First of all, let me preface the rest of this blog by saying I am biased in favor of credit unions. In my 37 years in the banking industry, I have worked for a savings and loan, a bank and now a credit union. So, I think I am in a unique position to measure the worth of a credit union.
One of the most asked questions I receive when facilitating a financial education presentation is; “what is the difference between a credit union and a bank?” Well, first and foremost is the culture. It is a culture of helping people and not one of profit. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong about making a profit, in fact, I would suggest that you want your financial institution making money, but should it be the main part of its culture?
So, let’s get into the details:
Credit Unions: YOU are a part owner of the credit union. We are YOUR credit union. The profits go back to you in the form of typically higher savings rates and lower loan rates. Oh, by the way we are a not-for-profit organization which means the main focus is not on the bottom line but on its owners…. As stated above, that would be YOU!
Banks: The owners are the stockholders or shareholders. They purchase shares in the bank in the hopes of earning a dividend. A bank is a for-profit organization, so, the primary goal of bank management is making a profit to pay the shareholders and even though they proclaim their endearing love of customer service, their real intent is to make as much money as they can. Again, don’t get me wrong, I own stocks as well and I want them making a profit so I can benefit from that ownership. (isn’t it interesting with a credit union, you get the both of best worlds?).
Board of Directors
Credit Unions: The Board of Directors of a credit union are all volunteers. Yes, you heard that right. They do not get paid one copper cent. The main focus is to guide the credit union in such a way that the member’s best interest is the primary goal. How refreshing! Oh, by the way, did I mention that the Board is comprised of members of YOUR credit union, which, as owners, you voted to place in their board positions. Their duty is to ensure the safety of your hard earned money, AND, to ensure we are following our mission which is to enhance the financial well-being of our members. Once again, refreshing.
Banks: The Board of Directors of a bank are appointed by the other board members and guess what, they do not have to be customers of the bank. Oh, by the way, they are paid to ensure the bank is making a profit for its owners; the shareholders. Enough said.
The Credit Union Culture
I like to tell the story of a member that was having an issue with her account. It was a complicated issue, but suffice it to say her account was restricted so she did not have access to her money. She came in to discuss the situation when I was managing the Wilmington Pike branch just after joining the Day Air team. Interestingly enough, she was not upset because she understood why we did what we did in order to protect the general membership, her credit union (she used those words), from a possible loan loss. She went on to explain her side of the story and in short order the situation was resolved and she once again had access to her funds. This interaction, more than any other, illustrated how people feel about THEIR credit union.
Bottom line; we are here for you, the members, to enhance your financial well-being.