Looking ahead, DakCU is preparing our legislative and regulatory advocacy agenda. We welcome the new year and are gearing up for the challenges ahead. We will hit the ground running as the North Dakota Legislative Session opens this week. North Dakota legislators are heading to the capital city today and will open the 67th Legislative Session tomorrow with Governor Burgum’s State of the State Address in the House Chamber at 1:00 p.m. (CT). Committee hearings begin this Friday.

In South Dakota, lawmakers will head to Pierre next week and will open the 96th South Dakota Legislative Session on Tuesday, January 12th. Governor Kristi Noem will lay out her administration’s agenda in her State of the State Address in the House Chambers at noon that day (CT).   

As always, we are prepared to resist any taxation threats or pressure from local municipalities and state legislatures coping with budget shortfalls. Meeting the evolving needs of our credit unions and our credit union members will continue to be our primary focus moving forward.

A recap of 2020 – “By the numbers.”

As we head into a new year, I would like to share a snapshot of what we accomplished in 2020.

Without a doubt, this past year has been a challenging one for all Dakotans. Each of us has had our share of struggles and uncertainty. Fortunately, for one out of every three Dakotans, credit unions have been there, helping them navigate through the COVID crisis while meeting their financial needs. We could say that Dakota credit unions were built for times like these by doing what we always do: Putting members first at a time when they desperately need our services.

Advocacy has never played a more important role in assisting credit unions in our efforts to serve our members. The Dakota Credit Union Association (DakCU) has worked hard to support and expand policy that directly helped our Dakota credit unions navigate through the pandemic this year.

We supported the NCUA and the courts to protect our Field of Membership. We stayed abreast and weighed in on countless legislative and regulatory policies such as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and PPP forgiveness, and Remote and Electronic Notarization Act (SECURE). None of these advocacy wins could have happened without the strong grassroots and political support from lawmakers and community leaders.

On the federal level, we conducted and led over 25 meetings with our elected representatives in Washington D.C. and state leaders. Many of these were virtual meetings throughout the year. Despite it being a crucial election year, our CUPAC/CULAC political fundraising efforts took a bit of dip; cumulatively, we raised about $66,000, a 10 percent drop from 2019.

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) continues to have a strong brand at the national level. For the fifth year in a row, the CUNA/League system is the leading financial services association in the Beltway, representing the interests of its members by creating the credit union narrative and sharing their story among Washington policymakers. CUNA ranks 1st among all financial service associations and is one of the most effective trade associations across ALL industries. This means CUNA and the league system is getting the job done, both at the state and national levels.

In addition, innovative new approaches to credit union messaging like the CUNA/League’s Advancing Communities initiative were launched, providing a platform that can be sustained beyond 2021. This exciting outreach plan is designed to better promote the credit union difference through the lens of community impact and the financial wellbeing of credit union members.

In the area of compliance, we responded and supported 502 compliance calls. We re-launched InfoSight as a membership value in early January. We currently have 133 Dakota credit union professionals representing 44 credit unions utilizing the dues-supported resource. In addition, 49 Dakota credit unions are active users of CU Policy Pro – with 827 logins last year. We provided compliance analysis and resources with 67 compliance-related articles in the Memo. We also submitted 10 federal regulatory comment letters on your behalf to the NCUA, CFPB, and The Federal Reserve Board.

DakCU compliance staff completed 18 BSA Independent Reviews; provided BSA training through in-person and virtual training platforms for 326 CU professionals; and hosted 2 virtual compliance chats in response to pandemic related issues for nearly 90 Dakota attendees, including a virtual NCUA “hot topics” meeting with Steve Worden. We also coordinated and offered members virtual “Hikes” with the CFPB representatives and NCUA Director Harper.

In response to the pandemic and the overwhelming amount of information being shared, we streamlined and downsized our electronic Memo newsletter in mid-March from daily to three days a week. Despite this, we still managed to produce more than 500 unique stories. We currently have 1,225 credit union professionals and volunteers that subscribe to the Memo, with an average open rate of 27 percent. This is significant because the industry average is 15 percent. More importantly, the average click-through rate of our stores is 44 percent, higher than last year – and significantly higher than the industry average of 9 percent.

We continue to build awareness and reach members and prospective consumers through our social media platforms. We increased our Facebook followers by 14 percent and our credit union awareness memes generated over 36,000 Facebook impressions last year alone. We increased our Twitter followers by 29 percent and launched a new presence on Instagram. (If you are not already, please “like” and follow us on all these social media outlets.)

Our DakCU website saw 26,478 unique visitations with over 127,000 pageviews, averaging 2.18 pages per session. We issued 19 individual press releases last year which resulted in 46 unique appearances in national credit union trade publications and/or in local news publications across the Dakotas.

CU Social Good is a national online platform that we manage, dedicated to the social and community impact credit unions provide in their respective communities across the country. Last year we doubled our output from the previous year as more than 1,900 stories were posted on cusocialgood.com. Credit unions around the country did extraordinary things for their members and communities last year, and CU Social Good subscribers provided more than $86.4 MILLION in community impact – a 214 percent increase in one year alone. This data is from the 488 current CUSG users. Just think what kind of impact we could share if we had every credit union reporting their good deeds!   

In the area of education and networking, DakCU hosted 3 in-person education/networking events last year. We also provided online training and webinars to 476 Dakota CU professionals in 2020.  

Despite the limited opportunity to hold events, our charitable Dakota Credit Union Foundation still raised over $34,000 and awarded over $15,000 in scholarships, grants, and disaster relief aid to our members and communities last year.

Finally, our biggest accomplishment in 2020 was launching the Dakota Healthcare Trust in South Dakota. It was three years in the making, and we are extremely excited to provide this service to our South Dakota credit unions. We are very optimistic and excited to further expand this program in both states moving forward.

We are proud of all that we have accomplished in a year of special challenges, and sincerely hope you remain engaged and involved with us in 2021. If you have any questions about membership or the direction of DakCU please call me directly at 800.279.6328 ext. 940 or email jolson@dakcu.org. Thank you for your continued support, and let’s make it a great 2021, filled with HOPE.

Jeff

 

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