Supporting Financial Empowerment Takes a Village

#AnteUp! Putting Money Where CU Mouths Are 

By Shana Richardson, CEO, Ser Technology

I’ve grown up professionally in the credit union world. The ideals of collaboration, the credit union philosophy and improving financial empowerment for millions are manners of conducting business I hold dear.

Some credit unions do an amazing job of reaching out into the underserved markets and raising up entire communities, one household at a time. Some are great at finding strategic partners in their communities with which to collaborate and expand their influence. Credit unions, though relatively small in size, collaborate to form CUSOs that perform mightily for the benefit of all. Some larger credit unions perform back-office tasks for smaller credit unions that lack the resources to manage programs on their own or donate used office equipment to those that do not want to buy new because it would lessen the return to the members.

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The level of cooperation in the credit union community is unparalleled in other areas of business, yet I fear we’re reaching a point where that sense of community as fellow credit unions is eroding. Fissures are appearing between large and small, those that seek opportunities through mergers and those that are bound and determined to make it alone, those that feel field of membership is antiquated and others that enjoy their niche, those that are NAFCU fans and those that are fans of CUNA, and on and on. Like the American public, we must respect each other’s differences and work together for a common good.

Global consumer financial empowerment is that common good. Each of us can only do what we can do, but each of those small acts in aggregate can add up for huge impact. I got involved in the World Council’s Global Women’s Leadership Network because of my belief in collaboration for a higher goal. It has enriched my life tremendously! I traveled to the Philippines in 2015 to help launch a microfinance project for women-owned businesses. Working with Paglaum, a multipurpose cooperative there, we explained basics of building a business, strategy, credit, marketing and more. But that doesn’t even compare to what I took away from it!

It is true that sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have. I run a data technology company and live in a state with a high cost of living, and here I was amid so many women looking to make what equates to a few U.S. dollars a day to support their children and families. And they appreciate the assistance so much – one participant in the program named Irene even named her niece after me! (That’s me in the middle and Irene on the far right.) I grew so much from the experience that I’m heading to Thailand this spring to do it all over again.

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Aside my personal mantra of #AnteUp, one of our corporate goals at Ser Technology is to support programs that promote social responsibility, like the WOCCU Global Good Card program. We help participating credit unions to target market the cards to their members and potential members. Credit unions can generate new revenue and attract socially minded members, particularly millennials, while also providing financial support to WOCCU’s Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions to fund credit union projects around the world. Summit Credit Union launched the Global Good Card in 2017, and opened cards for 600 members in its first year, netting $10,000 to the foundation. We want to help elevate the program and spread the wealth!

This is also why I’ve been involved in the Underground Community from the beginning. We are literally working to change the world. By getting credit unions talking about the critical strategic matters, each of us taking those discussions to heart at home and doing what we can do to support the broader credit union community by doing good business – each taking one small step at a time.