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Executives meet in a board room.

Since credit unions were first introduced to the public in the early 19th century, the idea was that this “un-bank” business would provide all the positive perks of a traditional investor-owned bank, but with better, more beneficial experiences and more opportunities for the consumer. The not-for-profit, member-owned credit unions would provide opportunities by way of a board of directors, duly elected by the group’s members.

Some things have not changed since then, as credit unions have successfully maintained that grassroots concept over the years. However, one thing has changed: Many of those credit unions have increased significantly in size. While their growth isn’t comparable to investor-owned banks, the credit unions are big enough to cater to their members’ needs by diversifying product offerings, increasing members and opening more branch locations in outside communities. The question now is: When the credit union adapts and grows to cater to its member base, should the old-school governance adapt as well? Filene’s report, “Governance Challenges in Credit Unions: Insights and Recommendations” (Pohler, 2017) aims to uncover what good governance looks like, and explores the value and risks associated with cooperative governance models.

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