DEI: The right thing on many levels

Credit union industry leaders have long known that supporting diversity, equity and inclusion is the right thing to do on many levels. Consider these quotes.

“Taking better care of the Latino community is, I think, one of those rare intersections where doing right also intersects with doing good business. In other words, it’s right for those communities that may have been historically marginalized. But those are also growing communities, and so that’s good for our business.” —CUES member Jeff Disterhoft, president/CEO of $11 billion GreenState Credit Union, North Liberty, Iowa, CUES’ 2022 DEI: Catalyst for Change award recipient, in a recent podcast

“The DEI movement is just right for the credit union movement. The beauty of this crusade is its core values are aligned with the tenets of credit unions. The fundamental belief that all people deserve access to fair and affordable financial services is ingrained in credit unions. The freedom to participate in the governance of credit union cooperatives is an enduring axiom. Democracy and ownership are at the center of credit union ideals.” —CUES member Maurice Smith, retired president/CEO of Local Government Federal Credit Union, Raleigh, North Carolina, in the blog, “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: What’s The Next Right Step for Credit Unions?

“We know today everybody says they deliver great member service or customer service, have to have competitive products or services, and have to have a great technology plan. But if everybody else can say the same thing, and a lot of institutions that we compete against … can outspend us, what’s the one thing that makes us unique and different? This is what it is: It’s our initiatives and our efforts under DEI.” —CUES member Steve Bugg, president/CEO of $1 billion Great Lakes Credit Union in Illinois, the first-ever CUES DEI: Catalyst for Change award winner in the podcast, “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion as a Differentiator”

In all, from increased creativity to stronger governance and improved problem-solving abilities, diversity equates to better business outcomes. Plus, it’s the right thing to do.

So how do we keep on doing this right thing for our credit unions, employees and members? The credit union industry has seen a lot of movement on DEI in the last few years. What can credit unions do to keep moving the needle? John Pembroke, the late president/CEO of CUES, provided some insight in a past column:

“Leading people to address racial and other kinds of inequality means creating a long-term vision that includes accountability, effective communication, motivating people and, ultimately, delivering—time and again—on your ideals.”

Under John’s leadership, CUES committed to making ongoing investments in DEI. We’ve done so both internally and with our external offerings. As examples, we’ve evolved our hiring process and established an internal DEI team, which has led staff education efforts that include an in-person all-staff training last October. We’ve diversified our speaker line-ups, created and refreshed our DEI Resource Center, and are about to enter our fifth year of providing a monthly column focused on how credit unions can—and do—support DEI.

What’s your plan for keeping momentum in your credit union’s DEI work?

Some great options include reading the articles and listening to the podcasts linked from this article; setting up a DEI staff team and board-level committee; establishing employee resource groups; checking out our DEI Resource Center; and encouraging your people leaders to get certified through a program like our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Cornell Certificate Program—or getting certified yourself! I’d love to hear about the many ways your credit union’s DEI efforts bear fruit.

Jerry Saalsaa

Jerry Saalsaa

Since joining the team in 1997, he has led CUES’ finance, technology, human resources and strategy teams, including serving as VP/finance and technology and, most recently, as SVP/chief ... Web: Details