PHOENIX (9/25/15)--No one could talk about much else in the moments after the keynote address Martin Eakes, president/CEO, Self-Help CU, Durham, N.C., gave to attendees of the CUNA Community Credit Union and Growth Conference Thursday.
To illustrate why he’s made it his life work to help the poor--through his credit union and through other efforts--Eakes shared the stirring and heart-wrenching story of losing a high school friend to murder--an African American friend whose courage in a time of discrimination and hatred was inspiring to him.
I don’t do this work for me, I do this work for both of us, Eakes said, receiving a standing ovation at the end of his talk.
Eakes led off Thursday’s opening general session at the conference, which is being held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.
Unfortunately, Eakes noted, the credit unions that do the most to serve the poor, those small community-focused credit unions that serve the underserved, are disappearing.
Currently, more than 6,000 credit unions operate in the United States, Eakes said. In the next 20 years, he predicted, that number will drop to less than 4,000. Further, he continued, 90% of members and assets will be controlled by credit unions with more than $500 million in assets in today’s dollars.
If the credit union movement is going to reverse or at least slow down that trend, it’s going to take collaboration, and cooperation, he declared.
“You’re going to need to come together,” Eakes said. “If we don’t figure out a way to have credit unions and (credit union service organizations) come together, we simply won’t have small credit unions.”
Eakes also offered several tips credit unions can follow to become stronger in the short term.
According to Eakes, if small credit unions want to survive, they must: