WASHINGTON (3/21/12)--Credit unions are a voice of reason and balance in a time of extremes, have gained a reputation of trust among consumers, and are a very attractive financial services option to many people right now, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Chairman Mike Mercer said in Tuesday remarks at CUNA's 2012 Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC).
CUNA Chairs present and past; incoming Chair Mike Mercer (l) and former Chair Harriet May (r). Click for a slideshow from day two of the 2012 GAC.
Political views and the media are both becoming increasingly polarized, Mercer noted, and Wall Street banks and Washington politicians and government officials are the "poster children" for polarization. As the polarization continues, Mercer suggested credit unions could shift their motto of "Not for profit, not for charity… but for service" to fit the times. "How about… 'Not for Wall Street, Not for Washington… but for Main Street?," he suggested.
And while credit union's role in the overall scheme of things can seem small at times, "our perch in credit union work puts us in close proximity" to people of modest resources, average educations, and big dreams that "are trying to do good things with their lives," Mercer said.
"Fundamentally, credit unions help people afford life," he added.
"Each credit union has the freedom to serve its members in its unique way, but, I believe, each credit union also has a responsibility to protect and enhance the well-being of our cooperative business model," Mercer said.
Credit union unity can also help defend the cooperative business model against the onslaught of bankers and their trade associations that seek to eliminate "credit union uniqueness," troublesome regulations, and other issues.
For the cooperative business model to endure, engagement from credit union leaders and a determination to create a consensus among these leaders is needed.. Credit union advocates will also need to make their voices heard at local town hall meetings and in the halls of Congress, Mercer added.
Going forward, Mercer said, the combined voice of credit unions could be used to speak "with clarity and courage" and to speak up on behalf of the middle class.
Mercer, who is also president/CEO of the Georgia Credit Union Affiliates, was elected chairman of the CUNA board on Monday.