Time to Invest in Member Innovation

April 1, 2012

“The Strategy of Hope,” by James Collins, CEO of O Bee Credit Union, Tumwater, Wash., published in the February 2012 issue of Credit Union Magazine is a must-read.

Mr. Collins paints a practical picture of how credit unions must look “outside the box” when considering whether or not to grant a member business loan. He describes five stories of people with the American Dream of achieving success through entrepreneurship.

He talks about their ideas, but lack of money and lack of business plans. He discusses the success they achieved because someone gave them a chance despite not having all the required prerequisites. They’re great stories and I am sure there are many more just like them.

As we all know, not every business venture is a success and not every business loan is a good one. If they were, our nation’s economy would be booming. The real story is that the people of this country never give up. They have tremendous ideas and keep trying to succeed even if they fail on the first, second, or third tries.

What Mr. Collins points out is that all these people have hope, and it’s time credit unions start investing in their strategy of hope. Not to suggest tossing caution and common sense to the wind, but to look a little deeper, analyze a little further, and sometimes trust your instinct.

Both of the credit union national trade organizations have for years called upon Congress to raise the cap on member business loans so credit unions can continue to provide the needed start-up capital for a chance to achieve the American Dream. Perhaps they could also provide credit unions with expertise and knowledge on how to look beyond the paper, and arm them with resources to help their members meet the areas in which they are struggling.

If business plans are lacking and the interest in member business loans is there, maybe this is a workshop credit unions should offer their members.

Historically, innovation and entrepreneurship—among other things—have proven helpful in pulling our country out of economic recessions. Credit unions must continue to play a vital role in aiding in these innovations, when practical and probable for the credit union.

As Mr. Collins aptly puts it, “If we truly believe the creativity, innovation, and tenacity of our membership is unparalleled, perhaps it’s time we invest our capital there.”

Food for thought, Jim. Thank you.

NCUA Board Member
Washington, D.C.