As U.S. Thanksgiving approaches, here are grateful reflections on how well credit unions work together, and why they must carry this characteristic into the future.
When $95 million (USD) Community and Workers of Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union, Kingston, Jamaica, committed to switching to a new core processor, Sharetec, Lino Lakes, Minn., CEO Carlton Barclay anticipated visiting a few credit unions to learn from their experiences. What the CUES member didn’t foresee was his reaffirmation of the credit union cooperative spirit.
It was never more evident than when a team of seven representatives from C&WJ Co-operative CU traveled to the United States Sept. 25, to Oct. 1 to shadow two Sharetec-powered CUs: $157 million LorMet Community Federal Credit Union, Amherst, Ohio, and $96 million Ball State Federal Credit Union, Muncie, Ind.
What began as a somewhat typical training session soon turned into a mutually beneficial brainstorming event.
“We were made to feel so welcome. The credit unions we visited were extremely cooperative, beyond our expectations,” explains Barclay. “Our first day began at LorMet Federal Credit Union, and our first view was of their exterior sign extending a huge welcome to us. Our visit was made visible to their entire membership—that we, a small, Jamaican credit union, were part of their community.
“Everyone was incredible,” he adds, “and not just welcoming in a cordial sense. The teams at each credit union were open, candid and frank, discussing items in greater detail than expected. Not only were we able to brainstorm about the software conversion but also share experiences and empathize with each other on important issues we credit unions face.”
After spending a full day at LorMet FCU, the C&WJ Co-operative CU team continued to Ball State FCU.
“We spent the day with Ball State, and the care and attentiveness of their team were part of what made our visit with them particularly special,” Barclay says. “For one, we had a fantastic dinner event with the CEO where we discussed the importance of cooperation among credit unions, the World Council’s influence, and our roles as credit union leaders.”
Barclay believes that leaders of all credit unions have a responsibility to continue this heritage of mutual respect and cooperation.
“What impressed me so deeply was that we as credit unions (and people) have so much more in common than any differences. The few differences we may have can only enhance our respect for each other,” says Barclay.
“We have so much to learn from each other, and it can only make us stronger. We felt the bond of true cooperation immediately. Our visit went much further than discussing aspects of the software; it became a catalyst to discuss the shared struggles that we, as credit union leaders, face every day. I was gratified to see the credit unions (we visited) weren’t just paying lip service to our heritage.
“Of course, each country has its laws and governances, but we have much more commonality than differences,” says Barclay. “For example, strategies for growth are similar (i.e., mergers), and so are the human reactions to that growth. Increasingly, all credit unions grapple with the challenges inherent in adhering and acclimating to our heavily regulated financial services industry, no matter their location. And while our regulatory entities are different, we experience many of the same trials.”
In all, it was inspiring to see this high level of willingness.
“We learned from each other, both in everyday practices and long-range principles,” Barclay says. “We realize that sharing and learning are still what's most important.”
Stephanie Schwenn Sebring established and managed the marketing departments for three CUs and served in mentorship roles before launching her business. As owner of Fab Prose & Professional Writing, she assists CUs, industry suppliers, and any company wanting great content and a clear brand voice. Follow her on Twitter @fabprose.
One place credit unions regularly network is at meetings of the regional CUES Councils.