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L-R: James Likens, President of Western CUNA Management School (WCMS); Gigi Hyland, Executive Director of the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) and former Board Member of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA); Richard Johnson, long-time credit union leader and Board Member of the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation; and Michael Steinberger, Dean of WCMS

updated 07/21/14 04:11 PM
Foundation Leader Addresses Colloquium
The foundational philosophy of credit unions isn’t dead. But keeping true to the movement’s ideology means staying nimble in how it’s executed and harboring an open mind to change.

With passion in her voice, Gigi Hyland expressed these feelings about the industry last week during the Richard Myles Johnson Colloquium in Credit Union Philosophy at Pomona College in Claremont, CA. The yearly event draws Western CUNA Management School students from throughout the United States and other leaders from the industry.

Hyland is executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF), and most recently known for her work as a board member for the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) from 2005-2012. Her words come 80 years after the Federal Credit Union Act was passed into law in 1934.

She said credit unions can grow larger and still keep their “people helping people” beliefs as long as their basic ideology and commitment to lifting the human condition doesn’t waver.

“Our business model can’t change. If that’s lost, then all the rest is lost,” Hyland said. “The challenge for all of you leaders is this: It’s important to listen to what your members need, what they expect, and what they demand.”

Without the credit union “prism” to see through, Hyland would’ve “been a different regulator” during her time at NCUA, she said. She was the only board member with direct credit union experience at the time.

Some noteworthy quotes and excerpts from her speech and question-and-answer session with the audience include the following:

  • Getting credit unions to let go of their own identities and cooperate—there are ways to make this happen. But you have to let go of the ego. It’s all about the members.
  • Why philosophy? What does it have to do with credit unions? In the credit union system, philosophy makes all the difference in what credit unions can do compared to other financial institutions.
  • An online survey of 25,000 Americans by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) found that 19 percent said they spend more than they earn, and 56 percent could not come up with $2,000 within one month to pay for an emergency expense. These statistics are our colleagues, our neighbors, our friends. Credit unions have a unique opportunity to help these people.
  • Credit unions can’t be surprised about what regulations are issued, and they have to be willing to fight back so regulators can strike a balance between safety and soundness.
  • Credit unions are a different model. We’re not-for-profit for a reason. We’re owned by members for a reason. It makes a difference in how we do business.
  • If credit unions can create awareness in their communities, it will have a ripple effect. And pretty soon you will have overlapping circles and have created national awareness.

In closing, Hyland added: “There’s no better time to be a credit union. There are 70 million Americans who are underserved or have no bank account at all. I’m asking you to think about who your members are, as well as the people in your community, and how you can help them.”

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