Memo to Credit Unions: Embrace Diversity Now

This is a summer of discontent. Streets in many American cities, from Portland OR to Phoenix to Washington DC are filled with protesters demanding more opportunity, and better treatment for people of color.

What does this have to do with credit union people?

Potentially a lot.

Credit Unions Are Member Centric

Credit unions are not on the sideline of the fight for greater racial and gender and ethnic equality. Fourteen organizations—from CUNA Mutual to the African American Credit Union Coalition, Coopera, and Inclusiv—recently joined together to form the CU DEI Collection, which is built around this idea:

“We believe that diversity, equity, and inclusion is good business and is fundamental to a vibrant, relevant, and growing credit union movement.”

At a time when many credit union executives express frustration—as a buoyant national economy has imploded into a recessionary minefield—there just may be a path to prosperity and that path revolves around embracing people whom the big banks shun.

Hold that thought. What the DEI Collective organizers are saying is that doing good for the community and its peoples will result in good for the credit unions that participate.

The CU 2.0 DEI Podcast Series

You’d rather hear about all this than read it? We have you covered. There are six CU 2.0 Podcasts that form the DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) series including #100 with Victor Miguel Corro of Coopera, a CU DEI Collective member, 101 with Renee Sattiewhite of the African American Credit Union Coalition, Angela Russell of CUNA Mutual, and also Cathie Mahon, CEO of Inclusiv, also a CU DEI Collective member. And a podcast with Cliff Rosenthal, a pioneer in the CDFI world. And there’s a podcast with Pablo DeFillipa, also of Inclusiv and himself a former credit union CEO.

Another don’t miss is Bill Bynum of Hope CU.

Have suggestions for more DEI podcasts? Send them to


Go Where the Big Bank Banks Won’t Go to Win

The top 15 banks in the US hold over half the deposits and the other 10,000+ credit unions and community banks fight it out over the rest.

And then there is this startling statistic: By 2045, according to the Census Bureau, the US will be a minority majority country. The credit unions that know that now, and start acting, are the ones positioned to succeed in a changed country.

Is there opportunity among consumers who have hitherto been neglected by mainstream financial institutions? You bet there is—that is the loud and consistent message from the DEI advocates in the credit union universe.


The Credit Union Diversity Scorecard

Haven’t credit unions already done a lot to embrace diversity? Definitely. Some have. But, said Angela Russell, a vice president at CUNA Mutual and a guest in the CU 2.0 Podcast series, “We are doing better, but we have a long way to go.”

Yes but… will today’s calls for changes still be heard in 2021 and 2022, or is this a passing fad? That sounds harsh, but roll back to the late 1960s and the energy of the civil rights movement that had in fact produced tremendous changes (the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, and Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty) hit many roadblocks later in that decade and—in many eyes—progress halted.

“This time is different,” said Renee Sattiewhite, CEO of the African American Credit Union Coalition and a podcast guest. She said she is cautiously optimistic that much good will be accomplished for many who had been marginalized in the nation’s financial life.

Meantime, Pablo DeFilippi at Inclusiv, a guest on the podcast, and a past CEO of the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union in New York, tells what a credit union needs to do to support the DEI movement: “The credit union industry needs to reflect the community.” Is there diversity on your board? In your c-suite? In your overall employee ranks? The answer, at many credit unions, is there is not nearly enough diversity.

According to Victor Miguel Corro, CEO of Coopera, a Hispanic focused consulting firm and guest on the podcast, 90% of credit union board and c-suite slots are filled by non-Hispanic whites. And that just is not reflective of too many communities in the US today.


Now Is the Time to Make Changes at Your Credit Union

The time to make changes is here. Many board members are at an age where they may want to move on. Many senior credit union executives are eyeing retirement, especially as they see bumpy roads ahead due to the economy’s implosion. The opportunity for a personnel shuffle is here. Make the effort to make it happen is the strong advice from credit union DEI advocates.

Listen to the CU 2.0 Podcast DEI series—you will hear provocative thoughts but you will also hear “cautious optimism,” as many of the guests said, about the likelihood that credit unions will successfully make the changes that need to be made to stay in sync with the changing communities we live in.

The times indeed are a-changing. Change with them.

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