Louder together: this could be the mantra coming away from the Idaho Governmental Affairs Conference, where more than 100 credit union professionals gathered in January to discuss the past impacts of the credit union movement and the momentum we carry into the future.
With nearly 750,000 members, $7.3 billion in combined assets, and $6.1 billion in outstanding loans—which would likely be either more costly or entirely unavailable at banks—Idaho’s credit unions are already delivering an impact enviable for just about any other industry. Nearly half the state’s population enjoyed direct benefits to the tune of $71 million in 2016 alone; a number that is destined to grow if the enthusiasm and passion on display at the Idaho GAC provides any indication.
“It’s amazing to think almost 50 percent of Idahoans belong to a credit union,” said Paul Lucariello, regional manager at Pioneer Federal Credit Union and member of Climb Idaho, Idaho’s credit union young professionals group. “We will continue to advocate and educate our communities and legislators to protect and expand the credit union movement.”
But the huge benefits delivered by Idaho credit unions don’t speak loud enough for themselves, at least not in the face of a crushing effort by competing lobbyists to diminish and downplay the meaning and intentions of the credit union system. And that’s where groups like Climb Idaho come in.
“For the first time in our state’s history, the Idaho GAC was ‘crashed’ by 15 of Idaho’s most passionate young credit union professionals,” said Jake Denning, VP of financial and strategic planning at Beehive Credit Union and Climb Idaho president. “And the results were off the charts. We’re seeing more enthusiasm and passion for the credit union movement in our state than ever before.”
Armed with facts, figures and matching shirts (what would a young professionals movement be without matching shirts?), these “Climbers” joined dozens of CEOs and board members from across the state to meet with local legislators and communicate the breadth and depth of the credit union impact.
The message was well received. The beauty of the credit union movement is that our impacts transcend partisan boundaries—a rare feat in today’s political climate—and speak powerfully to Republicans and Democrats alike.
Others emphasized the importance of preserving the credit union difference and the choice consumers now enjoy when looking for a financial partner.
“Credit unions give Idahoans a cooperative choice in their banking preference,” said Lyndsey Brown, marketing manager at Pioneer FCU and Climb Idaho member. “I think having choice is powerful and so important, especially when we’re talking about money, security and peace of mind.”
Up next for Idaho’s credit union advocates is the real challenge—taking the knowledge and momentum built at IDGAC and carrying it into the year, building passion and education into the member experience. Climb, at least, already has some tricks up its sleeve.
“This is going to be a year unlike any others for us,” said Nick Fugal, chief financial officer at Clarity Credit Union and Climb Idaho treasurer. “We’re working on our first public-facing events, designed to bring hundreds of young credit union members into our world where Climb’s 200+ credit union employees can share our knowledge and enthusiasm with them.”
Denning said he expects Climb to explode in its influence this year, thanks to new support from the Northwest Credit Union Association, together with the existing support and momentum within Idaho.
“2017 will go down as the year our state and even our region witnesses what our movement can do when we reach beyond the walls of our credit unions and take the next step up, together,” he said. “We can’t think of a better way to set an example for the industry and the communities we serve.”