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Press-Citizen Optiva Letters, February 27, 2007

February 27, 2007

If you go . . .

What: University of Iowa Community Credit Union vote on a name change. For members only.
When: 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday.
Where: Quality Inn & Suites Highlander Conference Center, 2525 N. Dodge St., Iowa City.
[Note: This material is copyright by the Press-Citizen, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Iowa City Press-Citizen.]

Process matters most in election

Nicholas Johnson

Like "Six Blind Men and an Elephant," we perceive Optiva differently. Some see "a dorky name" and "abandonment of (University of Iowa Community Credit Union's) heritage." Others see "progressive change." Some see legal violations. Others say "get over it." Both sides seem angry.

I'm "none of the above." I've found UICCU employees friendly and competent, and the financial policies rewarding. My concerns involve governance. Over the banking industry's strong opposition, an Act of Congress provides, "Credit unions . . . are exempt from Federal and most State taxes because credit unions are member-owned, democratically operated . . . organizations."

That's why for UICCU administrators to make genuine efforts to seek out members' opinions before making decisions is like fastening their seat belts: "It's not just a good idea, it's the law."

My perception is that -- like the Iowa state Board of Regents -- their approach to the Optiva change, from start to finish, has looked more like a private bank than a "democratically operated organization."

Rather than a unilateral decision followed by a campaign to force it past the legal minimums, with lawyers, full-page ads, and overtime for voting employees, why not first poll the membership -- by mail, scientific sampling or even online?

Let's vote to retain "UICCU" temporarily, poll the members who can't attend meetings, and then consider their proposed name changes -- including "Optiva."

Process isn't trivial. It's the heart and soul of credit unions, without which we're just "bank customers" risking loss of the legal benefits, along with responsibilities, of membership.

Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City

Optiva's really a joke name, right?

When I first saw the name, Optiva, I thought it was the name of a male performance enhancement drug. It's a joke, right? Why anyone seriously would want to change the name of our University of Iowa Community Credit Union to this ridiculous pseudo word? Words do carry meaning in the way they sound and the connections they have in our minds. Our credit union has a history of community service and cooperation among all members. Whose ludicrous idea was it to take a name that has so much meaning and mess with it?

The idea was to attract more members; there are other ways. Has anyone thought of the money it would cost to change all the checks, stationery, forms and computer programs? This could negate any value gained. How about spending a little of this money on some well-placed advertisements on TV and in the newspapers.

How's this for a slogan: "UICCU is for everyone"?

Dale Phillips
Iowa City

Too many other Optivas out there

Optiva is not a unique name. Multiple firms or products have that or something similar. They don't want us using their name, and some may sue if we take it. Plus, there's a moral dimension: We'd be stealing just as if we found and kept a purse with a bundle of money and identification in it.

There's lasting trouble with a name requiring training to pronounce, Op-TEE-vah. Optiva Mortgage pronounces it OP-tiv-ah, like the values Optiva is said to represent: Optimism and opportunity.

Surely not all names with intrinsic meaning (which Optiva lacks) are in use. I searched online for some alternative credit union names -- "Iowa Heritage," "Hawkeye Heritage" and Iowa Values (my favorite) -- and got the same response each time: "No sites were found." If a made-up name is optimum, how about IowaValues? Actually, Optimum is neither made up nor owned.

Many of pro-Optiva votes in October were from University of Iowa Community Credit Union employees. Why not try to achieve greater consensus from the rest of the 45,000 member-owners -- especially considering that most of them are not able to get to a meeting?

I respect and appreciate the board and president, but I would do them no honor by following lemming-like toward what I see as a seriously harmful name change.

The consultant firm was paid to find a unique name. Because Optiva clearly is not, a compensatory judgment in a breach of contract lawsuit should net enough to cover UICCU costs.

Linda S. Fisher

I'll offer a name for only $50,000

I imagine the management at the University of Iowa Community Credit Union was initially surprised at the reaction of the membership to the Optiva name change. How could the members be so angry?

Credit unions initially were formed to provide an alternative to the abuses and exploitation of the banking system. With a credit union, one is part of a "financial family," usually with better rates of return. With a credit union, one is a member; with a bank, one is a customer. The banks look out for their shareholders, not the customers. One doesn't expect a bank to be "fair" but members expect their credit union to play "fair and honest."

What caused this anger and frustration? The method of voting on the name change: This is Iowa City, not Chicago.

The faulty reasoning of making the name change for membership availability. A large "You do not have to work at the University of Iowa to be a member" at the top of each print would probably get the point across.

The name Optiva has no connection to the previous name. The John Deere Credit Union changed its name to Veridian. John Deere tractors are green; "verd" means green in Old French. Why not the Old Gold Credit Union or Black & Gold Credit Union?

As for the fee to the consulting firm, that $250,000 was our money. Heck, I would have done the deed for a mere $50,000.

Jim Doorley
Iowa City

Optiva will appeal to new members

The mission of our credit union is "a progressive financial cooperative that exists to serve member-owners and promote their financial well-being." Our cooperative has a dedicated board of directors who fulfill the mission. What a blessing to have such diligent, focused visionaries working hard to make sure all who are eligible for membership know they may join the cooperative to enhance their financial well-being.

The volunteer board of directors, all upstanding leaders from our community, asked the question: "Do all eligible member-owners know they can join?" Being progressive, the board initiated research to find the answer, and what the board learned was many did not know they could belong. The reason given: They thought membership was for the University of Iowa community only. The elected board of directors made a decision to take action to make sure all eligible member-owners know they may join the cooperative by offering the membership field an inclusive name.

Our credit union serves 14 counties in Iowa. We have the opportunity to uphold the October "yes to Optiva" vote by voting Wednesday to be inclusive to all eligible member-owners.

The name Optiva will have a meaning in the credit union realm; it will mean "a progressive financial cooperative that exists to serve member-owners and promote their financial well-being."

Sandra Thorington
Cedar Rapids

Optiva: A name is a name is a name

A name is just a name. It doesn't matter if that name is dorky, eloquent, unique or common. It does not change what defines that name ... outstanding service, caring staff, visionary leadership, a board with high integrity, great rates and some of the best products and services in town.

The name "Optiva Credit Union," like it or not, was approved last fall. Plans to move forward with that name change have progressed. The money already has been spent. It's mind-boggling to me that members want to spend more time and more money to have more meetings and more mailings and more votes to come up with a name that they feel would be better.

I've got a news flash for you . . . there is no one name that every single member is going to like. Enough is enough already. Let's end this circus by voting "Yes for Optiva" on Wednesday and then let's move on to something important.

Pam Beckner
Iowa City

Name change will be inevitable

Do we as a cooperative go forward or backwards? Whatever you think of a name is secondary to the more fundamental matter that the credit union go forward -- sooner rather than later -- as an independent entity. Under a separate banner the credit union will be better positioned in a highly competitive market, and as such, will be more capable of adapting to changes in that marketplace, the result of which will be a greater ability to provide the membership superior service. It's as simple as that.

Voting to reverse the membership vote of Oct. 4, 2006, not only is a step backward, it is a vote for stagnation. A vote to retain the old name is a vote for higher rates and lesser dividends, for fewer products and curbed resources. It is a vote for a past that no longer represents the present. And in the end it is a vote that limits the cooperative's ability to grow.

Support your credit union, its management and its board. Support your friends at the credit union whom you've come to know and trust. And more importantly support yourselves.

Jim Kearney
Iowa City

Optiva reflects progressiveness

The credit union difference is evident every day in the service provided to our members, in the focus and direction by the board and in our commitment to community service. Credit unions promote the financial well-being of members, including those of modest means, through a system that is cooperative, member-owned, volunteer directed, and not-for-profit. Quite simply, our philosophy is "people helping people."

I have been a member and employee at the credit union for more than three years. There will be another vote on the name of the credit union Wednesday, and I plan on voting for Optiva Credit Union. Why? Because it reflects our progressive nature, and because we are excited about the many opportunities to grow and serve more members and families.

Our volunteer board is elected by our members and each serve a three-year term. On March 21, the credit union will hold its annual board meeting. At this meeting, we have three board members that will be up for re-election. I plan on voting for these three incumbents (Eldean Borg, Fred Mims and Charles Mason).

Why? Because of their leadership, vision and passion to serve the members of their credit union. Under the leadership and vision of the entire board, the credit union has grown and prospered, which has allowed the credit union to introduce more branch locations, more ATMs, develop new products and to offer the best rate guarantee on its certificate of deposit products.

Steven L. Quigley
Iowa City