Change is inevitable. Whether you like it or not, whether you do or you don't want it to happen, whether you advocate the status quo or you don't — change will take place with or without you on board.

Nowhere has change been felt more over the last six-plus years than in the financial sector. We all know when change occurs in that environment it affects not only the business community but every person in the country.

The recession of 2008 changed the financial environment and impacted the lives of millions for decades to come.

The aftermath of the failures of banks, insurance companies, investment firms and corporate credit unions resulted in business and investment losses that trickled down and impacted individuals, their jobs, their savings and their retirements.

Millions of foreclosures left families homeless, gutted the real estate industry, forced financial institutions to rethink and severely curtail their lending practices and led regulators, in some cases, to over react and over correct.

The business environment, feeling the effects of the economic downturn, cut their labor forces putting millions on the unemployment lines and changed the lives and future of those individuals, their families and the entire country. Nothing would be the same again.

The climb back up has been slow, frustrating and painful and it is not over yet. It is not easy to make up losses, reestablish yourself and get back on the path you were on and felt comfortable travelling. Things changed and businesses and individuals needed to adjust if they wanted to survive and succeed.

The year 2008 gave us less of everything. There are fewer banks, credit unions, retailers, manufacturers and jobs. And in looking at that change, the only area we can hope that there will be more going forward is jobs. All the entities that have shrunk will remain that way. If they have not totally closed, they have consolidated or merged and their numbers will be fewer forever.

The credit union industry felt the impact as much as any sector and as a result its numbers have decreased. Fortunately, those that have survived are stronger, their assets have grown and their membership increased. Hard work, being better than other financial institutions, dedicated volunteers and management along with remaining true to the philosophy of people helping people has allowed many credit unions to weather the storm and actually improve.

One way credit unions have been able to grow and survive is through the merger process. Most have been voluntary. Boards and management have made sound decisions to join forces with other credit unions in order to continue to provide additional and excellent financial services in a better, more efficient way.

This merger trend will continue as the industry, the financial community and our economy adjusts to what has taken place and determines everyone's role going forward. Mergers should not be looked upon as bad for the industry. They shrink credit unions in numbers but create stronger, more viable institutions.

If credit unions are to continue to be players in this new environment, they must acknowledge that change is taking place and be the ones helping to determine the path that is to be followed.

With new leadership in place at both national associations, changes at NCUA and state regulators across the country, as well as numerous new credit union CEOs taking the helm, everyone must work together to form a common bond to achieve the goals and objectives that will establish credit unions as a viable entity for decades to come.

Change is here, but change can be good.

Michael E. Fryzel is an attorney and consultant to the financial services industry with offices in Chicago, Illinois. He is a former chairman and board member of the NCUA. He can be reached at meflaw@aol.com