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Has Anything Changed?

Almost twenty years ago, Callahans had a program of hiring five new college grads annually for the company’s future growth. There was a two week, full-time orientation to introduce the credit union movement and the company’s history before the new employees began a six month rotation among the firm’s operating units.

In the two-week introduction , we would invite a credit union CEO to speak about why they chose a career in credit unions and their vision for cooperatives.

A frequent guest was Jim Blaine, the now retired CEO of State Employees Credit Union in North Carolina. It was and is the 2nd largest credit union in the country.

Jim is a master story teller. He makes his points with directness. He seeks agreement as he goes along. He wants you to share his beliefs.

The Never Ending Credit Union Challenge

Even with all of his distinctive rhetorical skills, the one assertion that stands out for me from his presentations is:

“In America today, those that have the least, or know the least, pay the most for financial services.”

From this factual foundation, he would then describe his business tactics: the non-conforming variable mortgage with every member paying the same rate, no indirect auto loans, a simple savings account, no paid advertising, etc.

While one might debate the tactics, his observation still stands as a challenge for today’s cooperative executives: what are credit unions doing about this persistent market reality for America’s consumers?

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