MADISON, Wis. (9/9/13)--By working with their fellow cooperatives--and thereby serving one of the seven cooperative principles---credit unions have a tremendous opportunity for growth, Mike Beall, president/CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association told an audience of Credit Union National Association employees in Madison, Wis. Friday.
Mike Beall, president/CEO of the National Co-operative Business Association, addressed Credit Union National Association employees Friday. (CUNA photo)
"I'm convinced if credit unions worked in their communities with other co-ops, they would see membership growth" sparked by those relationships, Beall said. Similarly, credit unions could also promote credit union membership with the membership of the other local co-ops, he added.
Beall is very familiar with credit unions, having served as the president/CEO of the Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association and the Missouri Credit Union Association before accepting his position with the NCBA in 2012.
Beall highlighted a vibrant, cooperative economy in Austin, Texas, as one where co-ops assist each other starting new business ventures. "What I find is that other co-op leaders may have a passion for brewing or baking, but don't have a lot of financial background. How do they get a business loan? How do they comply with local and state regulations? Credit unions have a good basis and background for that."
Lending to other cooperatives, especially food cooperatives, could also help credit unions increase their member business lending portfolios, Beall said. He also noted that, from a values standpoint, food co-ops' competition with for-profit competitors is similar to competition between credit unions and banks.
"If you listen to (food co-ops) talk in their industry meetings and took out the words 'food co-op' or 'consumer co-op' and inserted 'credit unions,' it's the same discussion," Beall said. The food co-ops talk about how to compete with the Wal-Marts of the world, and credit unions have the same discussions about big banks. "We can do it together. I think NCBA can play a big role in that."
For credit unions, working with other co-ops is similar to working with underserved segments of the community: Community involvement is rewarded with membership growth. "Do whatever it takes to make your business plan hum," Beall said. "Do whatever makes your membership grow."
Before Beall's discussion, CUNA employees shared their experiences from a series of "field trips" they made to Madison-area cooperatives throughout the summer. Among the Madison-area co-ops CUNA employees visited were Union Cab, Willie Street Co-op, Summit CU, Isthmus Engineering and REI.