The Credit Union National Association (CUNA), conducted a survey of member credit unions in 2019 and 2021 to identify their efforts to address diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). A report was released recently illustrating the trends of those surveyed over the two-year period.
In 2019, CUNA reported that only 37% of credit unions surveyed indicated they were focused on DEI, either currently or in the planning stages. By 2021, 60% were reporting they were focusing their efforts on improving their practices. Per CUNA’s study, “this rapid growth in credit unions’ focus on DEI is encouraging.”
According to the study, the change indicates that credit unions understand that DEI is central to the credit union mission; vital to advocacy efforts; effective in improving organization performance; critical to the movement’s survival; and the “right thing to do.”
During the survey, participants could respond that DEI wasn’t on their radar, was in the planning phase, or was currently being implemented.
Although the 23% increase over the two-year period could be encouraging, the percentage of credit unions currently implementing practices rose just 3%, from 16% to 19%. Could this suggest that credit unions feel the need to simply address DEI by indicating they are “planning” on doing something about it?
One thing CUNA’s study certainly demonstrated is that DEI efforts are of a greater focus at larger financial institutions. 13% of credit unions under $100 million reported DEI initiatives that have either been deployed or that were deployed & strategically aligned. This contrasted with the 52% of credit unions $1 billion or larger reporting the same.
In a recent blog, one small town credit union CEO shared her views on the subject, indicating that while credit unions were struggling with coping with the challenges of COVID in the last couple of years, the NCUA decided to criticize credit unions on their DEI efforts:
“Instead [of supporting credit unions through the pandemic], the talking heads at the NCUA started scolding credit unions about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Rather than real concern for our members—the salt-of-the-earth member/owners of our financial institutions who feel a common bond to a financial institution with their co-workers or their community—the NCUA decided we are evidently racist and somehow elitist.
“Our color chart no longer satisfies their hunger for diversity. They alone are responsible for how our charters read but, in hindsight, they have decided we are perhaps too white or not serving enough underserved?!”
Citing a Filene study, CUNA suggested that DEI efforts matter not just for moral and ethical reasons, but also for improved performance. “Credit unions with DEI strategy, goals, or tracking practice bundles reported higher return on assets and net income than credit unions without these practice bundles in place.” The question is whether this is purely correlation instead of suggesting causation.
The study continues by looking not just at credit union penetration, but member penetration. As larger credit unions are more likely to have incorporated DEI into their strategy, member access to credit unions with these initiatives is greater than the numbers otherwise suggest. “From this perspective, over 80% of all credit union members belong to a credit union focused on DEI. Of these, just over half belong to a credit union that has deployed DEI efforts, if not aligned them, with their strategic plans.”
CUNA concluded the study by suggesting that not only is DEI not a fad. Rather, they believe incorporating a diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative will ensure the success of those that embrace it and be deleterious to those that chose not to participate.