The article by Frank J. Diekmann entitled, "Credit Unions? Snobs Who Are Based in Timbuktu" published in the May 21, 2012 edition of the Credit Union Journal raised some excellent points for consideration by credit unions and their trade associations.
Mr. Diekmann discusses the comments made by a focus group of consumers from Palm Beach County, Fla., when questioned about banks and credit unions. Suffice to say, there were no good things said about banks but credit unions did not escape some hard criticism as it relates to their presence, service, accessibility and purpose.
The article contains some very frank responses from the residents which clearly show that credit unions have a lot of work they need to do, but importantly, they have a great opportunity to capitalize on the consumers' frustrations with banks.
Some of the hard-hitting comments included words like "private establishment," "snobby," "never seen one," "lack of concern," "what would you even use a credit union for," "like a check cashing place" and "I thought it was for unions."
The last comment, which I have often heard, always brings a smile to my face. When I served as chairman of NCUA I frequently made the rounds of Congress meeting and talking to the members about credit unions and the agency. I approached one Congressman and said, "I'm Mike Fryzel, chairman of the National Credit Union Administration" to which he responded "Great, unions have always supported my campaign." Makes you wonder doesn't it?
Aside from the one congressman's confusion, credit unions and their trade associations must take notice of what is a sizeable perception about credit unions, who they are and what they do.
At no time has the opportunity been so great for credit unions to surpass savings and loans and become the second largest financial service provider in this country. At no time has the opportunity been so great to increase membership and get the message of not for profit but for service to every person in the United States. At no time has the opportunity been so great for trade associations to bolster the industry with widespread campaigns and instructional seminars to make credit unions a household word.
Frank Diekmann's column is a wakeup call and a clear challenge to the credit union industry.
I continue to echo the message, now is the time. Credit unions have weathered the tough financial challenges they faced with the corporate problem and a dismal economy. And during that difficult period, they remained true to their principles-they kept on lending, kept on helping their members and one another and did not cost the American taxpayers a single dollar.
Now is the time, to accept the challenge to have a credit union account in every American household.
Now is the time to make America a credit union nation.
Michael E. Fryzel, Board Member
NCUA, Alexandria, Va.