Written by Anthony Demangone
A little more than 10 years ago, I walked through NAFCU's front door for the first time. Such milestones give one reason to reflect. Here are 10 thoughts from my first 10 years.
- There is no better model than ours. With credit unions, all the incentives tip in favor of consumers. A board of the membership. Limited ability to charge interest. Democratic elections. No conflict between the owners and the members. We are the consumer's best friend in the financial services marketplace.
- Death by 1,000 cuts. Regulatory asphyxiation is a real thing. Yes, rules are necessary. But there must be a true cost/benefit analysis done. Case in point? OFAC. Ask your compliance officer how many true OFAC hits have affected your credit union in the past five years? Yet you spend time and money looking for them each and every day.
- Flux is constant. There were 9,014 credit unions in December 2004. Today there are 6,429. That's a drop of roughly 30%. But we serve more people today, and we have a larger market share. Is that good or bad? Or is it just the natural phenomenon of change And speaking of change, Facebook was founded in 2004. YouTube in 2005. Twitter? 2006.
- Millennials don't understand our business model. Don't blame them. That one is on us. In an age of organic food, farm-to-table dining, and the focus on sustainability - credit unions are perfectly positioned. We're a financial services firm that you can trust. Our profits stay at home and support the local economy. But we need to find a way to get that message across.
- Banker attacks. When I arrived at NAFCU, bankers said we had an unfair advantage due to our tax status. Today, bankers say the same thing. In 2024, I bet their message won't change. Their attacks are bogus. Congress gives, and Congress takes away. The Federal Credit Union Act gave us our tax status, but it also hand-cuffed us with a number of restrictions. No one enters our industry to get rich quick. Or to build a de novo credit union and sell it off at a high profit. Congress did a wonderful thing with the Federal Credit Union Act, and today - tens of millions of Americans, including my wife and children, benefit.
- This is a contact sport. Related to number 5, we need your help. Tell your story to your representatives. Invite them to your office when they are home. Visit them in Washington. Give comments to regulatory proposals. Inject yourself into the process.
- Don't forget the shoebox. Most credit unions started when a small number of people pooled their money. You'll hear the numbers - 10 people in 1956. Seven people in 1950. Fourteen people, with $70 in 1936. I hope we don't lose those stories. The pioneers of our industry did amazing things and serve as a reminder that you don't build great things without taking on some risk.
- Don't forget about your newbies. When I was hired at a credit union in 1996, I didn't know much about our industry. But the credit union made sure that I learned about Mr. Filene. The cooperative model. The history of credit unions. Before I learned how to make a deposit or a loan payment, I learned why credit unions existed. I take those lessons with me each and every day.
- We shouldn't take our success, or our members for granted. We are stewards, at the end of the day. For our credit union. And our industry. Folks who forget that, often run into trouble.
- We should be proud. Our industry does good work. We help people build things. Their lives. Their businesses. Their future. Without fleecing them. America is better for having us around.
What will the next 10 years bring? It is hard to say. But it has been a pleasure working with you all the past decade. Thanks for all you do.
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