Credit Unions: True Stories of Love, Passion, and Commitment.

Michael Downs, VP of Marketing, Momentumby: Michael Downs, VP of Marketing, Momentum

Typically, the words love, passion and commitment do not immediately come to mind when thinking about credit unions, but we found those sentiments to be at the heart of every conversation we had with credit union executives at the Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) in Washington, DC.  Most of us are quite familiar with terms like loan-to-share ratio, share growth, loan growth, or ROA, but the human elements of our business are often understated.  However, as we recently witnessed at the GAC, the special bond that credit unions have with their members and communities is the foundation on which everything else is built.

As part of a video series we call “CU Sound Off”, we sat down with several credit union executives and gave them an opportunity to share their personal experiences of working with or for a credit union.  Over the course of three days, we heard from credit union executives from all over the country, including Missouri, Washington, Michigan, and California.  While each person offered his or her unique perspective, there was a common emotional connection each person expressed toward their members, colleagues, and community.

One of the most compelling stories came from Dr. Vera Roberts of Mid-Cities Financial Credit Union in Los Angeles, California.  She spoke about the influence credit unions had on her life many years ago as a classroom teacher, when she turned Mid-Cities Financial Credit Union for a $500 loan.  The credit union made her feel welcome, treated her with respect and dignity, and made the process very easy.  Their commitment to helping her made a lasting impression, as she now serves as the Board Chair at Mid-Cities.

Another engaging story came from Eric Bruen, President/CEO of Desert Valleys Federal Credit Union, who talked about being a second generation credit union executive.  As the son of a credit union CEO, Mr. Bruen explained how credit unions have been a part of his life since the age of two.    Following in his father’s footsteps, he began working at a credit union at the age of 20, and fifteen years later serves as a credit union CEO.  Mr. Bruen passionately expressed that the greatest experience of those fifteen years has been the opportunity to impact the lives of members each and every day.

Also offering an interesting perspective was Tim Smith, President/CEO of Lake State Federal Credit Union, who talked about taking a leadership position at a credit union after 32 years in the banking industry.  He described a challenging transition, but he emphasized that in the end, the ultimate goal is about providing the member with the best products and services.

We also had the opportunity to talk with Michael O’Brien, Chief Marketing Offer at St. Louis Community Credit Union.  Mr. O’Brien spoke with pride about serving a low to moderate income member base as a community development financial institution (CDFI).  With heart felt enthusiasm, he talked about the credit unions’ mission to help improve the standard of living for members and help them get to the next financial level in life.  In addition, he discusses the strong link the credit union has with the credit union movement at large, and the impact each organization is trying to make in member’s lives across the country.

These types of stories make up the fabric of the credit union movement and differentiate credit unions from any other type of financial institution.  Rather than stories of selfish, profit-driven motivations for working with a credit union, we heard people describe feelings of love, passion, and commitment around of being a part of something much bigger than themselves.

To view a few of the videos, click here.

Michael Downs is the Vice President of Marketing at Momentum, a national design-build firm.  Mr. Downs and the Momentum team work with Credit Unions to facilitate strategic planning, evaluate facilities growth needs, and implement systems for ongoing measurement and benchmarking. Mr. Downs holds both a Bachelors and Masters of Business Administration, completed the ABA School of Bank Marketing at Southern Methodist University, and has more than twelve years of experience working with clients on strategic planning and marketing.  Learn more at or connect at

Michael Downs

Michael Downs

Michael Downs is the Vice President of Client Solutions at Momentum, a strategic design-build partner that takes a people centric approach to helping credit unions across the nation thrive. Web: Details