The beauty of being small

Closeness and familiarity with members is par for the course at many small CUs.

by. Bill Merrick

When John Graham goes to the grocery store, chances are he’ll pick up milk, eggs—and quite possibly an auto loan.
“I’m always amazed how people will come up to you in the store and say, ‘I have this financial problem and I need some help,’ ” says Graham, president/CEO of $63 million asset Kentucky Employees Credit Union in Frankfort, and chairman of CUNA’s Small Credit Union Committee. “Or you’ll run into a member who’s buying a car, and before you know it, you’ve got a new car loan when you just went to the store for groceries.”
This closeness and familiarity with members is par for the course at many small credit unions—and a characteristic that’s hard to duplicate once a financial institution reaches a certain asset threshold.
That personal touch is one of the few advantages small credit unions have over their larger brethren. Flexibility is a close second.
Graham likens large credit unions to battleships and small credit unions to jet skis. “It takes a long time to turn a battleship around, but a jet ski can turn on a dime,” he says, adding that his analogy isn’t a criticism of large credit unions, just an observation that it’s harder to maneuver when an organization has more moving parts.
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