History teaches us something about ourselves. We are reminded that we have endured challenges in the past. History gives us examples of successes and failures. We see heroism from unlikely characters and missed opportunities from others.
History also teaches us that seasons change in every aspect of society. Business cycles fluctuate. Markets gyrate. Economic indicators fall and rebound. Each season arrives with the promise that another season will follow.
When I think back on 2020 and 2021, I’m so glad that we are still standing. What do I mean by this? Credit unions are still here. Through economic ups and downs, social unrest, a world-wide pandemic … credit unions are still here … ready to serve members. We are still STANDING.
Unfortunately, most of us have lost people during this public health challenge. Even though life became tough (or for some even tougher), we managed to stand. We withstood uncertainty, heartaches, loneliness, and disruptions. We STAND together.
I believe 2022’s arrival provides hope and a reward for our tenacity. We have a new opportunity to write the history for this moment. What would life look like if we build on the resilience mustered up in the last two years and thrive? Imagine what future generations will say about how credit unions STAND with one another.
This season has been another episode for the history books. We see examples of heart-warming neighborly compassion and charity. We also see signs of intolerance and tribalism. The comparison of these opposing positions is not new. In some ways, this is a repeat of history.
When I look back on how resilient and innovative we have become as a credit union industry, I am encouraged. My enthusiasm is fueled by my pride in the power of credit unions and credit union folk. Here are just a few examples of bold, mindful, and brave leadership:
- Credit unions that eliminated or reduced overdraft fees, like U.S. Eagle Federal Credit Union, led by President/CEO, Marsha Majors and UW Federal Credit Union led by President/CEO, Paul Kundert.
- Credit union President/CEOs asking staff and surrounding communities to support the Black Lives Matter Movement through written statements and actions. President/CEO, Mary Beth Spuck at ResourceOne Credit Union invited her staff and community to paint the side of the Corporate Building with Black Lives Matter.
- Many credit unions and credit union related organizations reached out to AACUC for input and guidance on how to start their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion journey.
- Credit Union Leagues and Vendors pivoting and producing well attended Virtual Conferences and Meetings.
Leadership in times of trials is not just reserved for the drum majors. I have seen countless examples of leadership in credit unions around this country. Leadership is not limited to persons with impressive-sounding titles. The illustration of leadership during seasons of trials can be seen in every corner of every credit union.
Imagine the leadership it takes for a credit union employee to pause her daily workload to comfort a member who is bereaving the loss of a family member. This is not an instant to fret lost productivity or transaction cost. This is a human moment to connect with another person and demonstrate cooperative concern. This is how we STAND.
Imagine the leadership of a loan officer who takes a second look at a loan application to press between the margins. He knows what the policy says. He is very much aware that no one would second guess a denial in that situation. But he is assured we are credit unions and members are owners. This compels him to sharpen his pencil and look for another way to help this member. This is how we STAND.
Imagine the leadership it takes for a credit union board to double down on its membership in the face of a pandemic-driven recession. The usual playbook for financial institutions is to curtail credit, restrict access, and hunker down until the economic storm passes. This is not the credit union inclination. We rise to serve members when they need us the most. This is how we STAND.
These are not isolated occurrences in one credit union. These are intentional acts repeated by credit union staffs and volunteers everywhere. One could merely recite these patterns and substitute the names of their colleagues to find familiar deeds in their communities. This is how we STAND when members need us the most.
One of the most impressive consequences has been the renewed commitment and interest to adopting the 8th Cooperative Principle internationally and throughout the United States. The 8th Cooperative Principle is more than a mere academic exercise. This is a monumental and practical demonstration of cooperative relevance. This is how we STAND for a new history.
As a nation, we have been through tough times before. The last two years is no exception to our resilient fortitude. But as I have stated before on numerous occasions, “Credit union folk are our very best chance at solving what ails our society.” I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful – WE ARE STILL STANDING.