All businesses, including credit unions, must face a new reality. For a decade, it seems credit unions have had a build it and they will come mentality. Credit unions know they’re great and assume others know it too. As Washington begins its grilling of Wall Street executives and how our economy got the way it is, it’s also a natural time for credit unions to reflect.

Credit unions are cooperatives organized to serve their members, but they are also financial services businesses. Credit unions need earnings to maintain their net worth and further invest in the business. If credit unions aren’t doing that, they won’t survive. If they aren’t fulfilling their purpose of serving members, they won’t survive. At times, this can create a philosophical tug-of-war for credit unions. For example, a member has been working hard to pull themselves out of debt only to get laid off. Recent history suggests the member fully intends to pay back the debt, but how long will it take that person to find a job, and if they’re already in a hole, how much longer will it take for the member to dig out? Valid questions to struggle with because if a credit union makes the wrong choice too many times, the rest of the membership could be put in jeopardy.

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