Q: What are your proudest accomplishments at LGFCU?
I don’t like reflecting on any unilateral accomplishments. I would like to brag about a decision our LGFCU board made a few years ago that is having a big impact in our state.
North Carolina has 545 municipalities and 100 counties. If you spend some time in our state traveling about, you will quickly observe that most communities are small to moderate in size. For many, economic development has been a struggle.
The young people are moving away to the urban markets for better-paying jobs. The influx of industry bypasses many communities. The flight of textile and manufacturing jobs has hobbled many small towns. Our credit union heard the cries of members and took steps to make a difference.
Five years ago, our credit union single-handedly funded an initiative to help North Carolina communities pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. We created the Development Finance Initiative to spearhead local projects perfectly fitted for a community’s needs.
Our investment of $5 million has been leveraged into an aggregate $1 billion dollars in economic development projects in North Carolina communities. These projects have created local businesses, local jobs, and local opportunities that wouldn’t have happened without the credit union. Don’t tell me we can’t make a difference.
We are just one little ol’ credit union in North Carolina trying to help our communities improve the lives of their citizens. I get jazzed up when I realize we’re just getting started. Just imagine the movement of every credit union rowing in the same direction for the benefit of all our members.
Q: You’re also a board member of the African-American Credit Union Coalition. What role can credit unions play in attracting and uplifting diverse and often underserved audiences?
Thank you for recognizing my involvement with the African-American Credit Union Coalition. The AACUC shares an ambition with all credit unions that members deserve fair, affordable financial services. AACUC’s contribution to the credit union movement focuses on bringing a diverse perspective to the conversation about professional growth, economic development and inclusion of all communities.
There is a practical side to diversity. Let’s start with a few incontrovertible notions.
First, the credit union movement is most powerful when all communities contribute to our common causes. Second, the best way to engage all communities is to know all communities. Third, the most effective way to know all communities is to participate in all communities. Finally, engagement with a community requires a reciprocal dialogue. This is the essence of diversity.
So, let’s think about diversity as we would an investment or loan portfolio. We recognize that concentration risk—when we don’t have enough variety in our holdings—can be bad.
Diversity introduces variations to our focus. Diversity of thoughts, ideals, business models, and philosophies expands our perspective. Our collective DNA is enriched when we seek the contributions of all audiences to further our mission of member service.
The credit union movement has become sophisticated with advanced techniques and technology. I celebrate our prowess and know-how.
But at the core of who we are is the need for addressing the needs of all communities, particularly the underserved populations. From the very beginnings of cooperative credit, the movement has been motivated to help disenfranchised people create gains. Those needs persist today in every community credit unions serve.
I am a member of AACUC for what it represents. I support AACUC because the credit union movement needs its perspective.
NEXT: Faith and credit unions