Are Credit Unions Long-Term Greedy?

Brad Katsuyama, the protagonist of Michael Lewis’ book on high-frequency trading, takes the long-view approach to his business; it’s a philosophy with which credit unions are quite familiar.

 
 

In Michael Lewis’ 2014 book Flash Boys, the author of works such as The Blind Side, Moneyball, and Liar’s Poker, once again chronicles the actions of a hero who, against the odds, changes the way a game is played. In Flash Boys, that hero is Canadian securities trader Brad Katsuyama. When Katsuyama discovers the stock market is rigged to benefit high-frequency traders, he leaves his multimillion dollar salary at the Royal Bank of Canada to create a more fair exchange.

It was a noble move, but Katsuyama ran into roadblocks selling his new exchange to investors. He found investors, which consisted mostly of banks and people accustomed to dealing with banks, were more likely to respond positively when he speculated that he could make a lot of money down the road. So he coined the phrase long-term greedy.

Like Katsuyama, credit unions are long-term greedy. Although some institutions are quite happy to make a quick buck, credit unions take the long view. By building strength in the community, supporting their members, and offering affordable products and services, credit unions invest in the future and not just the present.

Currently on Creditunions.com, we have the story of Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union, a cooperative founded in 1976 to help immigrants purchase and renovate homes in a run-down neighborhood in Brooklyn. From those humble motives, the credit union has spent almost the past 40 years expanding through the New York metro area and into Chicago. Today, it is $1.5 billion in assets and has close to 80,000 members. The point being, like Katsuyama, many credit unions start out with a moral purpose and then grow and flourish. It’s not a quick buck; it’s long-view thinking that strengthens members and the community.

You don’t normally hear the terms “credit union” and “greedy” in the same sentence, but in this case, I think it’s an appropriate approximation.

 
 

Aug. 28, 2014


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