Six months ago I was making a six mile daily commute to an office on South Lake Union to climb aboard the 40 hour a week hamster wheel and serve local credit union member’s mortgage needs. I had begun this latest adventure on the grind back in September 2012 in an attempt to centralize and simplify life after making a 70 mile round-trip commute from Seattle to Tacoma for a year following the merger of my former employer which relocated the credit union’s main office to downtown Tacoma, from downtown Seattle.
The merger experience is a difficult one to go through, as anyone within any type of industry can tell you. The level of service the organization consistently provided to membership was exemplary, a community involved mindset of employees that flowed like a river from senior management all the way down to entry level staff, and a positive culture which encouraged the sharing of ideas to constantly improve our service. While I was employed at the Seattle office we had won numerous best places to work recognition awards from both local and national magazines. Despite all of this the recession was incredibly straining on medium level credit unions. It was particularly devastating to credit unions which invested excess capital directly back into the institution’s employee’s development and membership through cutting edge technology and superior rates on products instead of building up large cash reserves. The progressive attitude of the credit union was exactly what had put it in a precarious position once the default mortgages started amassing, eventually putting our balance sheets in the red.
Mergers can be instruments for positive change in people’s lives, and in hindsight I am grateful for the path that being acquired by another CU provided me. Many long time devoted employees were not offered positions in the post-merger credit union, with our leadership team more or less gutted out to later be used as a scapegoat by the new credit union’s management team to explain any continuing struggles.
There were some unusual and conspicuous happenings with the board, its chairman and the Chief Operating Officer who spearheaded the efforts to oust the CEO. Strange coincidence how this individual(COO) was on the verge of retirement, was of course made the interim CEO to “try” and turn things around, all the while spending very little time in the office and going on frequent vacations. Meanwhile while this was happening, the longer tenured members of the unpaid board resigned at the beginning of these events, while the remaining board members were treated to expensive new laptops and retreats to the tropics on the Credit Union’s dime so they could better reflect on the perilous state of the company.
So the neglectfully managed credit union continued downhill with minimal rebound efforts, and eventually a merger agreement was finalized with another credit union. Ironically this institution had been a potential merger partner twice in the 75 year existence of my credit union. And who stood to benefit the most financially, due to the buy-out of her interim CEO contract? Naturally the former COO who had the sinking ship on auto pilot and was diligently planning her golden years all the while.
One must ponder, does the financial services world as is the case with the world of conservative politics fully buy into (Ayn) Randian philosophy? A maddeningly self centered view of one’s role in the greater community? Not only equating to preservation of self and the means of sustenance, but completely disregarding the well being of all other people for the sake of greed and materialism?
These realizations have gradually dawned on me over the years as I pieced together a puzzle in an attempt to make sense of what was going so profoundly wrong with modern vulture capitalism. Steadily wrecking the values of a society towards a restart to the era of Feudalism. And as my story points out, this is not just apparent at the Savings & Loan conglomerates, it degrades the not for profit financial sector as well.
So after a long eight years helping people with their financial needs in a variety of ways from account opening to account servicing to account closing I come full circle back to why I started down this pot-hole marred meandering road to begin with. I sought to help people make sense of a system which fails so many so they could succeed in life and steer clear of pitfalls. Unfortunately my well being, at least career wise eventually boiled down to the success, or lack thereof of the insecure people on the ladder above me. And when the time came when that ladder got a little shaky, the person(s) above me only had one notion and that was to find the first opportunity to step on my fingers that had been desperately trying to grasp the rungs which had been coated in WD-40 from the get go.
Word to the wise, and those considering the financial sector as a career path- If you are any kind of an idealist with strong values be prepared to negotiate with yourself to survive, and thrive in that industry. Personally I have had enough of banking, and the unsavory characters in this twisted theater.
A system rooted in the black and white of board rooms, albeit uncompensated people that sit at the table or majority share holding ones. Where it’s possible that the good guys at a local credit union are a Mom & Pop type outfit, but in all reality there are wolves and vultures hiding in the shadows, in the same way they so prominently reside in the monstrous banks. Yet still it is better to give the Mom & Pop vultures your accounts because at least they aren’t maliciously manipulating the stock market in ways the average American can’t even begin to wrap their head around.
Peace and Love,