The P.A.

A weekly address from Patrick Adams,
President of St. Louis Community Credit Union

Sometimes Imperfection Is Beautiful

On August 31st, 2009, posted in: Uncategorized by

In some things, I run behind the curve. I’m really busy, and on occasion I get squeezed by a short attention span. The combination can lead to a “duh” moment now and then. Did you know we have an Arch in St. Louis? (Just kidding.) I’m a big proponent of the biblical principle “in God’s time,” so I rest assured that my occasional lapse of what’s an “Entertainment Tonight” type of current event is no big deal.

I say that to say…“How about that Susan Boyle from that British reality show? Can she sing or what?” I’m a recent visitor counted in the 28,993,986 people who have clicked on to check out this extremely talented person. You might say, “Dude, that’s so yesterday.” Well then, you need to re-read the first paragraph.

As I watch the YouTube video, this is what I’m thinking…I love her! She’s not beautiful. She’s eccentric, eclectic and enigmatic. She’s quirky, imperfect, socially clumsy and frumpy. She’s overweight, outdated, and did more for the abolishment of superficial stereotypes in a few minutes than anyone has done in recent history. The preconceptions held by most as she took the stage, followed by her subsequent triumph of the human spirit, represent all that is wrong and all that is right with this world, wrapped up in a five-minute-and-50-second life lesson.

There are at least a half-dozen or so teaching moments that come from watching this masterpiece. However, “don’t judge lest ye be judged” seems to jump to the front of one’s conscious thought. We are a world rife with imperfection, yet we cast stones at others’ differences. I’m reminded that when we point a finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at one self.

St. Louis Community Credit Union helps lots of people who have their fair share of imperfection every day. The Credit Union doesn’t judge; we help. We create products that are quirky to the main street banker. When people have a lot of money, they have lots of options. What we do provides value to the least of them. We remain interested in helping the disenfranchised. Ours is a compass that faces due north…help people to increase their standard of living and better their lifestyle. In that sense, we have a perfect pitch just like Ms. Boyle.

Thank you, Susan Boyle. I am better off for watching the video of you (five more times). With each viewing, I get chicken skin and well-up. I’m reminded that we can’t all look the part. St. Louis Community Credit Union is not your typical bank. Thank God.

Find The Account That’s Best For YOU

On August 24th, 2009, posted in: Uncategorized by

“I know a guy, who knows a guy, who’s got a guy, who has a guy, who says the best place to go for your checking account is_____________.” When you hear this sort of introduction to an important financial service, first put your toe in the water, then a foot, etc., etc. In other words, be very cautious and be a wise consumer before making a decision. Don’t jump in head first…do your homework.

You might go get a burger and a beer from the “guy who knows a guy” recommendation, but choosing the place for your checking account requires a little more consideration.
What’s right for your buddy may not be right for you. Do an honest assessment. Here, we’ll help.

Have you ever bounced a check? Do you think the prospects of doing it again are possible? Do you have trouble keeping records? Is your filing system a cluttered wallet or purse? Maybe a shoebox? If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, don’t fool yourself. You will not effectively balance your checking account and, as a result, you’re getting ready to pay some big-time fees. Seriously…find an institution with low returned check fees, minimal overdraft protection fees, and low negative balance fees.

Also, lots of financial institutions have a menu full of checking accounts (at least three or four). One of them more than likely will have an account with no fees attached when you have a minimum balance of…oh…let’s say $250. And check this out – they’ll pay you some miniscule amount of interest to boot. Yeehaw!!! (By the way, when it says no fees, it doesn’t usually mean returned check, overdraft or negative balance fees.) We’re talking no per-check fees, free box of checks, no transfer fees, no extra cost for a statement copy or check copy (up to a maximum per month), etc., etc. – you get the idea.

Again, it’s gut check time. Let’s be honest…can you keep $250 out of reach? Do you have enough cash flow not to need the $250 EVER? If you answered “no,” don’t pretend. You need a no minimum balance account. The free stuff does you no good. You’ll drop below that $250 minimum faster than you can say “uh-oh, I screwed up.” And trust me, the “below balance fee” will more than make up for any savings you may have received from that free box of checks.

These are just two areas that need your attention. You say…“not me; I’m a good money manager.” Great, then tell your kids and grandkids. Believe me, they need it. No kidding…young people are shy of the skills to keep their money in their own pocket versus giving it to a financial institution in the name of fees.

Know how young people make their decisions? They know a guy, who has a guy, who knows a guy, who has a great checking account with _______________? Really. Do your homework and find what’s best for you (and your kids and grandkids.)

Economic Recovery Will Take Shape One Of Three Ways

On August 17th, 2009, posted in: Uncategorized by

I was on the LUV airline recently. Southwest Airlines is a great American story – one complete with an eccentric founder (a business genius) as the protagonist, and a host of devilish antagonists over the years: other airlines, government legislation, a naming argument, volatile fuel prices, September 11, and most recently, the economy. Through it all, this great example of American ingenuity has not faltered in its outstanding service, awesome people, great pricing and great community citizenship. Yeah, they are a national entity, but each community they locate in is better off for it. One could do a lot worse in choosing a company as a model for success.

A sign in the LUV gate area of my most recent flight said it all as it relates to the current antagonist – the economic tsunami. It read: “It’s About Time Somebody Punched This Economy In The Nose.” It was a Sunday morning, and my response was “preach on preacher.”

I think we are all anxiously awaiting the recovery. It’s painful to watch folks hurting. Interestingly enough, the recovery will take shape in one of three ways…either L, U or V. While punching the economy in the nose is the action voiced by our friends at Southwest, the tagline LUV speaks to the type(s) of recovery that may occur.

An “L” recovery is my least favorite option, but an extremely likely one. If the horizontal line in the letter “L” represents the economic recovery, you can discern that the base of this magnificent letter “L” doesn’t turn upward anytime soon. If we were to extend the base of “L,” infinity would be the destination. In other words, our economy would just plod along at this economic low-point without any upward turn. A “jobless recovery” is what happens along this horizontal track. In other words, there would appear to be no indication of job creation and, as a result, no upward improvement. Let’s hope not.

A “U” is a much better choice. The key to a “U” recovery is that the low point is finite and will eventually turn north to the benefit of us all. Yeah, there’s some continued pain in the base of the “U,” but job creation and economic rebound would be evident and forthcoming. Cheering for “U” is a good thing.

The “V” recovery is rather unlikely. We’re probably past this point. Note that this type of recovery is highly favorable as the American economy spends no real time at the bottom. We touch the low point and instantly begin the recovery. Jobs are created, consumers start spending money, and the momentum of such an upward paradigm shift is maintained. BOOM…we’re out of this mess relatively quickly.

So what’s your guess? You’re as qualified as most. I read the opinions of “economic experts” who are surprised every day as they attempt to reach their conclusions of what’s going to happen. Hang on. St. Louis Community Credit Union is here for you – whatever the letter: L, U or V!

Sometimes The Media Write What They Want, Not What’s Right

On August 10th, 2009, posted in: Uncategorized by

One of the hobbies of the world’s cynics is to attack those who overwhelmingly do good work. It is a repeated practice (almost a sport) of many media outlets. Investigative reporters sometimes hide their undeserved attacks on folks doing good things under the guise of reporting. It would appear as though they can’t stand all of the good work being done, and search out ways to “dig up the dirt.” In those instances where good always outdistances the dirt, the reporter’s slant quickly turns into some one-sided mudslinging. By the time the opposing view is offered up, the negative slant has taken over our subconscious and the damage is done. Oh, the power of the pen.

Generally speaking, credit unions (who overwhelmingly do good things for consumers) were under attack this past week. The USA Today got after a bunch of credit unions for offering “overdraft privilege” to checking account holders. St. Louis Community Credit Union was not one of them under attack, but in the spirit of full disclosure, we offer this product. The slant taken was that these credit unions in question were charging outrageous fees for clearing a check or processing a debit card transaction under the overdraft privilege program. Worse yet, the article also intimated that some credit union members don’t even know they have the service and, as a result, are ambushed by the fee being charged.

Well, neither of these things goes on at St. Louis Community. Every member who has overdraft privilege with us knows it; has a chance to “opt out;” and we only charge $15 per incident. Under the category of “overwhelmingly doing good things,” the article goes on to say that the average credit union charge is $25 and the average bank charges $35 for the same service. Then it points out that most fees charged by credit unions are less than banks. But by the time the article acknowledges this fact, the slant has already been established – bad credit unions.

Are there some bad credit unions? Yes. Credit unions are a microcosm of society and, as a result, there is always a bad element. But to assassinate the character of the whole lot of us because a few are not conducting themselves as they should is a slant that is unwarranted and a grossly unfair characterization.

From my perspective, there were a few important points missing from the article. If the consumer does not have the overdraft privilege, then the following things will happen: (1) the check is returned to the merchant; (2) the credit union charges an insufficient funds charge of an amount equal to the overdraft privilege charge; (3) the merchant charges an exorbitant fee on top of the credit union’s charges; and (4) this activity may be recorded with Chexsystems or some other resource that intimates you as irresponsible in the management of your account. But if the consumer is responsible and balances their checking account and keeps track of their activity, it’s unlikely that the overdraft privilege service will ever be needed and the fee in question will ever be charged. And maybe the most important point of all…if you don’t like the fees being charged by your bank or credit union, you have the freedom to vote with your feet, i.e. change institutions.

I’m for fair reporting as it relates to St. Louis Community Credit Union. We do too many good things for our members and for the community that the media never talk about. So thanks to all of you who help spread the good news about us to your family and friends!

Being Part Of A Team Has Nothing To Do With Self

On August 3rd, 2009, posted in: Uncategorized by

Recently, I put on the best team uniform ever. I was one of about 600 or so teammates donned in an incandescent, lime green jersey. When I say lime green, I mean frozen ice-pop lime green with an extra added touch of bright. We were part of a jigsaw puzzle that, when pieced together, would accomplish great work and help thousands of people.

If you will indulge me for just a minute as I reminisce…I grew up wearing uniforms – mostly sports; mostly baseball – where I was considered to be a star player. And of all the accolades and “atta boys” I received, I still remember my favorite day being when coach would issue our uniforms. Pristine new hats with stiff brims completely free of any jagged perspiration marks were a favorite, but nothing rivaled that brand new uniform jersey. Bright white, clean and fresh, with creased sleeves dissecting the league’s patch, complete with golden inlaid thread was the harbinger that a new beginning, a fresh start was right around the corner.

But really, let’s be honest…it was the back of that jersey that made it for me. Emblazoned in three-inch letters running between my shoulder blades was “ADAMS.” I was recognized and distinguishable among the whole team. I remember the sense of team and belonging to something great, but honestly that “ADAMS” led me to a sense of boastful, personal pride. Yeah, there’s a team, but seriously check out that “ADAMS” kid. As I took the field against the backdrop of clapping moms, dads, grammas, grandpas, and a spattering of kids who were hanging out at the concession stand, I just knew it was all for me.

Well, times have changed. The other day, as I pulled on my brand new t-shirt jersey completely resplendent in “limeness,” the name ADAMS was nowhere to be found. In its place was the name above all names. My new uniform back said it all: “Honor God Help People.” I remember feeling a sense of purpose as I entered the field completely absent of applause. Far from being the star, I was humbled by the name on my jersey. Without fanfare, I had work to do.

Service to the north St. Louis community at Dwight Davis Park was our charge, and “Team Lime” set out to get it done. Listen to these stats…300 smoke detectors were installed in 90 homes; 1,500 new pairs of shoes were distributed; 1,500 pairs of socks as well; 1,500 backpacks complete with fresh school supplies; a complete paint job of Northwest High School’s football field; 170 dental exams and fluoride treatments; carnival games; face painting; inflatable rides; food & drinks; a rock & rap concert; and an invitation to go to heaven. WOW! All free of charge. Are you kidding me?

I never did anything close to that in a uniform with ADAMS on the back, yet I have never been more in the “limelight.” Being a small part of a team that did so much helped to renew my perspective on what matters most – and it has nothing to do with self.