Bill Bynum never has to look far for inspiration at Hope Credit Union in Jackson, Miss. Each loan and every account tells a story.
One of Hope’s early business loans helped launch a Louisiana company that employs visually impaired people to make surgical gauze for health-care providers. A new employee there was “overwhelmed with emotion” as she told Bynum this job—her first—meant she could support her family.
A Mississippi woman used a gift for her 100th birthday to open her first savings account at Hope Credit Union because it was the first time she felt welcome at a financial institution.
“You’d have to be a rock to not be moved by the significance of what it means to people to be treated with respect and have access to basic financial tools that so many others take for granted,” says Bynum, CEO at the $355 million asset credit union. “Every member we get out of a debt trap, every person who becomes a first-time homebuyer, everyone who establishes their first relationship with a depository institution that’s going to help them climb the economic ladder is an inspiration.”
Hope Credit Union is part of the HOPE family of organizations that includes Hope Enterprise Corp. and Hope Policy Institute, which together provides financial services and advocates for policies and practices that lessen the impact of factors such as race, gender, birthplace, and wealth on people’s ability to prosper.
Bynum traces his belief that the right tools and support system can make a difference back to his mother, a single parent who worked multiple jobs in New York City and later North Carolina to help Bynum and his two sisters thrive.
“Hope’s work is built on helping people who overcome hurdles every day—people like my mom,” he says. “These people are so resilient and, despite their challenges, do exceptional things. They’re some of the most entrepreneurial, most innovative people you can imagine, who do so much with so little.”
Bynum moved to Mississippi in 1995 to help launch Hope Credit Union, which serves people in economically distressed areas of the racially diverse “Deep South” states of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee.
Hope Credit Union’s team reflects the ethnic makeup of the communities it serves, with people of color represented by 70% of employees, 60% of management, and three of five top executives.
Bynum seeks ongoing recognition for the many contributions of people of color. Likewise, he believes history must move beyond being “his-story” to include the contributions of women, who comprise 61% of Hope Credit Union’s membership.
Bynum notes that Hope Credit Union is “very intentional” about asking members what they need, and then developing relevant solutions. The credit union hires problem-solvers who understand “when you see a problem, you pick up a shovel and shovel until the problem is solved. That’s how we try to build our organization: equipping people with tools and empowering them to make decisions.”
Bynum brought the same spirit to President Joe Biden’s transition team in late 2020, where he helped review the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The opportunity gave him a sense of optimism about the nation’s future, despite divisions and dissension.
“A more perfect union is an aspiration, not a promise,” Bynum says. “Overcoming the challenges facing the country today requires that we all pick up our shovels and become problem-solvers. Only when we unlock opportunity for all will we tap the nation’s deep, diverse potential and realize the promise that is America.”