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DETROIT – Having a meeting in Motown, the soulful city that gave the world the Supremes and the Temptations, paying homage to Berry Gordy’s legacy was sure to be a common thread at this year’s African-American Credit Union Coalition conference. With the theme of `Synergizing Our Past, Present and Future, Breaking it Down in Motown,’ nearly 150 participants attended the AACUC’s fifth annual gathering at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center here. Formed in 1999, AACUC achieved 501(c)(3) status this year and has since grown to nearly 300 members governed by a nine-member board of African-American credit union president/CEOs and board members. Volunteers around the U.S. work on the Coalition’s internship, mentoring/African Development Fund triad, marketing and member relations, advocacy and funding development committees. “The AACUC is good for the industry because success breeds success,” Michigan Credit Union League President/CEO Davie Adams said in his opening remarks conference attendees. “The word `inclusive’ is something to be very proud of and the future success of credit unions depends on being inclusive. It’s a noble and worthwhile mission and one the league fully supports,” he said adding that MCUL’s nine-member board includes two African-Americans “but more needs to be done.” AACUC Chairman Hubert Hoosman followed Adams’ remarks, reiterating the Coalition’s mission of increasing the global credit union movement’s strength by adding the “focused perspective and energy of credit union volunteers and professionals of African-American and African descent.” “With the current number of African-American managers, board members and CEOs, we’re meeting our mission,” said Hoosman, who is also president/CEO of Vantage Credit Union in Bridgeton, Mo. “We’ve been approached by some groups wanting us to express a stance on certain issues, and we’re not saying we won’t take a stance but it has to be on issues that are important to us and our mission.” Indeed, Hoosman said more than half a dozen state leagues, at least a dozen industry partners including NAFCU and CUNA and Affiliates have offered support to the AACUC in the form of cash and in-kind contributions. Meanwhile, Rep. John Conyers, Jr., (D-Mich.) spoke on the perils of predatory lending and how credit unions “play a critical role in helping to create an environment that produces homeowners and creditworthy consumers.” Industry Strides, African-American Buying Power Other speakers also addressed the issues of the national economy and the purchasing power of African-Americans. Dr. Tun Wai, chief economist at NAFCU, for example dispelled the myth that employment figures are picking up, according to the latest industry figures. Wai said before expected sustainable growth can occur it will be measured against improved consumer spending, corporate merger activity increases, capital spending rises, employment lags and global demand. “We’re still waiting on that up tick,” Wai told conference attendees. “I’ve been talking about rate increases for years – and I’ve always said be prepared when it happens. The stubbornness in the economy is with employment.” Wai also warned that because 2004 is an election year, “people are going to vote with their jobs” and “Mr. Bush is going to have some problems,” adding that he is the first president since Herbert Hoover to have such high unemployment numbers. On a more positive note, 64% of new home purchases will be fueled by African-Americans and other minorities over the next seven years and credit unions are poised to be a part of that expansion, said Jeffrey Hayward, senior vice president at Fannie Mae. Roughly $3.2 trillion in mortgage originations are expected this year and mortgage debt will exceed $14 trillion by 2010, Hayward said. “Large banks are starting to figure out that there is a growing, non-white segment that are buying homes and they believe they can penetrate but I don’t believe they can do it as well as credit unions,” Hayward told the AACUC. “Banks see this a transaction, credit unions see it as a relationship.” Indeed, with 38 million African Americans accounting for $650 billion in spending in 2002, credit unions may need to assess how they manage their credit card portfolios, said Bill Mathis, senior vice president at MasterCard International. In 2002, 120 portfolios traded hands and the “old real estate model” of “making cosmetic changes and repairs and selling (portfolios) for a higher value” is antiquated, he said. “Credit unions need to ask are we leaving money on the table, do we know where the leaks are and what will we lose in long-term products-per-household,” Mathis said. “It’s not just about credit cards. Long-term members value services and convenience,” and selling a portfolio may lead to “cut ties.” National Foundation of Credit Counseling President/CEO Charles Brown refuted the misconception that debt mismanagement is regulated to the poor, saying consumers from “all spectrums of society” visit the agency’s 1,000 offices nationwide. A 2002 study from the NFCC and the Georgetown University Credit Research Center on the impact of credit counseling on subsequent borrower credit usage and payment behavior found that those who seek intervention see improvement in credit scores, fewer late payments, lower credit card balances and less frequent use of credit lines. Brown said credit unions have been a “strong force” in educating members about debt management and financial literacy. NCUA Vice Chairwoman JoAnn Johnson also spoke at the Coalition’s meeting, citing the agency’s record with member business proposals, faith-based credit unions, corporate credit unions and prompt corrective action, the creation of a field of membership manual and the recent reduction of NCUA’s budget “with an aim towards accountability.” She also commended the U.S. Small Business Administration for its work with the more than 100 credit unions that are now approved lenders. Leon Peace, CUNA’s manager of tax, pensions, and housing told attendees detailed the industry’s most pressing legislative issues including individual retirement accounts, pension reform and housing concerns. Isaac Fulwood, NCUA Regional Capital Market Specialist, deciphered asset liability management including the risks of not knowing whether there’s an adequate degree of integration between balance sheet risk management and strategic planning. Fulwood also discussed the perils of not knowing how adequate controls over liquidity risks are and the oft-misunderstood 300 basis point rate. This year’s AACUC conference continued to build on the group’s mission of promoting inclusiveness with more muscle targeted at “nailing down administration needs, enhancing communication within the organization and increasing funding” Hoosman spoke of AACUC Chairman Emeritus Michael Hale’s idea – what Hale, president/CEO, Andrews FCU in Suitland, Md. describes as a “big, hairy, audacious goal” to create a credit union that would serve fraternities and sororities and groups such as 100 Black Men of America, Inc. “Tell me and I’ll forget,” Hoosman told attendees. “Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I’ll understand. This is your organization.” AACUC heads to Atlanta for next year’s meeting. -

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