Wall Street Journal Reminds Us of the Difference Between Credit Unions and Banks

How credit unions differ from banks was well-covered in 2009. Credit unions must now work to make sure lines are not blurred during post-economic crisis story telling.


This weekend, The Wall Street Journal featured an article on individual financial institutions that are offering credit “despite a contraction in consumer loans.”

What’s great is of the 17 institutions included on the article’s above-the-fold, half-page map located on page B7 of the Weekend Investor, six are credit unions (three are big banks, eight are community banks).The authors also reference several other credit unions throughout the article. What’s disheartening is even after the media storm of 2009 recognized credit unions for their differences from banks, the article still broadly categories all financial institutions as banks.

Yes, despite the contraction in consumer loans in the banking industry, the credit union industry made loans available to its members. Serving as a source of credit is an ordinary function of credit unions; that so many of them continued to do so during a time when other lenders withdrew from the market is what makes the industry an extraordinary example for other financial institutions (i.e., banks). Last year, WSJ writer Jonnelle Marte said as much herself when she said credit unions were “reliable sources of lending in the tempest-tossed credit market.”

Every time an analyst or politician or journalist blankets all financial institutions under the “bank” label, we miss out on the opportunity to talk about the difference we, not they, make. Credit unions have broken into the public conscious; public media now recognizes the value and timeliness of co-operatively owned organizations that focus on member value. Credit unions earned that recognition and are poised to move forward, but now as we tell our story we must embrace the credit union brand and be ever more vigilant that labels are appropriately, not blindly, assigned.