Sure as the crocuses that spring up around the yard to herald the beginning of a new season, so my telephone begins its annual ringing with calls from friends wanting to know which of the candidates for director of Coastal Community Credit Union(CCCU) would best serve our longing for a financial institution that recognizes that money is not an end in itself; it is not the divine right of a wealthy few, but—at its best—is simply a means to fostering the well being of people in a just, sustaining and sustainable community/world.
Much as I appreciate the interest in my opinion, I never tell anyone who to vote for as I can really only speak for myself and what I want to see in members of the credit union board. This year I will be voting for only one candidate—the only candidate that the CCCU nominating committee has not recommended; the only candidate who mentions training and skills in strategic communication, stakeholder relations, public policy, governance and corporate responsibility (including sustainability) in her CV; the only candidate that seems to have a Twenty-first century understanding of proper governance.
Indeed, I find the fact that the CCCU nominating committee skipped over her in their recommendations to be a very strong plus on her side. The thing I am most concerned about in the current CCCU board is that it has become an old boys’ club with a number of directors hanging on for well over a decade docilely collecting a salary that seems out of proportion to the services they render to the organization. I was on the board when one year the CEO liason committee came back with a recommendation of a very handsome CEO bonus because the credit union had done a bit better than the previous year; then the next year when things didn’t go so well for the credit union, the committee recommended a large “performance” bonus because the CEO had faced a tough year. In the end it seemed to me that there was simply no circumstances that didn’t elicit a call for a generous “CEO performance bonus.” In the end it seemed rather evident that what the committee was really saying was they wanted the CEO to like them—performance was irrelevant.
The thing about the concepts put forward by the committee for recommending candidates is the criteria used betrays the value of the recommendation. The nominating committee’s recommendation criteria demonstrates a serious failing to understand role clarity-the most widely acknowledged governance principle of successful organizations. The criteria of “experience in oversight or management of retail and commercial lending including an understanding of lending approval processes, with an emphasis on reporting, credit and geographic risks and regulatory issues surrounding lending activities“ suggests the current board views its job as meddling in the day to day operations of the credit union.
The inability to understand the duty of the board as representing the owners (members) of the credit union by delegating the running of the credit union , through policy statements, to its CEO is the hallmark of a board that does not understand what its proper job is.
Governance for the Twenty-first century recognizes that all the accountability of the organization to meet board expectations is charged personally to the CEO. The board, in effect, has one employee. The board is accountable for what the CEO’s job is and that the CEO do the job well.
I could go on and on with examples of how the board blunders over and over because they are so busy trying to do the work of the staff that they don’t/couldn’t possibly have the time, inclination or motivation to do the real work of the board—understanding and representing the vision and interests of the owners—in a credit union; the members.
I couldn’t possibly vote for the recommended board candidates as that would seem to me to be locking in the old boys’ club mentality and the very problems that, urgently, need fixing.
In my next post I will examine the history, governance, goals, commitments that have made VanCity Credit Union an example of what the best in being a credit union is about. And –just a little peek—I will argue that a credit union board committed to real credit union values in BC in the Twenty-first Century would be very actively seeking a deep and comprehensive relation with VanCity.