Deoxyribonucleic acid also known by the acronym DNA is the common denominator that exists in every living thing. DNA serves not only as the building block of life on earth but is also the binding substance that makes our planet diverse. It creates the similarities and differences within and without the various biological kingdoms whether animals, plant life, fungi, or micro-organisms. DNA is the reason for which taxonomists have established the process of classifying and arranging organisms, both living and extinct, into groups based on similar characteristics. DNA characterizes the beauty we see in each flower, the intelligence of human beings, the determination and diligence of ants, and the power of microscopic bacteria in our ecosystem. DNA exists in all things common and yet makes all things diverse. Similarly, credit unions are financial institutions that also exist by virtue of a common denominator and yet they are uniquely diverse.
Credit unions are not-for profit, member-owned financial cooperatives that are typically formed by the either common bond of: 1) an employer, or 2) a geographic location, or 3) a group affiliation (e.g., church, labor union, etc.). These common factors serve as the basis for how credit unions are chartered by the National Credit Union Association (NCUA), the federal regulator and insurer. Despite the commonalities, credit unions are diverse and serve diverse memberships. Credit unions vary by asset size with the largest credit unions having greater than $1 billion in assets, medium to large with assets of $10 million but less than $100 million, small credit unions with less than $10 million in assets, and even some of the smallest with less than $1 million in assets. Credit unions are also diverse because they are subject to the laws and regulations of the various states in which the corpus is headquartered and/or is doing business. Some are federally chartered while others are state-chartered and federally insured while others are insured privately. Credit unions are typically formed in common but are distinctly and inherently diverse.
Although credit union members are joined by a common thread, they are very diverse in a variety of ways such as: zip code, religious affiliation, race, socioeconomic status, and political affiliation to name a few. As such, diversity can and should be expressed and represented in every aspect of the financial institution. From the C-suite to the board, as well suppliers to contractors, diversity should be the “D” in every credit union’s DNA. Here are a few steps to let that happen:
- Be Diversity Deliberate:
- Human Resources and nominating committees should be intentional in the way employees are hired and candidates for the board are vetted.
- Complete and submit the NCUA Diversity Self-Assessment to establish a base line for the credit union’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
- Factor in diversity as part of the institution’s strategic planning SWOT analysis.
- Be Diversity Demonstrative:
- Utilize the “Rooney Rule” model to obtain substantive results and not just to check off the boxes.
- Solicit bids from minority and women owned suppliers and contractors.
- Create diversity pipelines via internships and professional development.
- Be Diversity Disseminating:
- Make diversity part of the credit union’s culture (e.g., newsletters, website).
- Place job ads in targeted publications to reach a broader audience.
- Incorporate diversity in the institution’s marketing plan.
DNA is not static, but dynamic. It can replicate itself with the assistance of an agent called messenger RNA or mRNA. Ribonucleic acid as it is also known, is the delivery agent that carries the DNA’s genetic information or message into other cells to make copies of the DNA strand in a process called transcription. Credit unions need messengers to be diversity deliberate, demonstrative, and disseminating. Chief Diversity Officers or CDOs can carry or transcribe the credit union’s message to execute the mission of ensuring that Diversity is the “D” in your credit union’s DNA.