SAN ANTONIO – Jeffrey Farver, president/CEO of the $1.9 billion San Antonio Credit Union in Texas, believes the cooperative model has not changed since the 1930s when farm co-ops were first formed for farmers who needed to join together to market their farm products. “It was people helping people in a cooperative manner then, and it is today.” He noted that “credit unions were successful early on because they provided their blue collar and middle class members financial services that banks only provided the affluent.” He said also he has long been “intrigued by the urban myth” that “everybody served in the past by credit unions was down trodden. Rather, credit unions provided working people a value proposition and services they could not get from the banks and they will in the future.” Checking in with the Northwest, Tom Sargent, president/CEO of the $1.5 billion First Tech CU in Beaverton, Ore. maintains CU core values and mission remains the same, but it is evolving “in the way each credit union presents and delivers service.” “Each one of us has a different vision dependent on the needs and the demands of the members it serves,” said Sargent, adding “I respect my peers in the approaches they take in fulfilling that vision.” For years, First Tech’s vision has been to serve a sophisticated, educated high tech marketplace, but following a merger several years ago of a state employees CU, First Tech has had to adjust its own vision to meet different needs. “It was a learning experience for us to plug into different demographics,” he said. In West Virginia, Michael Tucker, past chairman of the West Virginia Credit Union League and president/CEO of the $50 million West Virginia Central CU of Parkersburg, says that “except for a few credit unions that might have lost direction” he sees no evidence that CUs in his state have lost their sense of mission. On the contrary, his own CU is lending more funds to modest income borrowers all the time and in his state that is a lot. “Seventy percent of the borrowers have incomes of $40,000 and 50% are to borrowers with $30,000 or less,” he said. His own CU began concentrating heavily on financial education in schools and “fine tuning our borrowing criteria” after the House Ways & Means Committee hearings of last year, he said. Most West Virginia CUs have all done the same and he noted the help that CUs provide those individuals of modest means including one CEO of a CU who voluntarily does taxes for members. For his part, Tucker says he is getting himself on civic boards, something he did not do before. For example, he joined the local chapter of the American Red Cross and the Parkersburg/Marietta, Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

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