Underdog or undervalued: Small credit unions’ perspective on resilience and recognition

In the world of financial institutions, small credit unions often go unnoticed. Despite not having the grandeur or extensive marketing campaigns of their larger counterparts, they play a crucial and often underestimated role within our communities. To us, our small credit union isn’t just a financial institution; it’s the cornerstone of our local economy, offering a personal touch and a sense of belonging larger institutions struggle to provide.

The heart of the credit union movement: Small but mighty underdogs

With 22 years dedicated to the credit union movement, I’ve pondered if we adequately convey our history and essence. Our movement began with small cooperative groups driven by a desire to ensure affordable financial products and services for all. They were passionate about making a positive change, and this spirit lives on.

Small credit union employees invest time and effort, often with limited compensation, to help members buy homes or secure small loans. This commitment serves as a powerful driving force. Small credit unions are not just financial institutions; they’re vital community pillars, supporting the underserved and often overlooked, embodying the underdog spirit that never gives up.

As a new President/CEO, my mission is to remember our core purpose and share our history with our staff.

Community engagement and recognition: Shining a light on the undervalued

Rooted in specific communities, small credit unions have a unique bond with members. We know them by name, understand their financial aspirations, and help turn those aspirations into realities. This personalized interaction sets us apart.

Our commitment to the community is reflected in recognition, including the Dora Maxwell Award for social responsibility. We approach community service with enthusiasm, bringing our team closer together and supporting initiatives in the areas we serve. We plan our community service projects with the same enthusiasm that we do loan growth, demonstrating the undervalued potential that is often overlooked.

Pioneers of social justice and inclusion: Leading from the underdog position

Long before the broader financial sector embraced social justice, equality, and financial inclusion, small credit unions advocated for these principles. Our mission has always been to provide financial services for all, regardless of background, race, or gender.

Promoting equality and inclusion was ingrained in our identity. Small credit unions stand as beacons for these issues, challenging the status quo from an undervalued position.

Gratitude for support: Elevating the underdog allies

We’re grateful for support from organizations like the Carolinas Credit Union League, Carolinas Credit Union Foundation, and NCUA. Your Credit Union Partner, Scott Butterfield, A1 ATM, and Dynamic Quest have been invaluable allies who recognize the potential of the underdog.

A concern for the future: Elevating the undervalued role

There’s concern that the formation of America’s Credit Unions association might redefine small credit unions as those with 50,000 members or fewer. This metric doesn’t capture the essence of a small credit union’s role. Small credit unions face unique challenges and must compete with larger institutions while maintaining a personal touch. We need an association that will always champion the small credit union industry, elevating the undervalued role they play. This association will ensure that small credit unions are recognized for their invaluable contributions, safeguarding their unique identity and role in our financial landscape.

As the financial landscape evolves, it’s crucial to preserve the essential role that small credit unions play in serving local communities. Without a dedicated association that promotes and protects their interests, there’s a risk that their distinctive contributions may be overshadowed. Small credit unions have always been about personalized service, community engagement, and the promotion of financial inclusion, and we need to ensure these values endure.

The challenge of spreading the message: The underdog’s creative resilience

We lack the vast marketing budgets of larger counterparts, but we are adapting creatively. We may not have our name on stadiums, but we engage in conversations with our members about the detrimental impact of fees and the value of our services, exemplifying the underdog’s creative resilience.

The credit union difference: Unwavering in the underdog spirit

We’re committed to our community, and that sets us apart. We are a movement dedicated to a brighter future for all, despite our smaller budgets. We persevere in the face of challenges, living up to the underdog spirit that never backs down.

I do not foresee small credit unions ceasing to exist. However, with mergers happening every day, I implore you to appreciate their significance and encourage our industry to tell their story. Despite the obstacles we face, our mission remains steadfast.

When you seek financial assistance, remember the small credit union around the corner. Our unwavering commitment might be precisely what you need to secure your financial future and leave a positive mark on your community. Because we are the underdog, we’ll persevere!

Christie Smith

Christie Smith

Christie Smith President/CEO, Acclaim Federal Credit Union Christie Smith, CCUE, brings over two decades of credit union experience to her role as President/CEO. She's a passionate advocate for ... Web: acclaimfcu.org Details