The Accidental Credit Union Member
I made $5.00 an hour when I was 9. Every Friday afternoon my mom would take me in to work with her to clean my uncle’s office building. I vividly remember “cleaning” meant scuffing the walls with the vacuum and collecting a Santa-like bag of trash from all the offices. If I did a satisfactory job and it was on the right Friday (aka payday), my mom would hand me my arguably well-deserved check from my gracious uncle. After our strenuous workday, my mom and I would head over to the bank right down the road. It took a couple years of maturing and a few jobs later before I even noticed that the bank I went to wasn’t actually called a bank but rather a credit union. It performed the same services as a bank, so I thought nothing of it; must be a fancy bank or something.
More than a fancy bank
My mom clearly understood the importance of a credit union by financing our money there and I wish I could say the same. I wish I could say I fell into the credit union industry because I supported their mission and purpose. Too much time elapsed before I even started to comprehend the many reasons you should clearly be part of a credit union, but instead by happenstance, I landed a summer internship my junior year of college at CUNA Mutual Group. It wasn’t until that year (21 years old) that I finally started to understand why my mom made that decision to join a credit union such a long time ago. At CUNA Mutual Group, I was on the e-commerce team where I helped various ongoing website projects including boosting SEO efforts and researching content strategy. The summer flew by but I grasped a totally new understanding of the cooperative model and credit union mission from learning workshops and co-workers. I still didn’t fully understand the industry in its entirety since it was only a summer and I was only exposed to one small facet of the organization that seeks to do so much to help.
Once I got to Filene as a Marketing + Communications Intern, everything credit union came full circle for me. I was exposed to the vast body of quality work that Filene delivers with such a lean team with the sole purpose to provide support and research to advance the boundaries of the industry. Filene really opened my eyes to the aura of passion and insights that employees and supporters have for credit unions, it was truly inspiring to witness.
'Credit union' on purpose
When I convey what I do here at Filene and what Filene does to my friends, it always results in backpedaling to explain what a credit union even is, what they stand for and why you should care. Every time I’ve had this conversation, it ends with “If this is all true, then why isn’t everyone apart of a credit union?” After I leave Filene to partake in the working world, I will continue my due diligence to spread the credit union mission. But I benevolently ask you, credit unions, to take stronger action to communicate your reason for existing and spread the people helping people spirit. I hope in the future that others bank at credit unions because they understand and support the cooperative initiative rather than simply hoping their parents banked with a credit union or thinking a credit union is a fancy bank. If my mom didn’t bank with a credit union or I didn’t have my internship experience at these places, I would not be at a credit union. Whether it’s now or down the road, we have the ability to change people’s lives financially; and we have to communicate stronger that one's financial institution of choice makes all the difference there.
Lastly, I would like to thank Filene for teaching me so much about marketing, credit unions, and that you can have fun while doing meaningful work. Although I learned way too much to express in a single blog post, I am so proud to be a Filene’er for life.
If you're interested in continuing this conversation or want updates on my efforts to continue to communicate the credit union difference to those who might otherwise be none the wiser, connect with me on LinkedIn or shoot me an email.