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Credit unions cannot match the sheer number of bank branches but stand ready, willing, and able to help reverse the negative trends that for-profit banks have put into motion, CUNA wrote to a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs subcommittee. The Subcommittee on Economic Policy conducted a hearing Wednesday on the economic impacts of bank mergers.
“Any serious discussion of policy remedies to address access to financial services in banking deserts and underserved communities must include modernizing laws and regulations which hinder credit unions from serving those the banks have left behind,” the letter reads. “We continue to work with Members of Congress to introduce legislation expanding our field of membership. We strongly encourage the Senate Banking Committee to look into field of membership expansion today and in future committee hearing.”
CUNA notes bank mergers “undoubtedly lead to branch closures,” pointing out bank branches decreased from 96,292 to 78,626 from 2012-2022. In that same period, the number of credit union branches increased from 21,274 to 21,193.
Additionally, from December 2019 to March 2023, credit unions have opened a net of 700 branches while banks have lost a net of 7,500.
“The decrease in bank branches demonstrates bankers’ profit over people approach to financial services. In contrast, the growth in credit union branches shows the commitment to providing services and being physically present in those communities as well,” the letter reads. “Credit unions will never apologize for our dedication to providing financial services and ensuring the financial well-being for all, including the financially vulnerable.”
CUNA estimates the count of census tracts that are “banking deserts” has increased by 60% since 2012.