I enjoyed Credit Union Journal Editor in Chief Lisa Freeman's column about credit unions and their "religion." While I believe almost all remain true to their philosophy and beliefs, I see no drawback to those who may choose to take the words "credit union" out of their name, having made the decision that it is best for their continued growth and ability to attract new members/owners/customers.
"Bank" is a generic term. In today's world it probably refers more to financial transactions than the brick and mortar place where people go to do their business. It would be interesting to hear how many would respond to the question "where do you bank?" by naming a credit union.
A "banker" deciding to crossover and become a credit union employee quickly becomes a "convert" and in many cases becomes one of the best "disciples" for the movement as they are the best at seeing the difference and "preaching" the value of membership.
Fields of membership (FOM) have long been a topic of discussion in the industry. The NCUA Board is now taking FOM up as a subject to address and implement changes clearly showing the importance the subject still commands. A progressive approach to allow greater flexibility in that area will not spell doom but rather progress that will allow credit unions to grow, improve and achieve greater success.
As Freeman points out, credit unions remain the better deal for consumers. Having established a tradition of better service and better rates, those who know credit unions quickly point out those two prominent traits. The challenge has always been educating consumers about the existence of credit unions and the fact that there is at least one that every person is eligible to join.
A rose is a rose by any name as a credit union will always be a credit union regardless of any variation in the sign on the building.
Michael E. Fryzel is an attorney and consultant to the financial services industry with offices in Chicago. He is a former NCUA chairman and board member. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.