by Nate Muniz, PSECU
Sometimes, the greatest rivals can also be the best of friends. For instance, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, though bitter adversaries during their presidencies, famously corresponded about everything from family to philosophy for 50 years. Why do I mention this? Because, even as rivals, they understood the benefits of collaboration.
The Merriam-Webster definition of collaborate is “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.” Credit unions are far more than simply an intellectual endeavor. They have a positive impact on their members’ lives and the communities they serve. Thus, the need for collaboration is that much more important.
Unfortunately, throughout my short time in the industry I’ve seen the word thrown around so often without accomplishing much that it’s begun to lose its meaning. Whether it is the friction between large credit unions and small, community chartered vs. SEG based, or credit unions disaffiliating, collaboration isn’t exactly the word I’d use to describe the state of the industry.
That’s why I was excited when I heard about Mid-Atlantic Corporate’s new Rekindle initiative. One of the reasons I have for my excitement is they really appear to be taking a realistic approach to the problem. While the Credit Union Membership Access Act was something that was absolutely necessary in 1998, it had the unintended consequence of pitting credit union against credit union for market share in an already crowded financial services market. There’s nothing wrong with competition, and those who argue that the consolidation of the credit union industry was inevitable, or even necessary, may have valid arguments. But what Rekindle does is recognize that we are still cooperatives and collaboration is one of our key principles.
The initiative also acknowledges that this will not save every credit union, but endeavors to help credit unions “serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together,” as the sixth Cooperative Principle states. Collaboration is imperative in an environment where we are not only competing against one another, but also against the economy, increased compliance burdens, and rising technology and staffing costs.
I applaud Mid-Atlantic Corporate, and the credit unions that created Rekindle, for their spirit of cooperation and innovation. I encourage other credit unions to follow their example and consider a similar approach. We might be rivals at times, but we can still work together for the benefit of our members and industry.
Opinions expressed are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the institution.