May 25 2012

International Cooperative Governance and Market Trends


One of the international cooperative principles calls for cooperation among cooperatives. But we credit unions don’t always do a good job of practicing what we preach—for example, taking advantage of the combined knowledge and experience of our cooperative brethren.

For every challenge that an individual credit union has faced, the odds are good to excellent that another credit union or cooperative bank has faced, and overcome, something similar.

With this in mind, the Filene Research Institute and Credit Union Central of Canada brought together experts from the United States, Canada, and “across the pond” to share their experiences with a host of challenging issues, like consolidation, governance, and efficiency—issues that many of us have faced in the tumult of recent years.

Our discussions covered the changing face of credit union gover- nance, the threat of demutualization, and the importance of integrity in credit union efforts to differentiate in a crowded marketplace.

We also looked at a new cooperative paradigm that recognizes the powerful role loyalty plays in building long-term relationships, and we reached out to an expert in the field of behavioral economics to better understand something we see every day: consumers acting in not quite rational ways. With an eye toward regulation, we also re-examined the ever-popular “level playing field” in favor of a better sports metaphor: competitive balance.

A theme quickly surfaced: What we do must reflect a sincere effort to improve the well-being of our members. This means that we must have, as one presenter put it, “humility and sensitivity with respect to moments of truth,” and we must recognize that the best credit unions aren’t afraid to ask each other for help.

Report Number 272