Financial inclusion critical to financial well-being for all

What does “financial well-being for all” mean to you? Does it inspire you? Is it part of a long-term credit union strategy, or merely a marketing theme that will fade with time?

In his keynote address at the recent Government Affairs Conference, CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle emphasized that the credit union’s philosophy of “people helping people” is all about financial well-being. He talked about the powerful value proposition of credit unions moving the financial well-being needle for their members. His comments were right on – I couldn’t agree more.

If you believe in the power of financial well-being, you should also be passionate about financial inclusion. The two go hand in hand.

Case for Financial Inclusion

Financial inclusion strives to ensure that all individuals have equal access to affordable financial products and services that can help them generate wealth. Too many American households still lack access to traditional financial products and services. That’s a fact. These include low-to-moderate income Americans, and a disproportionate percentage are people of color.

We’ve all seen statistics about financial disparities. Here’s one I find particularly shocking. A 2019 study conducted by the Federal Reserve revealed that median family wealth was $188,200 for white families, $36,100 for Hispanic families, and $24,100 for Black families. That must change. And change begins with us.

Credit unions can play an important role in making financial products and services accessible and affordable to all individuals, regardless of race or income. Financial inclusion is a huge opportunity for credit unions to differentiate themselves and grow membership. This is truly financial well-being for all. It’s an aspirational goal that improves lives. It benefits society and our communities. It’s the right thing to do.

IDEA Insights & Recommendations

My organization, GreenPath Financial Wellness, is on a journey we call IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access). We’re determined to better understand and meet the needs of underserved populations. The initiative also includes a commitment to creating an inclusive work culture where everyone feels welcome and valued.

Although we’re on the first leg of our journey and still have much to learn, we recently published a document to share our early learnings, insights and recommendations with other organizations. I encourage you to check it out.

Here are few of the themes lifted up in the document:

  • Inclusion can’t be a project. It’s a long-term commitment that starts at the top with executive leaders and the board. Consider establishing voluntary, employee-led groups to lead IDEA initiatives – with a mix of senior leaders and employees across diverse demographics, functions and levels.
  • Define what you mean by inclusion, diversity, equity and access. This is critical to align employees. Inclusion can be broad in scope – including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, gender identity, veteran status, etc.
  • Build IDEA initiatives into your strategic plan.
  • Engage your staff early and often to understand and eliminate barriers. Surveys, town halls and focus groups are helpful ways to involve employees and understand what they’re thinking. Implement change initiatives and training to bring your staff along for the journey – a single training won’t change the culture.
  • Identify appropriate metrics and start tracking them – by key demographics – to understand the impact your efforts are having on employees and members.
  • Be sure to include metrics that measure impact on financial health. In 2021, the Financial Health Network participated in research that reinforced the need for credit unions to broaden their financial health strategies.
  • Integrate demographic questions into the standard protocol for member engagement. Leverage technology in gathering data and delivering consistent member experiences.
  • Audit and modify communications to ensure language is inclusive.
  • Build trust in markets where your credit union has a meaningful physical presence. External partnerships with trusted experts and influencers – with common demographics and lived experiences – can amplify community engagement and accelerate trust.
  • Reimagine your products and services in light of barriers faced by underserved populations. Combine market and design research with internal data to better understand and meet the needs of your communities. Activate a team to observe, test, learn and measure the impact of various tactics.

Free IDEA Resource

There is no one right path to follow on your IDEA journey. It really depends on the needs of your staff and members.

Please take a few minutes to download GreenPath’s IDEA resource. I hope it inspires you to lay the groundwork for truly achieving financial well-being for all.

Rick Bialobrzeski

Rick Bialobrzeski

Rick is Executive Vice President at GreenPath Financial Wellness, where he has worked since 1996. More than 500 credit unions are partners in GreenPath’s effort to “remix the American ... Web: Details