In times of need, people know their credit union will be there, says Richard Wagner, board member at New York City’s Municipal Credit Union.
That, he adds, will always be an advantage over banks.
Wagner, who has served on Municipal’s board for 30 years, has seen his credit union be there for members in moments of tragedy and triumph.
During his tenure at the now $2.5 billion asset credit union, Municipal transferred out of control of the New York State Banking Department, became one of the first credit union members of the New York Currency Exchange ATM network, and aided members as the city recovered from the Sept. 11 attacks.
“On 9/11, our headquarters was about 500 feet west of the World Trade Center, so we had to get out of there pretty quick that morning,” Wagner says.
“Within two days of the attacks we were able to reinstate ATM service, because we knew our members would need access to funds right away,” he adds. “Originally, we allowed members to take out $200 per day, but when that wasn’t enough for some to make payments, we upped it to $500 per day.”
The credit union’s quick response allowed members to withdraw around $140 million in the following days.
Some of those funds were withdrawn even though members didn’t have the money in their accounts. Municipal allowed those members to set up repayment plans.
At Municipal’s October 2001 board meeting, management expressed concern about a number of loans outstanding—a total of roughly $400,000—to firefighters who had perished in the attacks.
“We were a $940 million credit union at that point. To the board and me, it was clear what we needed to do,” Wagner says. “We quickly voted to forgive those loans, and none of us has spent a minute second-guessing that decision.”