Credit unions and the armed forces have long been closely intertwined, thanks in part to the fact that a host of credit unions, including some of the nation's largest, focus on serving current and former military members and their families.
In honor of Veterans Day, Credit Union Journal presents a look at some of the ways today's credit union movement intersects with the military, including some of the top legislative issues of the year to studies on post-military life, special perks for service members and more.
While military matters have always been close to the industry’s heart — in large part because some of the nation’s largest credit unions began with a military field of membership — the armed forces have played a major role in one of the biggest credit union issues this year.
Banks and credit unions have spent much of 2019 at loggerheads over access to military bases. Credit unions have long enjoyed a rent-free presence on military installations but bank trade groups have pushed legislators to include a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that would grant banks the same privileges CUs currently enjoy. While CU groups — and the Defense Credit Union Council in particular — have fought hard on the topic, banks have begun to change tactics. Whereas before bankers simply wanted a rent waiver, the focus has now turned toward ensuring banks and credit unions are treated equally.
Credit union groups have said allowing the for-profit banking industry rent-free access to bases could lead to consumer abuses of military members.
The National Credit Union Administration is closed for Veterans Day — perhaps not surprising considering it’s a federal agency where veterans make up 17% of the total workforce and 8% of senior staff.
In a statement, NCUA Chairman Rodney Hood said: “Our veterans have served this country faithfully and well. The men and women on active duty uphold that proud tradition. It, therefore, becomes our responsibility to support them. Abraham Lincoln once wrote, ‘Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere ... honor also to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field.’ Let us continue to prove worthy of that honor and provide care and support to those who serve.”
The agency’s consumer-facing website includes information specific to the needs of military members and their families, and the regulator also has an employee resource group for veterans. The group allows service members to build a community, share experiences and network.
Top markets for veteran entrepreneurs
The PenFed Foundation on Thursday released new research identifying the top cities for military veterans and small business owners. The foundation said in a statement that the study is intended to boost the nation’s veteran business community.
The top markets on the list include:
1. The greater New York area, including parts of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania 2. The greater Chicago metro region 3. The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., region 4. Dallas/Fort Worth and Arlington, Texas 5. The San Francisco Bay region, including San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward, Calif.
PenFed also identified emerging cities for entrepreneurs, including:
1. The Jacksonville, Fla., metro market 2. Denver, Aurora and Lakewood, Colo. 3. Greater Kansas City 4. San Diego and Carlsbad, Calif. 5. Cincinnati and the surrounding areas
The study was presented by the PenFed Foundation’s Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program.
Cities and regions were ranked according to support for veterans, livability, economic growth and a city’s business climate.
Serving after service
While plenty of veterans have found careers within the credit union movement, there are any number of other career paths out there. With that in mind, Navy Federal Credit Union, the world’s largest credit union, recently released research outlining the top career paths for former service members.
The top five are:
1. Health care 2. Government/public administration 3. Defense contracting 4. Information technology 5. Financial services
Along with potential career paths such as those listed above, Navy Federal’s website also includes tool kits for transitioning back to civilian life and more.
Robins Financial Credit Union in Warner Robins, Ga., has unveiled special reserved parking spaces at all of its branches specifically for veterans. Each spot is near an entrance and reserved for anyone who has served.
“These spaces not only show our appreciation to our veterans, but also a benefit for those who fought in defense of our freedom. This is just another way to say thank you to those who serve our country,” President and CEO John Rhea said in a press release.
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