Offering access to funds to people who need it

To better serve its community, Seattle Credit Union disconnected ‘low income’ from ‘high risk’ and reorganized a legacy board that was focused on preserving history.

The credit union movement’s founding principle was for community members to pool resources so people in need of loans could have access to funds. I often look to these words for inspiration on the vision and mission of my credit union—so much so that about seven years ago, Seattle Credit Union embarked on a complete change of direction that included everything from rebranding to extensive staff training to the redefining of our mission and vision.

It was almost an insurmountable task as we faced reinventing an 81-year-old organization. The goal was to ensure that we did not simply implement another “campaign” but instead reinvented the culture of the organization to focus on the basic founding principle of “pooling resources so people in need of loans could have access to funds.”

In a city where income levels are on the rise at one of the fastest rates in America, a significant gap has developed in Seattle between low-income and high-income earners. It became quite clear that this division was delineated by ethnic boundaries, meaning that most of the low-income communities are communities of color—or BIPOC communities with residents who are Black, Indigenous or people of color. As we placed a greater focus on these BIPOC communities, we were faced with thinking outside the box—outside of the boundaries that have been in place in the financial industry for centuries.


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