Together or Not at All. Outsiders Unite.

To support a sustained positive outlook on economic success, credit unions must create a personalized (and shared) experience.


The myriad threats to our national security were reduced by one this weekend, but the crux of economic safety remains unobtainable. Despite signs of the nation’s improving financial health, consumers just aren’t feeling better yet.

Many Americans witnessed last Friday’s Royal wedding as outsiders. The opulence displayed on televisions in the early morning hours across the United States allowed millions of consumers to glimpse into the life of a fairy tale. Unfortunately, achieving basic financial safety and soundness in their own lives seems just as out of reach.

Unemployment dropped to a two-year low of 8.8% in March, reports the Associated Press, and the forecasted addition of 200,000 jobs a month is sure to buoy spending. But positive economic news, such as the rise in U.S. consumer spending and incomes, is not translating to consumer confidence. After a hard economic downturn, the corporate world has broken into the black; however, roughly half the respondents to a Gallup poll released last week feel as if they are still in a recession.

So what can credit unions do to help? Plenty.

One Wisconsin credit union is helping members break the payday loan cycle.  And for years, credit unions across the country have used innovative techniques to help members save money on gas AND help employees save money on gas.

Credit unions must continue to be innovative if they are to help members feel confident; after all, it’s that confidence that will ultimately support the nation’s economic rebound. Callahan was proud last week to see Henry Wirz, president and CEO of SAFE Credit Union, talk about innovation and Ed Callahan in a recent interview with Credit Union Times. “When Ed Callahan became NCUA Chairman, it became possible to expand our field of membership through mergers,” Wirz said. “A credit union is strongest and most effective if it serves a community … I learned over the last 32 years that a credit union must be an active part of its community.” It is this kind of forward movement that will help ease the worries of members and communities across the country.

Such innovation won’t always be easy. Congress’ original intent for credit unions was that they fulfill an outsider role, presenting new (i.e., innovative) ways to help members accomplish what other financial institutions could not or would not. To not uphold this crucial role of the cooperative movement is a mistake. Like Superman discovered when he renounced his U.S. citizenship, outsiders work beyond the bounds of business as usual. In doing so, they achieve a wider impact on the world at large.

So whether it’s through a focus on members, employees, or the community, credit unions are the necessary outsiders in the financial world. They make the recovery real for real people. The kind of forward movement Ed Callahan demonstrated is a rallying cry of the outsider and the key to consumer piece of mind. Lasting progress is only achieved when achieved together.



May 2, 2011



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