Credit Union Values Never Get Lost In Translation

While working for the Bethpage Federal Credit Union in New York in 1980 part of my duties included business and new member development. In addition to branch operations management I would traverse the nation speaking with employees of the giant aerospace concern Grumman and their affiliates.

"Back in the day" the Grumman family affiliates included many diverse lines of manufacturing far beyond just making jet aircraft. Among those travels was a trip to Portsmouth, N.H. and the Pearson Yacht company. I was thrilled to meet the famous Bill Shaw, designer of many of the incredible yachts built by Pearson.

The purpose of my visit was to introduce the Bethpage FCU to the 400 or so Pearson employees. Much to my surprise, about 90% of the yacht builders and workers were Portuguese. These talented craftsmen did not understand our language and, as such, I was provided an interpreter to translate my story. The uniqueness of my presentation has not changed all that much in 30 years. I spoke about payroll deduction as a means for saving their hard-earned money. I discussed the process and manner in which loans were granted and the safety and soundness of the credit union. I specifically recall my sharing the importance of their membership as ownership in the financial institution. They listened attentively and were quite polite.

As you may imagine the Q & A was interesting, but the best thing of all: nearly half of the employees decided to become BFCU members and begin their payroll deduction. I learned later on that the Portuguese people are savers, and at that time did not feel comfortable with the banking alternatives in their area. The credit union reached out to them with the same principals and passion we have today, and the role we play in the country and for people of of all ethnicities gives me a great deal of personal pride in our CU system.

In summary, I still find myself in 2009 talking to prospective members about the many benefits and uniqueness of our credit union system. I guess the old phrase, "no matter how much things change they stay the same" seems to be a tribute to the stability and consistency I have personally observed during my credit union career.

Bob Dorsa is president of the American Credit Union Mortgage Association (ACUMA), Las Vegas.

Personal Recollections of CUs: A CU Journal Series

To mark the 100th Anniversary of Credit Unions, Credit Union Journal is publishing "100 voices" answering, "The one personal anecdote from my credit union career that comes to my mind and which sums up what credit unions are all about it is..." Wish to share your story? E-mail fdiekmann@cujournal.com. Limit is 400 words.