With Liberty and Justice for All

#LiveUp to Credit Unions' Reputation

By Linda Bodie, CEO, Element FCU

This phrase probably brings the Pledge of Allegiance to mind. Whenever I hear those words, I take them to heart. I believe these words should reflect reality, not just part of a script that’s nothing more than words with little meaning. I have a hard time with this phrase, not because I don’t want it to be true, but because it’s not really true for everyone. What about liberty and justice, freedom and fairness, and financial inclusion for ALL of our members? 

I’ve been in the credit union movement for 20 years. When I started, I knew virtually nothing about credit unions. I did know a lot about people and my desire to serve and help in any manner possible. I guess that’s why I’m still here, and why my credit union has never strayed from that original credit union mission of “people helping people.” We serve every type of member from the financially affluent to the struggling to the just-starting-out. It’s what we believe, and it’s what our members expect from us.  

Want to join the Underground crusade to help buoy all credit union members? Click here.

We focus on extremely personal relationships with our members. Serving ALL requires heart, a humanitarian focus, and commitment to finding solutions no matter where our members are in their journey. Our staff focuses on education and making sure we are giving the best assistance to help everyone reach their financial potential and goals. It requires patience, understanding, and meeting people where they are – not where we are. It’s a lot of work. It’s extremely time consuming. But it’s so rewarding.

You can’t manage a credit union on feelings alone. You still have to manage the numbers, have strong policies, and ensure safety and soundness. When you serve ALL members, a balanced portfolio is essential. Pricing should be equitable to the membership, cover any expected losses and ultimately satisfy your examiner. You have to make your case and argue your position. Be prepared to defend your model and stand your ground. Here’s a little breakdown of our current loan portfolio:

700 - 850 = 33%

640 - 699 = 27%

000 - 639 = 40%

We’ve been doing this for 20 years and have a very successful track record. From three employees and $2.3 million in assets to 16 employees and $33 million in assets, we’ve helped thousands of members. We’ve made a real difference in their lives. We have coached and educated and given them a chance when others would not.

Linda is one of many dedicated credit unions leaders who participate in the Underground. Join the revolution.

One of the most rewarding things about being a credit union and serving ALL is feedback from our members that show how we are making a difference in their lives and being different from other institutions. Here’s a recent letter that reaffirmed our commitment to our mission (names are changed for privacy): 

“Hello, this is Billy. I received Jill’s information from a co-worker, and from the first time I called, she was very informative about your services and very helpful and personable. She made me feel like a person instead of a low life like most of the financial institutions in my area. It was very encouraging to start a relationship with your credit union.”

How many of your members and potential members have been treated like a “low life?” From other banks? From you? There’s not only a growing wealth gap in our society, but there is also a growing humanitarian gap. We have to keep fighting for ALL members, no matter where they are and no matter what is happening in their lives. We must not only strive to fulfill financial inclusion for ALL, but we must execute and prove we are still the best financial partner in the world.