WASHINGTON-One lesson that should not have been learned during the recession to: trying to minimize or even eliminate risk altogether.
"Yes, credit unions need to do what we can to make sure we are measuring and monitoring risk, but that doesn't mean minimize it," said CUNA Economist Mike Schenk. "You can't serve the member if you're too focused on eliminating risk."
Another key lesson: the other credit union difference. "Credit unions, unlike banks, serve two important roles during economic downturns. They serve as a place people can put their money during a flight to safety, but they are also a countervailing force against the economic cycle. You see loans growing at credit unions while they are shrinking at commercial banks. You also see deposits grow at twice the rate as at commercial banks."
This allows credit unions to continue serving their members, even as banks back away from their customers, resulting in a significant increase in loyalty, he said.
"These times serve as an excellent springboard for credit unions to get the word out about the credit union difference, ad the people we got as a result of the way we acted during the downturn will be with us and be loyal to us for a very long time to come.
"I guess the lesson is that the model is not broken, it really does work," Schenk offered. "But now we have to deliver on that promise, and it's not just about rates. It's also about service and convenience, and that's why credit unions must learn to collaborate even more than they already do.
Other lessons and fun facts from the recession, according to Schenk:
• Capital is king.
• From the end of 2007 through 2011, lending grew 8% at credit unions, while it declined 7% at banks.
• In 2011, CUNA estimates credit union members saw $6.3 billion in direct benefits from their membership in credit unions, and roughly $50 billion over the last six years.