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CU Snapshot

 Apr '18Mar '18
# of CUs5,7245,727
Total Assets
($ billions)
Total Savings
($ billions)
Net Cap.
Loans to Savings82.9%81.5%
Loan Delinq.0.8%0.8%

         Credit Union Indicators

Connecting With Cooperatives

NCBA program links CUs with rural electric co-ops.

Robert King, senior business development specialist at Salal Credit Union in Seattle, likes to joke that Central Food Co-op served as the credit union's "beta test" in launching member business services.

The Seattle-based food co-op was among the $378 million asset credit union's first business services members, and the relationship between Salal CU and Central Co-op has steadily developed during the past decade.

Salal CU initially recruited members of the Central Co-op the old-fashioned way, by setting up a table on its premises and promoting the credit union's products and services. The credit union also advertised in the food co-op's bimonthly newsletter. Slowly but surely, Central Co-op and Salal CU identified with each other.

"It's turned out to be a great relationship for us," King says. "Most of their employees and a lot of their members are members of the credit union, and now we've expanded the services we offer them. They've grown with us."

Cooperation among cooperatives is one of the principles of the cooperative movement. Credit unions have a sterling reputation for collaboration with one another, but their potential for cooperation with nonfinancial cooperatives remains largely unrealized.

The National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) hopes to turn some of that potential into results. NCBA is piloting Operation Connect, a program that pairs credit unions and rural electric co-ops. Members of rural electric co-ops who have trouble paying their bills will be referred to a credit union for financial counseling and possible assistance.

For rural electric co-ops with financially challenged members, the collection-disconnect-reconnect process is costly and debilitating for everyone involved. Operation Connect aims to end that cycle—and improve the quality of electric co-op members' lives—by promoting financial literacy, budgeting, and long-term financial planning. Credit unions, meantime, can increase membership and further their mission of helping people.

Fort Lee Federal Credit Union in Prince George, Va., is rolling out the program with Prince George Electric Co-Op, and credit unions in four other states soon will launch Operation Connect. The program is scheduled to go nationwide in 2016, with a toolkit to assist in implementation.

Credit unions have many opportunities to connect with nonfinancial co-ops, but making the connection can be difficult, says Patricia Brownell Sterner, NCBA chief operating officer. "We focus on sectors with the potential to give credit unions the opportunity to expand membership and provide services to the other local cooperative members," she says.

(Via news.cuna.org)