Diversity And Inclusion: Recurring Themes At GAC

Credit unions called to expand the work of financial inclusion to a widening sea of faces.

 
 

The Little Man Under the Umbrella dates to the 1920s as a symbol for the burgeoning credit union movement and was widely used for decades.

An enduring logo for the credit union movement needs modernized. 

“The Little Man Under the Umbrella today is probably a woman of color,” CUNA Mutual vice president of multicultural and corporate strategy Eric Hansing told a breakout session on diversity on Monday at the Governmental Affairs Conference.

The iconic logo was created in 1923 by Boston Globe cartoonist Joe Stern at the request of credit union pioneer Roy Bergengren to serve as a “symbol for the average man, besieged by financial difficulties.”

Hansing pointed to a chart that made his point: 83.1% of credit union members 80 and older are non-Hispanic Caucasian. That falls to about half in the youngest demographics.

Credit unions need to grasp that reality, determine how different groups relate to the financial cooperatives’ products and services, and respond accordingly, Hansing said.

“We need to think differently about how we’re serving the member of the future. Each is unique and each has value,” said Hansing, who helped create the Multicultural Center of Expertise at CUNA Mutual. “A wonderful journey has begun.”

 

 

Diversity and the inclusion it implies was a theme at many points during the annual credit union family reunion, which CUNA said this year attracted more than 5,000 people, a new record.

Outgoing CUNA chair Maurice Smith, president and CEO of Local Government Federal Credit Union in North Carolina, has called for consideration of diversity and inclusion as an eighth cooperative principle. He said diversity presents “a prime opportunity for the credit union movement to further distinguish itself from other industries.”

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CUNA president and CEO Jim Nussle also stressed that point at both the Small Credit Union Roundtable on Sunday and in his general session on Monday. “Members want to see themselves when they walk in your doors,” he told the Sunday session.

Nussle was referring to the workplace, of course. The Monday breakout session included a rundown on CUNA Mutual’s own extensive initiatives to create an uber-diverse workplace, which vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion Angela Russell said depends on “top-level support, long-term commitment, collaboration, recognition of early wins, and data.”

Speaking of data, CUNA policy analyst Samira Salem shared research that shows 52% of all credit unions are led by women, compared to only 5% of banks. Only 14% of credit unions of more than $1 billion have a woman at the helm, she added.

As for the members they serve, Salem said, her research shows that credit unions have a “very compelling story to tell” about the opportunity to serve underserved and diverse groups. “People of color feel they are more likely to get a loan at a credit union than a bank,” she said.

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Inclusion also was the theme of the annual Community Development Financial Institutions Fund update held Monday by Inclusiv, the former National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.

During the session, the news broke that the Trump administration's proposed budget for 2020 eliminated funding the CDFI Fund. The same thing happened last year, but Congress instead allocated a record $250 million to the fund, which has distributed about $200 million of it so far this fiscal year, about a third of that to credit unions.

This year, the CDFI Fund is seeking $300 million to continue its work in distributing financing to individuals and businesses in low- and moderate-income communities. 

Cathie Mahon, Inclusiv president and CEO, said the fund and the funding are needed to help the credit union movement address rapidly growing gaps in income and economic equity across the country. 

“There’s a lot that credit unions can do about disproportionate access to financial services,” Mahon said. And a lot they’re already doing. Credit unions have 47% of all their branches in census tracks that qualify as CDFI investment areas, compared to 39% of all bank branches. 

Those were both at 46% in 2013, showing that credit unions are expanding in areas of particular need for financial inclusion while banks as a whole are appearing to retreat. 

Community development lobbyist Bob Rapoza told the CDFI session the fund and its work has support on Capitol Hill and that he’s hoping for another good outcome this year. “But you must sell your local impact to lawmakers,” he told the group ahead of the traditional “hike the hill” congressional visits that highlight the GAC each year.

Check out the blogs on CreditUnions.com for more Callahan commentary, industry insights, emerging perspectives, and more.

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March 15, 2019


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