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“There are a lot of different things going on in the industry with different strategies being done by different organizations. But the message is not as consistent as it should be. It’s certainly part of our strategic plan. [The philosophy] is in our mission statement. On the education front, we’re doing a number of partnerships with businesses and schools. Twice a month, employees donate to an account and we find families that are in need that [can use the donation]. We give employees a certain number of paid time-off hours to donate their time in the community. “We [credit unions] need to talk more about our successes and who we are. The spirit is alive and well but it’s not always consistently transmitted to the community at large.” “I am a firm believer in the credit union difference. I still think [the] philosophy is relevant. We have to let people know how we’re different from banks. More credit unions are getting into business lending but it’s for smaller businesses that banks won’t touch. We offer business lending but getting the word out has been a challenge. Some might think `why would you go to a credit union for a business loan.’ That’s been a challenge. Another challenge is a lot of credit unions are tied to their original sponsor. Our name still reflects Warren Air Force Base. We hear it all the time-people not knowing they can join. “Wyoming is a rural state with large land and low population. We serve in rural communities where the level of poverty is low so the philosophy is alive for us. We’re still a viable option for those communities that have lower household incomes. We happen to be the largest credit union in Wyoming but we’re still competing against larger credit unions and larger, national banks. Financial literacy is what we do and it’s fundamental to people helping people. We provide financial education so that people can better themselves. If they have collection issues, we work with them to get their credit back on track. I think credit unions play a strong role in providing services [to lower-income persons].” “For our credit union, [the philosophy] is very much alive. Now, across the country, you’re seeing some divergence from it. We have situations where credit unions are converting to mutuals and there are probably some instances where people are doing it for personal gain. The philosophy has been an integral part of our movement for such a long time. I grew up in the movement, having been in it for 40 years. I’ve worked as examiner, as a CEO, a problem solver for a conservatorship for NCUA so I’ve worked on all sides of this. “The philosophy is still there but we don’t do a really good job of telling our story. Some of our newer employees need to know. It’s not that it’s bad to bring someone from outside [the credit union industry] but they need to be aware of the philosophy. We need to tell them what it really means. I feel strongly about that. Most people who’ve been in the credit union industry are not doing it for the money. We’re paid significantly less than banks and S&Ls. If I didn’t agree with the philosophy, I would not have been here for 40 years. “When you go out and poll the general public, what they know about credit unions is very little. The credit union philosophy of people helping people is being concerned about members’ lives. Another way you can tell [the philosophy] is very much alive is you still have a lot of interplay with credit unions developing programs together without competitive worries. It’s credit unions helping credit unions. Credit union employees helping members.” Tony Buerkley, president/CEO Hometown Credit Union Kulm, N.D. Assets: $29 million Members: 2,595 “I don’t ever see where the philosophy will ever change. I’ve been here 32 years and the philosophy has always been not for profit but for service. We’re still a service organization and we’re in a small community of 450. We’re concerned about our neighbors. Our philosophy has always been service.” There’s pressure being put on banks and in other industries. You don’t hear talk of bank conversions here in North Dakota. Helen Smith, president/CEO Shreveport Federal Credit Union Shreveport, La. Assets: $57 million Members: 15,640 “I do believe the philosophy is alive and well. It is still strong in the movement and I use that word intentionally. I do believe there are some threats and not all of those are external. I am an ex-banker and I don’t have a problem with bankers coming across the wall. But I do think bankers should have indoctrinations into what the credit union movement is about. “The examples that I can see that demonstrate the strength of the philosophy is our reaction when Louisiana was hit by Katrina and Rita. The movement came forward and embraced the entire state. Because of what the movement has done, many of the credit unions are standing strong, tall and confident. I still think there is some work that the industry can do to strengthen the movement. It’s important that we gain seriousness about our discussion on serving the underserved. NCUA is making efforts to [do this]. We’re assembling the next generations of leaders at my credit union and they’re not necessarily on my executive team. We spend time with them, showing them what the philosophy really means. The next step is to find a team of volunteers [to mentor] for board positions. That could be a death knell if we don’t have folks who serve as volunteers.” Maurice Simard, president/CEO Triangle Credit Union Nashua, N.H. Assets: $258 million Members: 27,704 “The philosophy is very much relevant. We spend a lot of time supporting the community. Unlike the first credit unions that supported a group of people, we support different groups of people who need financial services. Everyone in management is required to belong to one organization in the community. Banks in New Hampshire are mostly owned by out-of-town people. The commitment to the community is not like it used to be. [Credit unions] have taken over that responsibility. The size of the credit union really doesn’t matter. There are larger credit unions like (Digital Federal Credit Union) that are still doing things in the community. I don’t buy into the size issue. “I don’t think people realize how much credit unions do in their community. I feel if people really knew all the things we do, they would be surprised. A lot of people still don’t know they can join a credit union. The dollars that they spend at other institutions, they would save a lot of money-if they knew about us.” Yvonne George President/CEO St. Thomas Federal Credit Union St. Thomas, Virgin Islands Assets: $33 million Members: 5,795

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