As an unpaid volunteer board member of PenFed Credit Union for more than 30 years, I took great offense to Aaron D. Klein’s recent op-ed, “Banklike credit unions should follow bank rules.”
My fellow board members and I are fully committed to representing the interests of the members who save and borrow at our credit union. The credit union movement’s member-owned business model is entirely different from banks that are in business to enrich shareholders and board members at the expense of their depositors and borrowers.
Despite Klein’s claims, anyone familiar with credit union fields of membership knows that PenFed cannot take advantage of the new National Credit Union Administration rules. Converting to a community field of membership would require PenFed to give up the military select employee groups (SEGs) that authorize our institution to serve U.S. military bases in noncontiguous states. PenFed’s member-ownership structure—and our all-volunteer board of directors—ensure we won’t abandon our mission to serve our current and future defenders of our great nation.
Klein alleges that if a credit union is growing, it must be abandoning its core membership. This is certainly not happening at PenFed, nor at other growing credit unions with strong board oversight. The PenFed board of directors includes distinguished former military personnel and current federal government employees who have served our national defense community for decades. Each year, the PenFed board reaffirms our commitment to focus on our core: members of the national defense community and those who support them.
In fact, the credit union’s growth empowers us to do more to serve our core membership. PenFed donates at least 2% of earnings every year to charitable organizations. Most of our charitable donations support veterans, active-duty military members and their families.
In addition, the PenFed Foundation — a charity created and fully funded by PenFed Credit Union since 2001 — has donated more than $30 million to veterans, military members and their families. Most recently, the PenFed Foundation raised $1.4 million to launch the Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program, providing veteran-owned startups with seed capital to grow their businesses.
PenFed has stayed true to our military mission since our credit union’s founding in 1935.