Occupy Wall Street’s Angst Opportunity for CUs
The growing frustration from protesters with the Occupy Wall Street movement can provide yet another entry for credit unions to empathize and meet their needs.
CUNA Mutual Group Chief Economist Dave Colby offered that theory as protesters become more vocal over their aggravation with Wall Street firms and banks that they believe are the culprits behind the country’s financial woes.
Others cite a lack of jobs and indifference from political leaders as reasons why an economic recovery has not gained sustained traction.
“At some point, people get so darn frustrated. We should take notice,” Colby said.
While many of the Occupy Wall Street protesters are young people or college students, Colby believes the anger cuts across all demographics.
“Whether it’s retirees with CD rollovers and [financial institutions] saying we’re only going to pay less than 1% or even though there’s an explosion in student loans, and some have gone back to school to get a master’s degree but they still can’t a job after graduating,” he said. “It’s people who may have been paying on their house faithfully but can’t get it appraised.”
With the protests, threats of a double-dip recession and fears stemming from financial defaults in other countries, Colby pointed to a line in the Serenity Prayer, which he cited in his September Credit Union Trends Report: “…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
“The only constant is your members and how you make their lives better,” Colby said. "Do what you can and don’t worry about what you can’t control.”
Colby advised credit unions to lend as much as they can and even take on a little bit more collateral risk, even though the NCUA might not agree with the latter, he pointed out. If a member has been making steady mortgage payments for seven years and they want to refinance, be flexible, he added.
“At some points, credit unions have to start growing loans. They can’t grow assets and manage the capital ratio while expenses continue to grow. The only solution is to grow loans.”