Next City’s Take on Credit Unions

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Often, outsiders offer fresher insights into what makes credit unions special than found in the industry’s own internal coverage.

Next City is a digital journalism site that provides innovative examples of individuals and organizations confronting the challenges of urban life. Its focus is on solutions that improve the conditions of those most disadvantaged in large cities.

Credit unions are frequent go-to examples. The following are two recent reports that highlight their special roles.

Juntos Avanzamos: “Together, we advance”

The first story is: This is what a Credit Union Designed for the Hispanic Community Looks Like.

The article describes the efforts of Granite Credit Union in Salt Lake County, Utah to receive the Juntos Avanzamos designation. This designation certifies that the credit union is committed to serving Hispanic and immigrant communities by being accessible to Spanish speakers, conducting research on the local Hispanic community, offering accessible and relevant affordable housing programs, and more.

The story reports that the Hispanic/Latino population continues to rise in pockets across the U.S. including by 37.6% in Utah from 2010 to 2020.

The article presents the history and process for the Juntos Avanzamos designation which now spans over 27 states. The credit union model is an ideal fit for many of these new Americans because: “When you give someone an opportunity and take a chance with them when all other doors are closed, it builds incredible loyalty, sometimes for life.”

“The fabric that makes America”

A November 21, 2023 article, The Outsized Impact of Small Credit Unions, interviews Sue Cuevas, the CEO of the $4.8 Nueva Esperanza Community Credit Union in Toledo, Ohio. The second credit union leader is Sheilah Montgomery CEO of the $24 million Florida A&M University Federal Credit Union in Tallahassee, Florida.

The CEO’s comments are candid and illustrate the realities of small credit unions with a deep commitment to serving their communities. Here are short excerpts from the Q&A portion of the story:

“Our overhead is much lower than some of your billion-dollar financial institutions. We have one branch, an ATM, and eight staff team members. But we have a full-service financial institution. Because of our lower overhead, we’re keeping our interest rates lower than our competitors. . .For instance, we did loans with no credit checks.”

On the Latino community in Ohio:

“The pandemic really hit hard. A lot of (our members) lost their jobs. They were in restaurants, housekeeping, places that shut down. . . Where I’m located people don’t even know what a 401K is. Right now, we don’t offer checking accounts. Most of our credit union members speak Spanish. They don’t know how to write in English. So, checking accounts to them are very foreign. . .

Currently, we’re located in the basement of a health clinic. You have to come down some very big steps. It’s not an advantage to my members. The parking area is also very limited. So, our initiative is to get into a much larger location above ground, which allows our members the ability to come in safely and park safely.”

On Florida A&M University:

“Since we are a full-service financial organization, we offer a plethora of products and services and most recently we’ve expanded our business loan services to help small businesses, who we like to call the fabric that makes up America. We processed approximately $2 million in small business loans over the last 18 months.”

These stories show credit union relevance is not based on asset size, but the power of serving others. Their example should make us all proud of a system that attracts leaders living these commitments for their communities.

Author

  • Chip Filson

    A nationally recognized leader in the credit union industry, Filson is an astute author, frequent speaker, and consultant for the credit union movement. He has more than 40 years of experience in government, financial institutions, and business. Chip co-founded Callahan and Associates. Filson has held concurrent positions at the NCUA as president of the Central Liquidity Facility and Director of the Office of Programs, which includes the NCUSIF and the examination process. He holds a magna cum laude undergraduate degree in government from Harvard University. After being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, he earned a master’s degree in politics, philosophy, and economics from Oxford University in England. He also holds an MBA in management from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School in Chicago.

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