To the Editor:

If Paul Nadler finds it "harder and harder" to distinguish credit unions from community banks ("It's Hard to Tell Banks from Credit Unions, Until You Do the Taxes," Aug. 17, page 6), here is a remedial lesson he can share with the many bankers who apparently are having the same difficulty:

Credit unions are not-for-profit, member-owned financial institutions. Community banks -- and larger banks -- are not.

Credit unions are democratically controlled. Banks are not.

The focus in the credit union community is on member service. The focus at community banks is, like the focus at larger banks, on profits.

It's just that simple. Whatever its asset size, whatever its field of membership, whatever services it offers, a credit union is a credit union because it is a not-for-profit, member-owned, democratically controlled institution.

Finally, credit unions are tax exempt because of their not-for-profit status, not because of the common bond. Mr. Nadler knows this, of course, but he and many of his banker friends keep looking for some way to explain why, year after year, the American Banker/Gallup survey of consumers gives credit unions higher marks than banks for service and satisfaction. Tax exemption doesn't draw consumers through credit union doors, but speedy loans, courtesy, and friendliness do.

Ken Robinson

President and chief executive officer

National Association of Federal

Credit Unions

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