Financial well-being for all is an “all-in endeavor” that requires equal parts empathy and strategy, according to panelists participating in the 2021 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference general session.
“It really has to be up and down the spine of the credit union,” says Gigi Hyland, executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation. “It’s the board members, it’s the CEO, and it’s everybody in between. In order to foster change, financial well-being for all has to involve everyone at the credit union.”
Hyland offers three ideas for credit unions to consider when adopting a financial well-being for all mindset:
Linda White, CEO of $91 million asset Upward Credit Union, Burlingame, Calif., says financial well-being for all has been a board initiative for three years.
“Our goal is to change lives financially,” she said. “But financial well-being can mean different things to different people.”
Upward offers self-guided virtual tools, referrals, workshops, and one-on-one coaching. The credit union has trained its staff, including education on empathy.
White has received her Credit Union Development Education (CUDE) designation and says more Upward staffers will take advantage of the transformational experience.
“We’re all about what can we do for our members,” she said.
Ty Muse, CEO of $5 billion asset Visions Federal Credit Union, Endicott, N.Y., learned to better understand financial well-being by going undercover as a bagger at a local grocery store. He surprised customers by paying their bills.
Just by paying for someone’s $8 grocery bill, the credit union could change the course of that person’s finances for the week, he says. “We knew we had to take the conversation further.”
Visions has created formal venues for having such conversations and helping members advance their financial well-being.
Muse says it’s also important “to get into what the numbers are saying,” such as credit scores and member data.
“If their credit is bad, keep the dialogue going,” Muse says. “Tie that conversation to our purpose: People helping people.”
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