CUNA EVP/Chief Engagement Officer Greg Michlig welcomed CUNA, League, credit union, and system partners on stage Tuesday at the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference to dive deep into financial well-being for all.
Nearly every credit union is doing work in the financial well-being for all space, they just don’t call it that, National Credit Union Foundation Executive Director Gigi Hyland says.
“There’s so much opportunity for us to: No. 1, focus on the members; No. 2, start at home with our own employees. Then we ensure that we craft a path forward to financial health for employees and members,” she says. “Because when members are financially healthy, the credit union wins. It grows, gets loans out the door, and return on assets increases.”
From a League perspective, Illinois Credit Union League Vice President of Governmental Affairs Keith Sias says financial well-being for all is a way to stand out. Legislators see thousands of bills over their term, how can credit unions make their priorities stand out?
“Once we have their attention, how do we get them to act on policies that are beneficial to credit unions and members? Financial well-being for all gives us a chance to make that important to legislators so they understand your members are their constituents,” he says. “It should be really important to them to enact policies—or in some cases prevent bad policies—that benefit credit unions and their communities.”
Jill Vicente, BECU's vice president of social impact and financial health programs, says her credit union had to learn to embrace financial well-being.
“The three things that we as a credit union had to lean into weren’t linear. They are understanding, commitment, and organization,” she says. “We can have data and initiatives, but if we’re not all in the same place looking to the same north star, you really get siloed, and the impact comes in fits and spurts.”
Bjorn Larson, director of financial well-being at BCU, says his credit union’s journey to prioritizing financial wellness started when they began including new employers in their field of membership and employers asked about financial literacy efforts.
This led BCU to create its own credit union service organization, Life. Money. You.®, and expand from general financial literacy classes to one-on-one counseling that uses metrics to track progress.
“It’s amazing to hear the stories,” Larson says. “It’s truly amazing to see what we’re able to do one on one. It’s not the most scalable thing we can offer, but it’s one of the best parts of our program. We’ve been told, ‘This is my favorite part of my job,’ by branch staff.”
Data is essential to advocacy efforts, says CUNA Chief Political Officer Richard Gose, who believes, “Data without stories is just a bunch of numbers. Stories without data are just a story. Everything we’re saying needs to be more, because it is more. We want stories that show an actual positive result.”
CUNA Chief Economist Mike Schenk says CUNA Policy Analysis is looking at more data than ever to tell the financial well-being for all story, including the recent purchase of a 10% sample of the Equifax database, monthly data going back to 2005—consisting of more than 30 billion records—and counting.
“We purchased this dataset as a first step to see—from a borrowing perspective—what we can say about our members and how their behaviors and outcomes compares to those of non-members,” Schenk says, adding that CUNA’s National Voter Survey provides direct-from-consumer data on how members and non-members feel about their financial institution.
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