The 2022 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference marks the end of my term as CUNA Board chairman. This is the culmination of nine years on the CUNA Board, and much has transpired in such a short time.
When I started on the board, I had confidence in the power of CUNA, leagues, and credit unions to improve members’ financial lives. I’ve learned a lot about how this system works and what challenges our effectiveness.
I’ve always made sure my credit union, Listerhill Credit Union in Sheffield, Ala., is an active participant in the CUNA-League system, not just writing a check but working in tandem on behalf of the credit union system.
My time on the board has convinced me more than ever that CUNA—as our national trade association—and the leagues at the state level are an extension of the entire credit union movement. The CUNA-League system brings the power of grassroots to policymakers at every level, whether on a state budget proposal or appropriations in the federal government.
Our focus on 360-degree advocacy means we can attack issues from all sides—legislative, regulatory, and judicial—to remove barriers for our members.
But here’s the catch: Our system is only as powerful as we’re willing to make it. It’s far too easy to focus on the day-to-day work of running our credit unions and leave the rest to CUNA and the leagues.
There’s an inherent complacency that tells us once we pay the dues, our job is done. We can go as far as we’re willing, but that means engaging when issues arise while continuing to provide the outstanding member service we’re known for.
It means making calls, setting up visits, and telling our stories. That’s something we all can do and must accomplish at the credit union level.
Our elected officials want to hear from their communities—and that’s us. CUNA and the leagues provide valuable advice, perspective, and information to help us maximize our impact so when we leave our meetings with policymakers, they’re in our corner. It’s a team effort.
That’s why I cringe when I hear people refer to CUNA or their league as “they.” It’s “we.” There’s no line of separation.
We as a movement can coordinate to our best ability to make a difference day after day on issue after issue. Every meeting we walk into, we have the expectations and hopes of millions of credit union members counting on us.
Let’s never forget that. It takes extraordinary engagement on all sides to get things done. If we’re not willing to do that, we certainly don’t deserve to be in business for our members.
Looking ahead to our future in financial services, if we’re not the disruptor, we’re the disrupted. If we’re not on offense fighting for our members and ensuring relevance not only today but in the future, someone else will be.
Issues such as earnings, capital, and liquidity aren’t my biggest concerns. But failing to grow? That should be a primary concern for all of us.
Credit unions respond well to adversity—you only need to look at our response to the pandemic to see that. But if we don’t differentiate ourselves, we’ll be left behind.
Replicating what everybody else does will not advance our movement. Consumers want different and extraordinary experiences.
They desire what’s easier, faster, and more convenient. They should be able to find that at their credit union.
I’ve always felt fortunate to be a part of the CUNA-League system, and my time on the CUNA Board has only solidified my appreciation of the special and powerful movement we have.
As we focus on members’ success and financial well-being for all, I hope you continue to actively engage in the CUNA-League system as an integral component of your service and duty to them.
This article appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Credit Union Magazine. Subscribe here.