This past week I was incredibly fortunate to participate in Crashing the Washington Credit Union League. Crash is a group of under-30 credit union professionals who are speaking up and saying “Hey! We want to participate too!” when it comes to important CU events and conferences.
It’s been a valuable experience. My first job out of college was with Whatcom Educational Credit Union in Bellingham, and I applied at the urging of my brother’s best friend who was employed there at the time. The first day of training had me rapt. “Did you know that their values are different than banks?” I told my parents, bubbling over with excitement. “Members are their share-holders, so they want to make their experience a positive and fulfilling one!”
I’d worked retail in college, and my dedication to service was recognized by my fellow employees there. Honestly, I can’t imagine not working in the service industry, though I recognize that I’m feeling drawn to serving my colleagues as well as members. Now with Verity Credit Union in Seattle, I’m recognizing that I can share what I’m bringing to the table with the world at large, and help others in the credit union movement.
The way that I want to do this: I want to help encourage and support credit union employees to find their fit. If we’re in the right fit, we’ll be happier employees. If we are happier employees, we’ll bring our ideas and excitement to the table. If we’re bringing our ideas and excitement to the table, our members will benefit. If our members are benefitting from the Credit Union Movement… I believe the world will be a better place.
Credit unions first began as a co-operative effort to serve underserved communities. Over the years, this has evolved, though that particular founding value isn’t always easy to see, nor is it often identified when people ask about the credit union difference.
Credit unions have evolved based on the belief that “this is how it has always been done” is a poor reason to not try something new. For example, someone came up with the idea of microfinance (the act of providing small loans to help poor and impoverished people to help them achieve their goals in their communities). Rather than saying that it couldn’t be done, credit union employees wondered “Why not?” [A great example of how microfinance makes a difference can be seen in the work of Fabric of Life, and through the efforts of its founder – and CU Person Extraordinaire – Carol Schillios.]
I wouldn’t say that our movement is struggling to come up with new ideas, but the regulations that are being imposed at a federal level apply to all financial institutions, and not just the banks that got us into this financial crisis. Our movement as a whole needs to come together and reaffirm our mission, and make clear our values to the world at large.
In helping employees in the movement find the right fit, and really encouraging the growth of a corporate culture that sustains and builds on those values, I believe that we can prove to the world that not only are we relevant, we are necessary. I intend to use this blog as a way to process the steps that our movement is taking, and as a resource for those within the movement, either as an employee, a member, or both.