Credit unions have proved their value and partnership to members every single day of this memorable year.
No one could have anticipated the twists, turns, and curveballs that 2020 would throw out, but it is awe-inspiring how quickly credit unions doubled down on the “people helping people” mission when consumers most needed a financial partner.
Think back to early this year, when the first coronavirus (COVID-19) cases were confirmed in the U.S. Credit unions rapidly worked together to write the playbook, seemingly flying the plane as it was being built.
As states issued executive orders closing many sectors of the economy, collective advocacy efforts ensured credit unions were designated as essential businesses so they could keep operating and serving their members.
When Congress drafted the first federal relief packages, in some cases there were no specific mentions of credit unions. CUNA, leagues, and credit union advocates mobilized to message Congress, and we successfully addressed that issue.
Credit unions then became important conduits for getting money into the hands of consumers who had to shutter their businesses or who lost jobs.
From Paycheck Protection Program loans that helped to save millions of jobs to modifying loans that kept people in their homes, you made a difference.
As chair of your CUNA Board of Directors, I got a front-row seat to witness the difference you made, and I could not be prouder of the way credit unions put their feet on the pedal, full throttle.
Looking ahead, it’s clear that the financial services landscape and how we serve consumers will never be as it once was. What we proved this year is that credit unions can be even better and more relevant.
Connecting with members is the movement’s North Star. The coming year will be important for the industry as the pace of change in financial services continues to accelerate.
Advancing the speed of digital adoption in the regulated financial services space is a necessary and winning strategy for credit unions as they strive to remain relevant and grow market share.
While we expect competition among traditional financial institutions, the intensity of competitive forces from the nonregulated sector also is going to intensify. Because achieving growth and capturing market share still matter, we must strike a balance between maintaining human connectivity and accelerating to make greater strides into digital technologies.
The credit union environment is grounded in its historic roots, serving those who might not otherwise have a voice in the financial services marketplace. This world-class movement is so ready for the opportunity to raise the bar of financial inclusion and to deliver next-generation service to Main Street.
CUNA and the leagues fulfill a critical role in enabling a future-focused operating environment for credit unions.
Consider that your advocacy in statehouses and inside the Beltway resulted in flexibilities allowing credit unions to safely serve their members during the pandemic, such as remote notarization and the ability to hold virtual board and annual meetings.
Why shouldn’t we advocate to make these conveniences permanent for members?
Advocacy is a full-time job. This year’s elections ushered in some new representatives and the opportunity for our movement to help them come to know the credit union difference and become our champions.
As consumers emerge from 2020’s challenges and look toward better days ahead, I believe they’ll look back and know credit unions had their back.
Your members know credit unions are their best financial partners.
Let’s keep proving them right by advocating for and defining for them a brighter financial future.
TROY STANG is CUNA Board Chair and President/CEO of the Northwest Credit Union Association. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-350-2212.
This article appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of Credit Union Magazine. Subscribe here.