Credit Unions: A Community Asset at Home and Abroad

Credit Unions are a community asset: Irish Credit Union marked in GaelicI was recently in Ireland and while there were many amazing sights, there was one recurring thing that caught my eye. It seemed as though on every road I traveled and in every town I visited, there was a credit union. They were at the heart of the community. Maybe not as easily detectable in a big city like Dublin, but town after town there was a credit union like these, some with the name entirely in Gaelic.

It reminded me how relevant and important a local credit union is to its members and the community.  Sure they provide the financial services, products, etc. one could need, but a credit union is much more. Credit unions represent you, the members who own it.  They employ local people, make local decisions and support local businesses and communities. While the physical locations may not always be on main street like the ones pictured, rest assured that for Freedom, the hometown pride and commitment is as strong as if we were right next door to your local sweater shop, toy store or pub.


And The Answer Is?

Ever go to do something, get something, ask for something and the first thing you hear is no? Didn’t like it when you were a kid looking for cookies, didn’t like it when you asked someone to prom, and you sure don’t like it from your Credit Union. So why does it happen? Well, sometimes it’s the right answer; there are simply things we cannot do, but saying “no” may not be the best way to communicate that.

Freedom strives to have the mindset to always listen and take a moment to consider the request; not for our ability to do it, but for its value and potential. There are times a member requests a product or service we can’t provide, but maybe we should. They are times we are unfamiliar with a process, but maybe there’s another way. There are times we are unable to meet a need, but maybe we can. What I’m getting at is that we do our best to recognize the limitations imposed on us, and every financial institution, then find solutions for anything else.

Things like policies and procedures may be accurate for the safety and soundness of the institution and protection of the membership or they could be out of date. We may be limited because something is unknown to us or technology has changed and we need to invest the time, resources, money, etc. into making it happen if it makes sense for the membership as a whole. It’s important, therefore, to look for those occasions where, rather than immediately defaulting to a negative response, we can step back, take a breath and consider why we are here and the ultimate objective of the situation or request.

It’s not practical to think we can be all things to all people or do everything members want, but when communicating our capabilities, it’s important we put ourselves in the member’s shoes, understand what they are trying to accomplish and consider, really consider, whether the answer is no, yes or maybe. In doing so we may find that we aren’t solving just one problem or helping just one member, but we are benefiting the entire organization. Likewise, members profit from the experience by gaining a greater understanding of what we do for them and the cooperative nature that differentiates credit unions from other financial institutions. Staff and members’ ability to be open to change and consider new possibilities is critical in making Freedom something special.


Who is Freedom?

We live in a society that likes to labels things. Some, like nutrition labels, are good so you know what you’re putting in your body. Of course, they can be misleading if you don’t watch out for the “per serving” deception. That’s where you think something is good for you then realize you have to multiply the calories, fat, carbs, etc., by eight. Not so healthy after all. There are other labels that are not so innocuous. They try to define people we don’t know anything about or define something with which we have no real experience. Those labels are an attempt to make sense of the things based on preconceptions, assumptions or emotions rather than a genuine understanding gained from engaging, listening, and learning. Consider this for those who would label Freedom “just another bank” when nothing could be further from the truth. Banking is what we do not who we are; so rather than accept this label let me tell you who Freedom is.

Freedom is over 75 employees who care about our members, the organization and each other to the extent that we focus on a positive experience for the benefit of all. They are Freedom. Freedom is over 30,000 members who want and need a safe and reliable resource for financial products, services and help. Members appreciate our efforts and the role we play in meeting their needs and, in turn, provide the deposits, income and sustainability for continued growth. You are Freedom. Finally, the relationship we build and common goals we share as a member owned, volunteer run, cooperative, support the credit union philosophy of “people helping people” and is what makes us not just another bank. We strive for value, we deliver a personal connection, we provide a commitment to community and we emphasize doing what makes sense to put members first rather than profit for shareholders. We are Freedom.

Therefore, with your active membership, when you share your experience, Freedom can and will continue to evolve, thrive and grow. Rest assured, we ALL are Freedom. As a cooperative, WE make Freedom different, WE make Freedom matter, WE reject any label that suggests Freedom is just another bank and WE make Freedom stronger.  Because strength doesn’t come from what you can do; strength comes from overcoming the things you thought you couldn’t do.