Lending is where the rubber meets the road for credit unions. It’s how we provide capital to our members, sustain our business, and help our communities thrive.
It’s a key factor in promoting financial well-being for all.
Lending also is the perfect example of how credit unions are at their best when life is at its worst.
Looking back over the past several years, from the Great Recession to the pandemic, banks pulled back on lending when their customers needed them most.
Credit unions increased lending, stepping forward to meet the challenge at hand.
That’s what happens when financial institutions put people over profit. Banks see a financial crisis and shy away from “riskier” activities because they answer to Wall Street shareholders.
Credit unions answer to the very members they go above and beyond to serve, and that’s why we always strive to do right by them.
I’ve heard several examples over the past year of businesses that have worked for years or even decades with their banks who, when the chips were down and the world was closing its doors, couldn’t get Paycheck Protection Program loans from their banks to keep their doors open.
But credit unions were willing and able to make those loans. The businesses that received those loans are new converts to the credit union difference, and you can believe they won’t be going back to their banks again.
I hear these stories every day. If they fill me with inspiration and gratitude for those credit union leaders, imagine how that member or business feels?
The need to get capital into the right places also shapes much of our advocacy work.
We strongly support several pieces of legislation that would allow credit unions to go beyond the current arbitrary statutory member business lending cap and provide capital where it’s needed most.
This legislation has bipartisan support during a time when little else does. That’s because of the credit union difference we’ve demonstrated time and time again.
The pandemic has shown us lending might look different in the future, or at least move away from traditional auto lending, credit cards, and mortgages.
The marketplace is changing faster than ever, and it’s important that we continue to meet our members’ evolving needs.
A recent white paper on pandemic lending from the CUNA Lending Council shows how credit unions did everything from modifying rates on individual loans to adjusting the underwriting process to meet members where they were.
Two trends on the rise include funding alternative energy initiatives and meeting millennials’ increasing loan demand. We should think about these trends now.
Credit unions have shown time and time again they can supply capital to members by being creative, nimble, and member-focused.
As we look forward to the future, the sky’s the limit for America’s credit unions.
JIM NUSSLE is president/CEO of Credit Union National Association.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Credit Union Magazine.