The Coffee Break Reader Challenge!
Readers Offer Their Responses To Congressman's Demand
The Credit Union Journal presented readers with this scenario: You're meeting with your congressman. You've talked about the benefits of the credit union to his constituents. The congressman's response? 'Oh, yeah. Everybody says that. prove it!'
Here's what readers said they would say:
I would give him a copy of the most recent American Banker annual survey of membership service that shows CU's more favorable. I would give him a copy of my credit union's last monthly savings and loan rates comparision to banks in my geographic area on which all would show CU favorable in each category. I would also discuss fees and services and show him the larger number we offer free and with lower fees attached to most others.
We are a people-helping-people, not-for-profit, full-service financial institution that provides good, solid financial service financial service to all our members. We offer our members convenient ways of saving and paying loans, as well as good, consumer value, friendly service, and ownership in their financial institution. These are the hallmarks of the credit union difference that means so much to our credit union members.
-Cookie Yoder, CEO, Pittsburgh FCU
(I will have to use this when I meet my first Provincial Minister or Prime Minister.) Congressman: Credit unions are advocates for and educators of consumers, making sure they understand the best way to manage and improve their financial circumstances. The cooperative ownership model of credit unions brings people together in small communities and large cities for the purpose of helping each other become better citizens through financial education and community involvement. Many of your constituents live better lives and contribute more to society because of their membership in credit unions.
-Beth A. Bruesch,General Manager, CEO, Mitchell & District Credit Union, Mitchell Ontario, Canada
In response to the congressman, I would have to answer that the latest thing we have done is to institute the Balance Financial Education Program. If we are unable to make a loan due to various reasons (over-extended, bad credit, etc.), we refer them to balance to help work out their financial problems. We also use it for those of our members that want help learning how to budget their income.
And lastly, we use Balance if we are unable to open a checking account due to previous misuse at other institutions. They offer a very useful course in how to handle a checking account, from the basics of keeping a register and reconciling to the statement monthly to actual basic budgeting techniques. Once the course is completed, then we will consider opening the account that other financial institutions would not. The credit union pays. It cost the member nothing but the time he invests.
-Robert E. McCartney, vice president-branch services, Robins FCU, Warner Robins, Ga.
Credit unions allow their members to achieve the "American Dream" from a variety of perspectives. From the individual dream of a young person to buy that first car, to struggling young families who need a house and can't qualify for a conventional bank mortgage, to a single mom whose credit has been destroyed through the divorce process, suddenly able to have a credit card, counseling and even qualify for a car loan (yes, this one is personal), to small business loans for capital purchases and improvements (from computers to small buildings)-credit union members know that their financial institution fills needs for which traditional financial institutions can't or won't be bothered-the small depositor/member is cared for in unique and different ways.
If credit unions weren't around, or were dramatically restructured, they would eventually be re-invented so that full financial services would be available to the majority of the members credit unions serve.
-Susan Luke, San Antonio
If I met with my congressman and he asked for proof that credit unions benefit his constituients, here's what I'd say:
Ever since the first credit union was established, they have helped their members achieve their financial goals. By pooling their resources, each member supports the others in the cooperative. This concept has not changed. The certificate of deposit that a senior citizen opens may provide the funds for a home equity loan for a newlywed couple. The interest paid on the home equity may provide a better rate on the certificate. And the circle continues. Loans provide reasonable interest payments that provide better savings rates and lower fees than the banks offer.
Today, credit unions offer their member-owners competitive loan rates, a wide variety of savings products and cutting-edge delivery systems. Each product and service is designed with our members' needs in mind.
My credit union offers ATMs, shared branching, automated telephone/internet access, bill payment service and electronic statements. With all these delivery products, our members are never far from their credit union, no matter where they roam.
Yet we always have personnel who take the time to answer questions, perform transactions, apply for our loan products and offer suggestions geared toward that member's needs.
What would happen if credit unions went away? The competition that we represent keeps bank rates and fees from escalating. The bottom-line mentality to make the stockholders a profit dictates the rates and fees banks offer. If a bank turns you away, where else can you go? If I don't like the way I'm treated by my bank, can I assume another bank will treat me better? These are all questions for which I think I know the answers. Only Congress can make sure that we don't lose our only alternative to the banks. Please don't take that choice away.
-Kathy Skorynko, Sales Rep, Community One FCU
I have a real-life example to share on this topic. As part of our Hispanic outreach initiatives in 2003, Chocolate Bayou Community FCU helped host Alvin's 2nd Annual Cinco de Mayo Festival. We were in charge of publicity, advertising and securing dignitaries to attend the event. We invited Congressman Tom DeLay, State Sen. Mike Jackson, State Rep. Glenda Dawson, and Consul General Beatriz Lopez from the Houston Mexican Consulate. All four of them attended the event and spoke. In addition to our credit union CEO and board members, the Texas CU League president also attended. This provided excellent face-to-face exposure for Texas credit unions with these legislators, and it provided a first-hand view for the legislators of credit unions in action.
I believe there were two main things that encouraged the legislators to attend this small-town community event: 1) on a credit union level, we had already established an ongoing relationship with them, and, 2) on a community level, they each recognized the opportunity this event presented in reaching some of their under-reached constituents, and our credit union already had a "foot in the door" in the Hispanic community. We have made our credit union outreach efforts public and work hard to include our legislative leaders by inviting them to participate and through ongoing, open communication with them. When they see the positive results of the credit union message in action, they will have their proof.
-Lynette Rambo, VP-marketing, Chocolate Bayou Community FCU, Alvin, Texas
I'd provide him with testimonials from various members from all over the world on different ways that we have touched their lives, by saving money or providing exceptional service or going out of our way (which is THE way!) You can't fight real stories from real members.
-Amy Carlson, AVP-branch operations, Aberdeen Proving Ground FCU, Maryland
Thirty-six thousand of my members know and enjoy the benefits of credit union membership and proved it with a 94% member satisfaction rating. My members and your constituents love their credit union and would like your continued support against credit union taxation.
-John A. MacDonald, business development manager, Merrimack Valley FCU, North Andover, Mass.
The "people-helping-people philosophy" of credit unions makes a difference by taking a very active part in the community by engaging in and contributing to socially responsible causes such as habitat for humanity, low income neighborhood projects, and teaching proper finance techniques to K-12 school children.
In addition, credit unions provide outreach activities to the underserved and new immigrants with a place to establish themselves in the financial community and helping them work toward becoming contributing citizens to the fabric of American life.
-John Vardallas, CEO, TheAmericanBoomeR Group, Madison, Wis.
March officially marks the beginning of Spring, and with it the ritual Spring cleaning. If you could clean one thing out of your credit union, what (not who!) would it be? Send responses to Lisa Freeman at email@example.com.