Angela Russell

Find strength in diversity and inclusion

Building a diverse team is vital to serving members.

January 21, 2019

It’s no secret our country is becoming more diverse. In the first decade of this century, people of color accounted for an incredible 92% of population growth, and that trend has only continued, Nielsen reports.

As institutions committed to helping people achieve financial security, we must ensure that our products, practices, and services meet the needs of this changing customer base.

The good news is these consumers are turning to credit unions. CUNA Mutual Group’s recent What Matters Now™ research showed that in the past five years alone, people of color accounted for 61% of credit union member growth.

The bad news is that, as a movement, we’re struggling to understand and meet the needs of our changing consumer base.

Perhaps more worrying still, banks and fintech disruptors often do a better job of meeting consumers’ changing needs. Whether it’s the capital and resources available to banks, or the dexterity of fintechs, they are gaining ground in the multicultural marketplace.

Serving members through diversity

A starting place for improving your products and services is to have a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Building a diverse team is vital to serving members. How can we truly understand the needs of our communities if we do not represent them?

Earlier this year, McKinsey & Company released a report showing the financial performance of organizations with greater gender and racial diversity was significantly greater than that of more homogenous institutions.

At CUNA Mutual Group, we’re discovering through our own multicultural research that race, age, and even the makeup of the home we grew up in can play a huge role in how we manage our finances.

Of course, there’s no denying it can be difficult to attract and recruit talent, but I genuinely believe there is more opportunity right in front of us than we often acknowledge. We just need to build the right partnerships.

CUNA Mutual Group has found some success by building partnerships with local schools, as well as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to recruit talent as diverse in thought and experience as it is in race and culture.

Don’t forget about inclusion

Perhaps the most vital step in this journey is inclusion. Diversity simply cannot work without it.

Recruiting more women, people of color, LGBTQ, etc. does not influence or change your business unless they have an equitable voice in the organization.

Korn Ferry identified several traits as necessary for an inclusive leader, but one that particularly stands out to me is being open to diverse points of view.

Organizations so often recruit diverse talent and then demand it adapts to a prevailing culture.

Building a diverse and inclusive workforce is a journey. No organization does it perfectly, but resources like CUNA’s 2018-2019 E-Scan Report can help.

Getting started is the most daunting prospect, so let me close with a quote from one of America’s finest, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

ANGELA RUSSELL is vice president, diversity, equity & inclusion, at CUNA Mutual Group.