Five years ago, I left the credit union movement after working with religious fervor to move the industry back to its roots – that is to serve people of small means. I worked hard to establish community charters in low-income communities and to expand mentoring and training opportunities for low income designated credit unions. Since I left, the low-income designation has become toothless, mentoring programs non-existent, and the field-of-membership designation meaningless. We are operating tax-free banks. Recently, MacDill FCU started an ad campaign in the Tampa Bay, Fla. area aimed squarely at banks. It begins by showing a male in a suit sitting alone with a sad face. After he makes a decision to use MacDill FCU, he joins a crowd of other professionally dressed people leaping for free money. What really burns me about this television commercial is that the original field-of-membership, young men and women ready to die for their country, is non-existent in this ad campaign. Unfortunately the only organization getting free money is the credit union. With its unfair tax free advantage and a field-of-membership so expansive that it’s using television commercials to increase membership, this credit union has grown to eight locations in six counties. Some locations are more than a day’s drive from its original field-of-membership. This credit union is nothing more than a tax-free bank, offering almost every financial service and operating with an unfair advantage. After much thought and prayer, and as a person who previously promoted shared branching to reduce cost and serve more people, believes in less taxes, less government and more freedoms, and vigorously defended the tax free designation, I find myself altering my stance. Credit unions with more than five branch locations should be taxed. Credit unions that fail to mentor or partner with low-income designated credit unions should be taxed, and credit unions that fail to serve significant populations of small means should be taxed. Since I left the movement, a new President has started a faith-based initiative which credit unions should embrace as a way to serve populations of small means. Partnership and mentoring should increase among faith-based credit unions and the low-income designation used as a guide to determine how well the movement is serving populations of small means. A failure to adopt these initiatives may see the end of our special designation. George Farrell Founder Congress of Religious Credit Unions Tierra Verde, Fla. Editor’s note: The Congress of Religious Credit Unions no longer exists.

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