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All too often in the focus and rush to perform financially, business people lose sight of the value of trust. Financial institutions should be some of the most trusted businesses that exist, and yet the financial crisis was a demonstration for many consumers that the banking industry is not to be trusted to do what is best for consumers. Millennials are particularly wary of traditional financial institutions, which led to the growth in alternative financial services providers.

Yet many credit unions, the ultimate P2P lenders, are shifting to look like banks – the banks that made mortgages to people they knew couldn’t afford them. You might recall the board members who were asleep while their CEO carried $2 million in cash out of Shoreline FCU in her purse for more than 13 years. So many instances of internal fraud have been reported lately that it’s a tremendous reputational risk for all credit unions. The little bit of knowledge consumers do have about credit unions could be tarnished, and with that goes the trust (consumer awareness of credit unions is and has been an entirely other column).

As I mulled over this idea for my column, it was fortuitous that the opening keynoter at the CU Directors & CEOs Leadership Convention began with trust in the context of business. Don Peppers, founding partner of consulting firm Peppers & Rogers Group, pointed out that credit unions are “naturally trustable” from their business model and have a real opportunity in the current environment of consumers’ rising expectations with regard to trust. But trust isn’t just about acting with integrity; it’s also about truly knowing your members’ needs and often anticipating them.

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