'I could have been George Floyd': NCUA's Hood
While the nation grapples with a pandemic and recession, the credit union movement – which is overwhelmingly white in terms of members and employees – has been equally shaken by the national discussion of race relations in America following George Floyd’s death in police custody on Memorial Day.
Floyd’s death and issues of diversity and equality were top of mind as leaders of the three major national credit union trade groups came together for a panel discussion Thursday as part of CUNA Mutual Group’s annual Discovery conference. They were joined by Rodney Hood, chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, and CUNA Mutual CEO Robert Trunzo.
“That weekend, Memorial Day weekend, it broke us emotionally,” Lucy Ito, president and CEO of the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors, said during the panel. “Then it all led to our looking at ourselves at a staff level and a leadership level.”
Six members of NASCUS’ 10-person staff are of African-American descent, Ito said.
Dan Berger, president and CEO of the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, noted that Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests have forced organizations across the industry to reflect on themselves and the communities they operate in.
Protests after Floyd’s death, combined with the ongoing pandemic, magnified inequities that communities of color face in health care and financial services, panelists said.
“I get stopped twice a year for driving, for doing nothing wrong,” said Hood, who is the first Black man to run a federal banking regulator. “I'm not a speed demon or anything of that sort. I get stopped because the rationale is that if you stop someone who looks like me, there's bound to be something that I've done wrong in the past.”
Hood said he has already been stopped by police while driving once this year. “I could have been George Floyd,” he said.
Credit unions’ path forward, said Hood, is a focus on financial inclusion, which he has called “the civil rights issue of our generation.” That includes ensuring minority depository institutions and low-income credit unions have the tools they need to thrive and serve their communities.
The panel’s discussion also touched on changes and challenges the industry has faced since the pandemic began, including the pivot to remote work.
"We've got to retrain our staff to understand how to operate in this remote work world,” said Jim Nussle, CEO of the Credit Union National Association. Credit unions, he said, will need to develop new boundaries and find new ways to work in order to prevent employee burnout.
With many now working from home, the line between work and home life has begun to blur for many employees. One example Nussle referenced was with National Institutes of Health Federal Credit Union in Rockville, Md., where a member service representative assisted a small business with a Paycheck Protection loan at 1:30 a.m. Though that employee’s dedication helped persuade the business to move its banking relationships over to the credit union, Nussle said the challenge this credit union and the broader industry faces is, “What in the world were they doing up at 1:30 in the morning answering those questions?”
Hood echoed that many credit union executives he’s spoken with have seen their executive teams scrambling to process PPP applications, particularly when the Small Business Administration provided smaller institutions the eight-hour window for lenders with less than $1 billion in assets to submit their applications.
“Now, I'm not advocating 24-hour shifts, but what I am advocating and just sharing for you all, is that there was this collegiality and this collaborative approach for saying, ‘Hey, we need to be there for our members when they need us most,’” Hood said.