When St. Mary’s Cooperative Credit Association, America’s first credit union cooperative, opened in 1909, its goal was to help Manchester, NH immigrants “achieve the better quality of life they had envisioned.” One hundred years later credit unions are still helping members with this goal every day. How can credit unions thrive over the next 100 years? A continued focus on serving members and their changing needs will be paramount. In the next hundred years……..
Teaching Debt Management and Encouraging Savings Will be Fundamental
Today the cooperative system is helping teach consumers about the value of thrift and the responsible use of credit. In hundreds of seminars and classrooms, credit unions are actively doing this daily.
Straightforward Value Will Continue to Attract Consumers
Credit unions are “doing the right thing” for the consumer with credit and debit card programs that do not entrap borrowers in an ever-spiraling indebtedness burden.
By providing short term, unsecured loans at traditional rates of 12-18%, credit unions are offering fair terms to combat payday lending.
In community after community, credit unions are partnering with housing agencies, schools and colleges, and other local organizations to sponsor efforts to meet local needs. Credit unions are inherently local, whether that is defined geographically or by a membership base with similar career, religious, or ethnic characteristics.
In reworking thousands of mortgages for members faced with economic difficulty and declining home values, credit unions are stabilizing communities and member lives.
Lending in the Member’s Interest
Today there are 44,835,000 credit union loans outstanding totaling $550 billion. In a cooperative, these loans are made “in the member’s interest.” These loans strengthen the democratic fabric of our society. For they give members a chance to invest in their future through an organization that they own.
In creating low cost, private student loan programs, credit unions have offered a solution during a time when other lenders had to withdraw. Educational loans help consumers become not only better members, but also more informed citizens.
Collaboration will Accelerate Across the Industry
Cooperative Solutions to Meet Coming Challenges
Credit unions have a history of successful collaborations from their earliest days. It is embedded in the industry’s DNA. Credit unions have attained scale, resources and expertise unimaginable to St. Mary’s founders. Continuing to leverage all players in the credit union community – credit unions, corporates, CUSOs, vendors, associations and regulators – to develop innovative solutions and create new paradigms of value for members will be essential.
Cooperatives provide a “common way” for individuals to achieve both personal benefit and common good. More than ever, the cooperative approach will be a foundation for meeting the 21st century’s challenges, seen and unforeseen. From the grassroots to national markets, credit unions can be leaders in the new economy that will emerge from the current crisis.