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I couldn’t agree more with editor-in-chief Paul Gentile’s comments this past week in his column entitled, “Making the Case for Members.” The credit union movement is facing an identity crisis: What are we? Who are we? We keep defining ourselves using the banking system as our gold standard: better interest rates, lower fees, better “customer service”, better convenience, more personalized services, etc., but these attributes vary widely from credit union to credit union and don’t provide the consistency of message required to position the credit union brand in the consumer’s mind. I believe that the cooperative structure represents a collective and equitable alternative to private ownership and it provides an effective and empowering mechanism for regular folks to address their particular needs for products and services. The key to the competitive advantage of the cooperative model is that often times the end user of its products and services is also an owner, eliminating the need for one side to benefit at the other’s expense. Everyone wins! This is a powerful concept that has been forgotten. Membership indeed has its privileges but also comes with some responsibilities that only those who see themselves as owners are willing and able to exercise. Credit unions spend huge resources in financial education opportunities for their members but with no focus on what that membership really means, and even less emphasis in promoting member participation and involvement, which should be a major strategy of any membership outreach effort: Membership=ownership=loyalty. This identity crisis has also paved the way for the credit union conversions that have recently taken place, which threatens the very foundation of our system and weakens our best but most underutilized marketing tool: membership. Being a member-owned organization is our biggest competitive advantage and what the credit union difference is all about. It’s time to start promoting it. Pablo DeFilippi Board Member LESPFCU Manhattan

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