The Real Capital Powering Credit Unions

In a recent podcast interview by Robert McGarvey, CEO Randy Karnes summarizes CU*Answers’ approach to strategy. On more than a dozen business issues from culture to market analysis, his concise insights are extraordinary.

At a time when supplemental capital for credit unions is a topic of regulatory review and wide industry interest, his comments on the CUSO’s approach to financial soundness, especially capital planning, are especially relevant.

As he explains, for his CUSO patronage by the owners is more valuable than dollars of capital. The reason is that patronage is “belief, persistence and cash flow.” Capital dollars have to be paid back. Patronage sustains and grows.

The Message for Credit Unions

All of the proposed approaches to supplemental capital will need to be paid back. The real “capital” that has been the source for all credit union’s soundness from day one is the member relationship. Member loyalty, use and trust are the patronage that sustains viability even if net worth ratios fall below well-capitalized.

The reason for 208 assistance in the FCU Act is to allow members to “recapitalize” their credit union over time through their patronage. When PCA or other supervisory actions prevent members and management from recovering from setbacks, the fundamental strength of the cooperative model is compromised.

Almost all credit unions active today, were founded without financial capital. Their financial success is created over years or even decades of member participation.

When the success or status of a credit union is measured by only financial yardsticks, sooner or later, that framework will be found wanting. It overlooks the fundamental difference between a member-owner cooperative and a for-profit financial alternative.

The message for credit unions from this CUSO’s 50-year history may be that all financial capital is supplemental. Longevity requires relationships. That is the cooperative difference and unmatchable advantage.

To listen to Randy’s 34 minute interview by Robert McGarvey’s CU 2.0 Podcast , Episode 47, visit:

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