America’s mad as hell … is your credit union?

In the 1976 movie Network, news anchor Howard Beal captures the zeitgeist of the nation by imploring people on national television to announce to the world that they are mad as Hell and that they are not going to take it anymore.

Listen to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Much of this same anger in Beal’s famous rant is percolating through their speeches. America, they argue, has short changed you and it is time for you to do something about it by voting for them.

Whether you support one of them or hope that they will both fade away like a bad hangover, after New Hampshire, it’s time to stop ignoring their appeal or viewing their popularity as a purely political phenomenon. For better or worse, they have hit a nerve . . . people really are mad as hell, and they are reaching out to anyone who feels their pain and will help them fight back.

It’s foolish for your credit union or the industry as a whole to ignore what is going on in politics. There is a shift going on in the American populous and your credit union can either react or get run over.

First, it’s time for your marketing to have an edge. If I was your ad man, I would push for less smiles and more pensive looks; more scripts about preparing for an uncertain future than about enjoying the fruits of inevitable success.

Aiming at people who feel as if they have been disregarded isn’t as risky or radical as it sounds once you realize that a large and growing chunk of the American Public feels like it has been pushed out of the economic mainstream or is hanging on to the American Dream by its fingertips. Look at the polls: the people voting for Trump and Sanders don’t think the economy is all that good and are convinced that the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Another lesson to learn from Trump and Sanders is that people don’t trust the “establishment” even as they don’t agree on what the “establishment” is. Now, more than ever, is the time to drive home the message that credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives led by volunteer boards and dedicated to pooling money for the common good and holding people responsible for paying back their loans because it’s their neighbors’ or colleagues’ money, after all. This message is critical at a time when people thoroughly distrust”the establishment.” After all, in the New Hampshire primary, more women under 45 voted for a bald, Socialist Senator and grandfather from Vermont than for a woman who is one of the most qualified candidates to ever run for president. Republicans are overwhelmingly attracted to Trump because he is not a politician. He openly belittles them.

Finally, my personal view is that much of the frustration that you are seeing on both the left and the right reflects anger that more was not done to hold the banks accountable for the mess into which they got our nation. No matter who is elected, we haven’t seen the last of banking reform. America may not be the smartest country in the world but it has a tremendous amount of aggregate common sense. The public reacting to Trump and Sanders knows that a system which bailed out bank CEO’s while letting middle class homeowners got foreclosed on in the name of capitalism needs some fine tuning. Politically, credit unions need to speak out loud and clear not only against laws that directly impose regulatory burdens on them, but also in favor of more fundamental banking reforms. Credit unions can and should argue that the financial fixes made to the banking system have not gone far enough to protect them or put them on a more level playing field with their “too big to fail “ competitors.

Henry Meier

Henry Meier

As General Counsel for the New York Credit Union Association, Henry is actively involved in all legislative, regulatory and legal issues impacting New York credit unions. Whether he’s joining ... Web: Details

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