The movement’s smallest credit unions also are strongly people-focused. But too often they face challenges that divert them from this aim, particularly the continuous onslaught of regulatory changes, says Dan Morrisey, CEO/treasurer of $2 million asset Queen of Peace Arlington (Va.) Federal Credit Union.
“It’s like an avalanche,” he says. “It’s one of the reasons—maybe the top reason—many small credit unions have shut down or merged.”
Although his credit union has limited hours—the first Thursday of each month, a few weekend hours, or by appointment—Morrisey spends much of his precious time keeping up with NCUA regulations and staying active in state and national associations.
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Now retired from his career at two data processors, Morrisey continues to devote hours to keeping the credit union on track. Even while working full-time, he spent nights and weekends volunteering for the credit union, which still has a niche field of membership: parishioners, employees, and families of a local Catholic church.
“In 1976, I was a church member, but not a credit union member,” Morrisey recalls. “The credit union’s board wanted to shut it down, but our pastor gathered a new group of volunteers. I joined the supervisory committee and became assistant treasurer. My wife was treasurer.”
The credit union processed manually at the time with a ledger book for handwritten transactions. “Then we converted to a batch computer system and mailed transactions for processing once a week,” says Morrisey.
Except for a hiatus from 1983 to 1987, Morrisey has been with the credit union ever since, volunteering until two years ago when he became a part-time employee.
Around 1990 the credit union converted to in-house core processing—a big change—allowing it to offer an array of transaction accounts, consumer loans, and prepaid debit cards.
He and his team encourage children, however young, to have accounts and perform their own transactions—something they probably couldn’t do elsewhere. “What bank would allow a six-year-old to conduct transactions?” he laughs.
“We provide service to members that they couldn’t get otherwise,” he adds. “We don’t take the cookie-cutter approach of automated lending like so many financial institutions do. We don’t just look at credit scores; we look at the entire picture, the member’s history with us, and see what we can do to approve loans.”
The credit union approves nearly all loans, sometimes with modifications. “We make loans to people who have been rejected elsewhere at affordable terms,” says Morrisey. “It does take time and effort, but it’s worth it. Virginia is an island of predatory lending.”
He speaks out in the community and at the state capital against such unjust practices, letting people know they don’t have to pay exorbitant rates and fees for financial services.
Morrisey also advocates nationally on behalf of small credit unions, recently writing to NCUA to express his displeasure with its proposal to ban home-based credit unions—and he encourages colleagues to do likewise.
“Make it known how regulations affect small credit unions,” he says, admitting that efforts to educate regulators can be discouraging. “You might feel like they’re not paying attention, but often they do and we have to keep up the fight.”