Northwest Credit Unions’ DEI Task Force Shares Recommendations
July 27, 2021
American credit unions entered the financial services landscape over the past 100 years to bring access, voice, democratic control, and direct accountability to the diverse group of individuals and small businesses they serve. As not-for-profit cooperatives, credit unions remain as committed as ever to their founding “People Helping People” mission.
As the needs of consumers and communities have continued to evolve, the Northwest Credit Unions’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force convened to recommend best practices for credit unions looking to advance their DEI work as employers, financial institutions, and community partners.
The recommendations can be found in the online DEI Resource Library.
Hosted by the Northwest Credit Union Association and Northwest Credit Union Foundation, 26 members of the task force, representing credit unions from varied asset sizes and geographic locations, met over the past year to identify actionable strategies. In its work, the Task Force reviewed case studies from around the nation and here in the Northwest.
“The Task Force worked tirelessly to discover, review, and discuss the most effective DEI-related tools, practices, and resources available,” said Troy Stang, NWCUA President and CEO. “The recommendations celebrate the work credit unions have done and are doing to holistically serve their members and communities.”
As the Task Force was working, our nation was focused on racial equity. That served as both a backdrop and an inspiration for the entire body of work. Recognizing that DEI practices are unique to each credit union and community, the recommendations encompass race, religion, gender, sexuality, age, and historically disadvantaged groups.
“Members of the Task Force recognize that DEI work is a long-term, non-linear journey,” said Sharee Adkins, NWCUF’s Executive Director and a liaison to the Task Force. “An effective commitment to DEI advances in stages and every credit union should determine its own path, desired outcomes, and timeline.”
The NWCUA and NWCUF Boards of Directors issued a joint resolution in support of the Task Force’s recommendations, encouraging “… Northwest credit unions to utilize these recommendations in their ongoing and unique journeys to advance DEI initiatives as employers, financial institutions, and community partners.”
Recommendations for Credit Unions as Employers
More than 21,000 professionals work for not-for-profit, cooperative credit unions in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. The Task Force made a series of eight recommendations and offered multiple action steps for credit unions to consider. Ideas include establishing employee resource groups to empower and support communities within the credit union, and proactively connecting employees from historically marginalized communities to opportunities supporting their growth, promotion, and retention.
“Credit unions with a diverse employee base are better positioned to understand and meet the needs of not only their team but also of their current and potential members,” said Jennifer Huggard, Task Force liaison and NWCUA SVP.
Recommendations for Credit Unions as Financial Institutions
Across the Northwest, 8.1 million consumers have chosen credit unions as their preferred financial services providers. The Task Force recommendations provide insight into pathways to serve members and consumers who could benefit by becoming members.
“With their not-for-profit, cooperative DNA, credit unions are uniquely positioned to understand and meet the financial needs of all people,” said Carmen Vigil, Task Force liaison and NWCUA’s AVP, Member Engagement. “The products and services they offer can help people achieve key milestones in their lives.”
Recommendations for Credit Unions as Community Partners
The task force recommendations note that “strong relationships with community organizations can help credit unions deepen community engagement in support of their mission.” These relationships could help credit unions better understand the unique issues impacting the communities they serve. Community organizations can connect those they serve to credit unions that could make a difference in their lives.
Several Northwest credit unions’ community strategies are featured as case studies in the recommendations.
Online Resources and Ongoing Programming
As a result of the Task Force’s work, an online DEI Resource Library was created, and NWCUA and NWCUF are committed to hosting and adding to it regularly. The DEI Resource Library is a hub housing a link to the full recommendations, research, case studies, and other collateral. In addition, an online discussion community is being developed, enabling credit unions to continue to learn and share in a real-time environment. Upcoming events including Executives@Sunriver, Aug. 10-12, and MAXX 2021, in Boise Oct. 5-7, will feature presentations and breakout sessions that bring greater insight to DEI and the importance of reaching and serving diverse consumers.
Credit unions are encouraged to visit the robust online resources, share them with their teams, and consider the recommendations to support their DEI journeys.