A Vision for Protecting and Advancing the Cooperative Not-For-Profit Structure

Impact. Value. Structure.

Those three words were boldly underlined for members of the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) at the kickoff of the Association’s annual MAXX Convention in Boise on Oct. 5.

In the opening keynote address, NWCUA President and CEO, Troy Stang, and other members of the Association leadership team delivered a holistic look at driving the Northwest Credit Union Movement forward. Creating positive community impact and delivering tangible value to members is the best way for Northwest credit unions to protect their all-important cooperative not-for-profit structure in the public policy arena through advocacy, they said.

“Society today absolutely expects credit unions to make a positive impact in their communities.  However, as stewards of cooperatives, we know nothing is possible unless we can deliver real, tangible value to our memberships every day,” Stang said. “I believe when both value and impact are tangible and well-articulated, we will never have an issue defending, promoting, and advancing the Credit Union Movement.”

Stang outlined three key NWCUA priorities for 2022 that will enhance the Northwest Credit Union Movement’s ability to protect and advance credit unions’ operating environment:

  • Expanding and building on the Association’s data collection capabilities and practices through its unique Community Impact Reporting Tool, which enhances advocates’ ability to tell policymakers about the Credit Union Difference;
  • Accelerating grassroots advocacy efforts by involving a “deeper and wider” cross-section of credit union advocates with diverse backgrounds and skillsets in year-round advocacy; and
  • Placing credit unions at the forefront of innovation and technology exploration to deliver the best possible service and value to credit union members.

Stang said these proactive 2022 priorities will allow Northwest credit unions to create their own narrative with policymakers and avoid reporting requirements being placed on credit unions in other parts of the country.

“We will prove to Northwest public policy officials that credit unions don’t need one more onerous law or regulation,” Stang said.

Credit unions’ member-owned, not-for-profit structure makes them very different than other financial institutions “that must pay stockholders or investors on Wall Street,” said NWCUA Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy Officer Jennifer Wagner.

Instead, credit unions’ only focus is “to serve their member-owners’ financial needs,” Wagner said. By reinvesting in their members and their communities, rather than paying dividends to Wall Street, credit unions deliver on their “People Helping People” philosophy and justify their tax status with policymakers.

“Maintaining a modern-day not-for-profit cooperative structure is paramount to maintaining a healthy operating environment for credit unions so that you can serve consumers,” Wagner said.

Northwest Credit Union Foundation Executive Director Sharee Adkins detailed how credit unions’ positive impact on the communities they serve is the primary driver of the Credit Union Movement’s advocacy. She praised the Northwest credit union leaders for “leading the way developing and sustaining deep and meaningful community partnerships” that provide positive community impact. NWCUF, she said, can help to magnify those efforts.

“This Foundation exists to help credit unions expand and accelerate your impact,” Adkins told the credit union leaders.

She outlined how the Foundation’s Board of Directors “made an intentional shift to strategically focus time and resources in areas that are 100% aligned with credit union priorities and that achieve the greatest impact in the community.” Today, those efforts include access to financial services in rural communities, workforce housing, and exploring solutions to post-pandemic challenges and opportunities.

“Together, we’re tackling complex and significant issues,” Adkins said.

NWCUA VP for Strategic Partnerships & Resources Cameron Smith outlined the rapid evolution of the financial services landscape. Industry consolidation, advances in technology, changes in consumer behavior and demographics, and “an explosion of fintech” are all combining to create “a decade of disruption” in the industry. In addition, credit unions face increasing competition from large and small banks, large technology firms, and start-ups, he said.

“What that means is the chase to generate and deliver value to your memberships is not going to let up,” Smith said.

Strategic Link, the league service corporation for NWCUA led by Smith, will continue its work with Northwest credit unions to find the emerging services and technology that credit union members want, and work to get ahead of the rapid evolution in this arena, Stang said.

“They will not just look for innovative tools, but ensure there is a Northwest influence in the evolution of them,” Stang said. “All of which will help credit unions benefit from the upside of ownership in the future of financial services.”

Ultimately, Stang said, NWCUA’s focus on positive community impact, delivery of tangible member value, and protection of the not-for-profit tax structure are about allowing credit unions to do what they do best: serve their members.

“Your ‘why’ as a credit union is to improve the financial well-being of your members. When you do that successfully, your members and community thrive,” Stang told the gathering. “Likewise, your Association, Foundation, and Strategic Link exist to create and maintain a healthy operating environment for credit unions, so you can thrive in your purpose.”

Posted in MAXX Annual Convention.