Lawyers, Guns and Money… and the Credit Union Movement

Driving to the office today, I never thought a Warren Zevon song would inspire me to write a post for CUinsight. “Lawyers, Guns and Money” is not my favorite Zevon tune, and frankly few other than Zevon, know what the lyrics really mean. But there are several references in the song that make me reflect on the credit union industry. I know, weird.

I came to the credit union industry back in 1996 and was quickly thrown into the credit union “movement”. I came from two multi-billion dollar regional banks and had very little understanding of a credit union’s value proposition, let alone the movement. I’ll be honest, the word movement has always annoyed me, because I personally viewed the word as somewhat militant and irrelevant to the banking public. Regardless, I decided to research the term.

Let’s define the world Movement:

  • The act, process, or result of moving.
  • A particular manner or style of moving.
  • Usually, movements. actions or activities, as of a person or a body of persons.
  • Military, Naval. A change of position or location of troops or ships.
  • Abundance of events or incidents.

When I think of the credit union movement, I can personally relate to point 5 above. Since 1996 I have seen many attempts to move the industry forward through legal action and lobbying efforts that generally went going toe-to-toe with community bankers and politicians. And while I support lobbying efforts and the need to keep a presence on Capitol Hill, I believe the credit union movement has lacked a consistent social or consumer component, beyond the periodic national campaigns the industry has attempted to assimilate.  This lead me to look up “Social Movement” on Wikipedia. Here is their definition:

Social movements are a type of group action. They are large informal groupings of individuals or organizations which focus on specific political or social issues. In other words, they carry out, resist or undo a social change.

Some could say the recent Bank Transfer Day is a notable attempt to galvanize the industry and present some meaningful branding around efforts to get consumers to look at credit unions as viable alternatives to banks. But BankTransfer Day was not the brainchild of industry associations or experts. And all this brings me back to Warren Zevon.

The industry has spent millions on lawyers to lobby government and to defend against the banking industry. We have even spent millions on national credit union branding efforts. But from the consumers point of view, what has this gotten us? Is this industry galvanized? Do we have a consistent, relevant message? Are we doing enough to garnish the support consumers?

Lawyers, “guns” and money, are not enough to win the hearts and mind of the American public. I’m pretty sure Franz Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch and Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen, if still alive, would agree.

Bryan Clagett is a principle driver of Geezeo’s global marketing, brand and outreach efforts. Clagett joins founders Shawn Ward and Peter Glyman in establishing Geezeo as the premier personal financial management provider in the financial services industry. Since 1987, Bryan has held a number of executive positions in the financial services industry.

Bryan Clagett

Bryan Clagett

Bryan is on the executive team and singularly focused on driving revenue growth through a variety of new initiatives that help financial services and fintech become ever more relevant to ... Web: Details