Sheila Montgomery, board director, 1st Choice CU, Atlanta
I am one of the co-founders of AACUC. The Small Credit Union initiative was the brainchild of Helen Godfrey-Smith, another Co-Founder of AACUC and President of Shreveport Federal Credit Union.
After the Katrina Hurricane, the devastation of small credit unions was enormous. Mrs. Godfrey-Smith, then chair of AACUC’s mentorship committee, mobilized a group of credit union professionals to help restore as many small credit unions as possible. A daunting task. Fast forward, we are still doing that today.
Our goal is to:
· Actively participate in the sustainability of small credit unions
· Provide a non-threatening environment for credit union to seek assistance without judgment
· Be an advocate for underserved and unbanked communities
· Identify technological resources to improve efficiency and to help with service delivery
Small credit unions are “little hidden treasures” that provide help for individuals and families that have few options for affordable financial products and services due to banks moving out of their communities.
What we do:
· Provide strategic planning, marketing strategies for growth, write policy, assist with net worth plans
· Help identify resources to meet short term and long term needs
· Work with NCUA, its Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives and the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions to be advocates for individual credit unions as needed and support the survival of small credit unions as a whole
Financial discrimination has been a real problem in underserved and unbanked communities. The type of loans needed in those communities are not often found in more traditional financial institutions.
For example: members are more likely to borrow to pay rent, utilities, car insurance, funeral expenses and even food/clothes for their children. They may not know what to ask for therefore, more likely than not, they receive unfavorable terms, higher interest rates and/or fees.
The small credit union has to be that financial niche that provide the small loans, fair rates, and more importantly, lend based on character and capability first, then credit.