MADISON, Wis. (10/15/13)--When you think of someone willing to cross a line in the sand, Patrick Adams should immediately come to mind. He's a credit union movement Rock Star, according to Credit Union Magazine.
The magazine is celebrating the credit union movement's rock stars--those ordinary people who manage to pull off the extraordinary--in honor of International Credit Union Day.
This is the first of five credit union rock stars News Now will be highlighting this week.
In 2012, Adams, the CEO of St. Louis Community CU defied a traditional boundary to begin a four-year collaboration with a bank.
His reason? The need to bring all the power he could muster to reach a dramatically underserved community.
"The problems in St. Louis are bigger than any rivalry between banks and credit unions," said Adams, noting the city has the nation's third-most underserved African-American population.
Eighty-five percent of the credit union's members are low-to-moderate income, and 80% are African-American.
"We're one of the largest CDFIs [community development financial institutions] in the city, and a bank could use us to satisfy its community reinvestment needs," he said. "When I ran into an old friend and asked what he was up to, he said he was working for Carrollton Bank. I told him that if his bank needed to use CRA [Community Reinvestment Act] dollars, our credit union was the one to go through. Shortly after that, I got a phone call."
It took about a year to set up the collaboration. "There were no problems at the local level, but we guess it took a while to get the [Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.] to fully understand--the approach was so novel. A big help to getting this done was the commitment of the bank's president to serving the market. He really understands the need."
Adams' biggest target is payday lenders. "Missouri has the second-largest concentration of payday lenders in the U.S. They flock here and prey on the disadvantaged because there's very little industry regulation."
The arrangement with Carrollton Bank involves $800,000 to help with operations, including financial education, marketing and branch space. "We funded a branch with them, and have 10 other offices as well," Adams said.
In an in-your-face show of taking the--fight to the foe, Adams placed one of the branches in a strip mall directly between two payday lenders.
"We wanted to go after them. I'm a credit union veteran who has taken the credit union movement's mission seriously for years. If credit unions drift away from their original mission, it's not good. So we decided to find an economically disadvantaged community and own it."
Honoring credit union rock stars is just one way credit unions and more than 196 million credit union members in 100 countries are preparing to "unite for good" with a variety of activities to celebrate the credit union difference and demonstrate the value of credit unions on ICU Day.
This year's theme, "Credit Unions Unite for Good," builds on the Credit Union National Association's Unite for Good campaign, which has united credit unions to work to remove barriers, create awareness of the good credit unions do for members and their communities, and foster service excellence to encourage Americans to choose credit unions as their best financial partner.