History

Our history is rooted in Edward A. Filene’s reliance on solid, innovative research. His spirit lives on as we pursue knowledge that benefits credit unions, their members, and all consumers of financial services.

2009–2014

2005–2009

  • Filene creates a multi-academic institution research fellows program in 2005 to connect with top thought leaders in the academic, nonprofit, and financial services worlds.
  • Mark Meyer becomes Filene’s CEO in 2006.
  • The National Credit Union Foundation adopts REAL Solutions as its signature program in 2006.
  • In 2007, Filene publishes a series of research briefs to keep young adults issues top of mind for credit unions through CU Tomorrow. The 30 Under 30 community also introduces product, service, and business model ideas for credit unions, geared towards attracting young adult members, employees, or volunteers.
  • A Summer Fellowships talent project in 2008 and 2009 places summer fellows, most of them MBA candidates, at credit unions across the country.
  • The Doorway to Dreams (D2D) Fund, Filene, and the Michigan Credit Union League launch Save to Win, the nation’s first prize-linked savings account program in 2008.
  • Filene averages 25 research releases per year, including:
  • One i3 team introduces The Savings Revolution, which inspires savings challenges among credit unions nationwide

2000–2005

1994–2000

  • Bill Kelly serves as executive director from 1994-1995.
  • Filene averages seven research releases per year, including:
  • HR 1151 – The Credit Union Membership Access Act becomes law in 1998. Filene’s research helped lay the groundwork for the Act, which greatly increased the potential for credit unions to serve millions of additional Americans.
  • Several workshops and a pilot explore the viability of providing check-cashing, payday lending, and other alternative financial services at credit unions. Swarthmore College Professor John Caskey’s research reports for Filene around the financial needs and preferences of low-income households and the efforts of credit unions to serve them prompted these programs.

1989–1994

  • CUNA Mutual Group, with support from the Credit Union National Association, state credit union leagues, and several credit unions, officially launch Filene Research Institute on May 31, 1989.
  • David Chatfield joins Filene as its first executive director in 1989.
  • The organization’s founders establish a research council of 25 credit union CEOs to explore, define, and oversee its research projects.
  • Filene partners with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Credit Union Research to produce research for its first 16 years.
  • Robert (Bob) Hoel joins Filene as executive director in 1991.
  • Filene averages four research report releases per year, including:
  • The organization’s budget grows from $70,000 to $1M.

Born in 1860 to Jewish immigrants, Edward A. Filene took over his family’s Boston clothing business at the age of nineteen when his father’s health began to fail. Despite his lack of formal schooling, Mr. Filene became one of the most ingenious retailing minds in the country, understanding that the best merchants do not sell products but serve human needs.

In 1908 Mr. Filene attended a meeting about spreading the idea of credit associations in the United States. He offered financial support to the credit union movement, and in 1933 he began touring the United States speaking on credit unions.

Mr. Filene kept the credit union movement going at a critical point in its development. He never organized a credit union, and he was involved in the organization of the national association in only a broad way. But he was the movement’s spiritual leader. He passed away in 1937 at the age of seventy-seven.

Adapted from The Debt Shall Die with the Debtor: The Story of CUNA Mutual Insurance Society.