This is what cooperation looks like: Part two

Last month I shared what turned out to be one of the best days in my CU life. The grand opening of the CO-OP Park in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Truly a tribute to the 6th cooperative principle: cooperation among cooperatives.

Little did I know that another monumental day was on the horizon.

It all started at the Underground in Vegas in 2019. Sue Mitchell ask me to moderate a conversation between Randy Karnes, CEO of CU*Answers and Sarah Snell Cooke, Principal Cooke Consulting Solutions. Randy opened up with this statement, and I’m paraphrasing:

“In any industry, where there are no new entrants, and there is massive consolidation of the existing, that signals the beginning of the end of that industry. And that is what is happening to credit unions.”

Well that lit a fire in me and for the past two years I have interviewed folks that have tried to start a new credit union and failed, tried and just bailed, and one that got a charter, Clean Energy Credit Union.

So why is it so hard to start a credit union today? Simple, it’s no longer anyone’s job. Trade associations stopped helping start-ups years ago, CUNA doesn’t even have a department for it. NCUA’s job is not to help credit unions get a charter, their job is to approve the charter and the current process is daunting to say the least.

Here’s what a board member had to say about their experience:

  • It took three years to start this credit union.
  • No one at the NCUA was assigned to this function
  • Felt like a tennis match. They would serve the ball and wait months for the ball to come back.
  • When they would not respond to emails, they would send the NCUA a certified letter. Then they would get a response.
  • Had to raise $1,000,000.00 before they would approve the charter.
  • Did it the hard way with donations from entrepreneurs that believe in the mission
  • It was difficult to find a CEO willing to be employee number one.
  • NCUA liked that they had board members that were active and engaged.
  • Persistence and being the “squeaky wheel” was how they were finally successful.
  • It would be great to have a database of people that would like to help start-up credit unions

We are fortunate that both Vice Chairman Kyle Hauptman and Board Member Rodney Hood are committed to making this process easier.

In my interviews I found there was a group of folks meeting every other Wednesday evening (via Zoom of course) that were trying to form three de novos:

  • Nirvana, serving the LGBTQ+ communities
  • Returning Citizens, serving previously incarcerated individuals and their families and
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities

I started sitting in on these meetings to listen to their challenges. We lovingly called it the “De Novo Support Group.” One day a member said “You know, there ARE people out there that want to help new credit unions but it’s just not ‘Googleable.” So we decided on that day we needed to build a website, a clubhouse of sorts where we could share resources.

I have enough experience with Wix to be dangerous. I had just finished purchasing the URL when I got an email from Brian Wringer at iDiz Incorporated. He had recently interviewed me and Madam Nymphadora on his podcast GoodiDiz where we both spoke of the de novo support group. In his email he said they have been thinking a lot about our conversations and sincerely wanted to know how iDiz Incorporated could help.

If you’re not familiar with this agency, check out their message on their home page…

“Let’s do more good for more people.”

They build amazing brands and websites for credit unions. They offered to build ours, design a logo, and create a brand for FREE!!! We are going to have our clubhouse built! Just two weeks prior to this conversation Sue Mitchell from the Underground read the story of the CO-OP Park and wanted to know if I would be part of the Rock Stars Underground on November 8th in Las Vegas! Of course I said “Heck yes and can we talk about the de novo issue as well?”

Long story short … iDiz Incorporated built the clubhouse (website) in just TWELVE days. Just in time to debut it at the Underground. It was a true barn raising. Since the official launch we have had an incredible response with people stepping up to volunteer time, money, resources, services, you name it. And we’re just getting started.

We are fighting for the future of credit unions … even if we may not be around to see it.

Are you in?

Denise Wymore

Denise Wymore

Denise started her credit union career over 30 years ago as a Teller for Pacific NW Federal Credit Union in Portland, Oregon. She moved up and around the org. chart ... Web: Details