CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle joined NCUA Chairman Rodney Hood and World Council of Credit Unions President/CEO Bran Branch Monday afternoon for a discussion on the credit union role in inclusion, justice and advocacy, as well as how the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) can be used to reach underserved communities.
Nussle said DEI is in credit unions’ DNA, as they were founded to provide financial services to those left outside the system.
“Diversity, equity and inclusion has been a part of what we’ve done organically from the beginning. But a conversation we started having years ago was how to make it more than something organic to our movement. How do we lean into it?” Nussle said. “It’s a fair question to ask ourselves: can we do more? And we can.”
Nussle added that it runs even deeper for credit unions.
“As credit unions, we’re better when we have diversity. We’re smarter when there are different voices in our boardrooms and in our leaders,” he said. “We’re better when members of an underserved community can look into a credit union and see someone that looks like them or speaks their language and walks in the door.”
Hood said that credit unions should keep a focus on how to deploy DEI values to reach and service a wider range of people.
“If we create conditions where people can gain access to credit and capital; break the cycle of debt and dependency; and achieve financial security and resilience for themselves and their families, we’ll have gone a long way toward addressing the inequities that are fueling so many of the social challenges we face,” he said. “It’s why I believe so strongly that financial inclusion is the civil rights issue of our time, and why I’ve made it a central focus of my work as a regulator — and why I’m so relentless in encouraging the financial services industry to take this up as your cause.”
Nussle, along with Hood, praised credit unions for their nationwide response to the pandemic, with Hood noting that many credit unions began immediately finding new ways to help members without waiting for encouragement from NCUA.
“Credit unions were hit with the same gut punch as the rest of the world, both a public health crisis and an economic disaster,” Nussle said. “Those are the times when the first thing people start asking is what their money is doing, and credit unions boldly stepped out to their communities as financial first responders, that’s what comes natural to credit unions.”
Nussle added that credit unions provided more than $10 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans, helping save more than 100,000 jobs.
The webinar will be available in the coming days on the World Council’s YouTube page.