Making an Impact in Motown

‘You kind of get sucked into serving the underserved—once you try it you just want more.’

December 2, 2013

“You’re Hank Hubbard, the president of Communicating Arts Credit Union, right?” the member asked with an angry look on his face, interrupting Hubbard’s guided tour of the credit union’s branch in Highland Park, Mich.

For the first few years of the branch’s existence, Hubbard couldn’t walk into the lobby without a member thanking him. No financial institution had opened a location in that underserved community encircled by Detroit in 20 years, since before the Chrysler Corporation relocated its headquarters to the suburbs.

But this exchange started with a different tone. “And as a member, you work for me, right?” the man asked rhetorically. Hubbard nodded. 

The member complained that his calls to the credit union continually funneled directly to voice mail. Hubbard responded that Communicating Arts had just opened a call center to address that problem, and asked if anything else was bothering him.

Suddenly, the man’s mood changed, and he broke into a broad smile. “Would you like to hear the good news?” the member asked.

Communicating Arts had twice renegotiated terms of Aaron McIver’s used vehicle loan for his beloved 2005 GMC Yukon. The original $23,000 dealer loan carried an astounding 24.95% interest rate over six years. The credit union sliced that rate in half, and then by half again after helping McIver improve his credit score, to 5% over five years.

That memorable exchange, which inspired the credit union’s Auto Bailout Loan program, explains the community development credit union’s positive impact through its progressive programs—and the reason Hubbard loves his job.

“The truth is, you kind of get sucked into serving the underserved—once you try it you just want more,” says Hubbard, a past winner of CUNA’s Louise Herring Philosophy in Action and Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Community Service awards, and the Michigan Credit Union Foundation’s Community Volunteer recipient for 2011.

Since Hubbard’s successful launch of the Auto Loan Bailout program, Communicating Arts has helped more than 250 members reduce their loan rate by an average of nearly 7% and save about $100 on their monthly payment.

The branch in gritty Highland Park—where parts of Eminem’s 8 Mile and much of Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino were filmed—has opened about 3,200 accounts since coming to the neighborhood in 2008. A branch in Detroit’s Eastside neighborhood opened more than 1,300 accounts since 2011.

Communicating Arts promotes community-focused projects and partnerships, including annual charity drives, financial education seminars, and free tax assistance. Recently, Hubbard spearheaded a volunteer day with the Metro West Chapter of Credit Unions at a Detroit-based food rescue nonprofit. About 125 credit union staff and members participated, raising nearly $14,000 for Forgotten Harvest and packing more than 11,000 pounds of reclaimed food.

“Ever since I’ve known Mr. Hubbard, not a day goes by where he isn’t doing something for the community,” says Sharlena Clair, administrative assistant to the vice president of finance at Communicating Arts and one of 30 young professionals and high school students Hubbard mentors. 

“Seeing how driven he is builds my appreciation for working for this company. He inspires not just his employees, but the community, too,” says Clair.

Of Detroit’s many rock stars. Marvin Gaye is Hubbard’s favorite. Gaye’s social awareness also appealed to Hubbard, whose modern music idol is Bono—the philanthropic, social activist lead singer for U2. “He’s the poster boy for using his powers for good,” Hubbard says.