CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle welcomed more than 4,500 credit union advocates back to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center Monday during his address before the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference.
Nussle thanked credit unions for serving as “financial first responders” during the pandemic and for continuing credit unions’ legacy of being there for members in hard times.
“You have members who run to you in moments of financial challenge, hardship, maybe terror, frustration, certainly circumstances that are beyond their control, and they ask for help. And you run toward them,” Nussle says. “The mission of credit unions is to run toward than danger, to help them deal with that predicament.”
He pointed to some big numbers during the pandemic, including how 90% of credit unions waived fees, 95% offered skip-payment on loans, 2 million jobs were saved by credit union business loans, and finally, the $18.5 billion in consumer benefits credit unions bring to the marketplace in 2021 alone.
“Don’t let those big numbers distract you from the job you need to do, this week and frankly every week. And that is to peel back those big numbers to the ones that might be small by comparison, but large to the members you serve,” he says. “Those big numbers are based off of millions and millions of interactions and engagements with the members you serve during the toughest times in their life.”
Nussle says credit unions must continue to advocate for themselves, even in these hyper-partisan times that lead many to stay away from “being political” as one attendee told him.
“I don’t want you to be political. Don’t be political. That’s not why you’re here, to talk politics,” he says. “I want you to talk credit unions. If you’re going to be partisan, be partisan for credit unions. That’s the most important thing we can do.”
He recalled during time in Congress he preferred meetings where people told him about problems they were solving, stories to back it up, and how they were making progress on the problem. That’s the formula that can make a difference, he says.
“Financial Well-Being for All fits into this perfectly. It’s what are members are talking about, it’s what Congress is talking about, it’s what so many state legislatures are talking about," he says. "It's the challenges people are having across the country.
He adds that Financial Well-Being for All appeals to all political persuasions, as those on the right support self-reliance and support, while those on the left back financial access and inclusion.
“At this time in our country we’re thirsty for things that bring us together, that are bipartisan, and don’t have to be separated into red and blue,” Nussle says. “That’s what credit unions do.”
He said staying relevant—through Financial Well-Being for All and other ideas—is also a primary challenge for credit unions.
“How can we future-proof the credit union difference for years to come? It can’t just be about today,” he says. “I really believe that future-proofing the credit union movement is something we’re all concerned with. We all want to help more, do more in this age of acceleration.”
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