He conceded that the "breadth and depth and scope [of the downturn] has truly been staggering" but noted that the credit union movement used other periods of economic difficulties, such as the Great Depression, to strengthen its position.
During his speech to NAFCU's annual conference, he invoked words used by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to calm and inspire his fellow countrymen during the depths of World War II.
Becker said if credit unions take advantage of opportunities, especially the public's growing distrust of banks, it will be seen as the movement's "finest hour."
Churchill used the phrase in a speech to Parliament on June 18, 1940 just before the Battle of Britain and predicted that if the British won the battle, even if the British Empire were to survive for another 1,000 years, "Men will still say 'this was their finest hour.'"
Becker listed membership, especially if credit unions take advantage of Generation Y, share growth, credit cards and innovative products as areas of opportunity for credit unions.
He also praised NAFCU's efforts to help its members and said that despite the challenges of the recession. "We haven't skipped a beat in providing extreme member services."
Becker said because credit unions are well-trusted, they are poised for growth even though banks that have more branches are seen as being more convenient. "Convenience is less important than trust," he said. Becker pointed out that despite the recession, credit unions saw an increase in their membership and the balances in credit unions grew by 5%. He also noted that recessions hurt businesses that are "old, slow and bloated," and credit unions will thrive by avoiding that fate.