Why Credit Unions Almost Lost Me: A Response to “Credit Unions are LOSING”

With the philosophical debate of fate or free will aside, sometimes, something that can be explained in no other way than fate, intervenes in your life at the most influential of times. (Specifically, about six months ago…)

As far as ruts go, I was in deep. I sat thinking that my short and seemingly nonproductive time spent behind a terminal as your friendly neighborhood teller was coming to a fast and abrupt end. Change seemed imminent and it was upon me. That was when I ran across an article called “Credit Unions are LOSING.” I HIGHLY suggest reading this piece; this article single-handedly saved my Credit Union career. I say this because sometimes, all it takes is knowing you are not alone in your struggle to inspire perseverance and determination to succeed.

To summarize, this amazing article addressed the elephant in the room, why young professionals are leaving the Credit Union industry. It speaks about how as an industry, we are losing a vast amount of incredibly talented and potentially detrimental players in the movement to community banks or even other industries in general. The author, Sean McDonald, shares insight he has received from former Credit Unioneers (as a disclaimer, I am hoping this well catch on as we are currently pioneering a progressive and ever-changing industry) who had crossed the line from C.U. to B.A.N.K.

I am writing now to share my point of view.

Credit Unions as a whole, sit on a foundation on philanthropy. They come from the most humble of beginnings, persevere through the most epic of struggles, and triumph with dignity over its naysayers. Most Credit Unions started in a basement or in a shack somewhere, built from nothing for the sole purpose of helping others. A charming and endearing love story, isn’t it?

As a member of Gen Y, I should want nothing more than to work within an industry with such a noble mission. Alas, I didn’t. I instead felt betrayed by an industry that promised its starry-eyed young professionals a chance at fulfillment and progression toward the great good. Here are my top four reasons as to why:

                1.There is an adversity to change and innovation. The majority of leaders in the industry today, remember a point in time where they fought. There was a daily battle to seemingly accomplish what we have today, and thus has emerged the mega Credit Unions. Simply put, if you had achieved what you had fought for, why would you fight to change it?

                2. Numbers have taken center stage. Though elaborate facades obviously have a higher overhead then a shack or basement, growth in numbers in terms of money have become of high importance than reaching economic goals within the community or other measures of success. Understandably, money is the lifeblood of the financial world, money is the inventory of the      Credit Union world, but unfortunately, it has also become out product. Credit Unions once sold the American dream, now they sell money.

                3. Practice makes perfect, but preaching takes less effort. As employees of a Credit Union, we hear about great mission statements and visions of a brighter future, however, we see a lot less     of that then we hear. I believe there is a longing among employees to feel empowered and see  this change. Though change may be seen in our numbers, we desperately want to see this change on a level that isn’t measurable in an excel spread sheet.

                4. Young professionals are feeling betrayed. As I stated above, I felt let down by my industry. As a generation, Gen Y was taught to do what they loved and to never settle for less. The Credit Union love story reeled us in, but hasn’t proved efficient in sustaining a healthy population of young professionals. We were lied to. Once dreams die, what is left in work but money, and let’s      be honest, there isn’t much of that going around either.

From the micro Credit Unions struggling to survive, to the evolved institution with a proud corporate heartbeat, change needs to be seen universally to overcome this almost insurmountable obstacle. Though we’ve reached a comfortable plateau in our story, the heroes will rise above, challenge our security blanket, and ask what’s next.

It’s important to remember that though we are successful today as we are, we’ve also been successful as an industry, and gotten where we are today by building upon change, innovation, and challenging the status quo. The past is insight into our future, and looking into the past might be just what we need.



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