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Coronavirus Broke Our Economy. Credit Unions Will Help Fix It.

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It is already a cliché to refer to whatever post-coronavirus America will look like as the “new normal.” American life—especially in the short run—could be dramatically different. Even once officials lift stay-at-home orders, many Americans may be less likely to travel, eat out, or attend large gatherings. Habits established under lockdown will be hard to break.

Who knows?

Many people may find that they prefer an evening at home with their family over an evening out. We may see the reemergence of behaviors we had long ago discarded—and that isn’t all bad.

One behavior that should re-emerge in the aftermath of coronavirus?

Supporting local financial institutions.

Banks are accountable to their shareholders. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. When everything is going according to plan, the principle of being accountable to shareholders is responsible for much of our nation’s prosperity.

However, as we are learning, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Sometimes unexpected events do their best impression of Godzilla, leaving nothing but devastation in their wake. When that happens, the shortcomings of shareholder accountability are exposed.

Credit unions don’t face the same shareholder-driven pressures as for-profit financial institutions. Nonprofit credit unions cannot place profits above their members without potentially violating the rules and regulations that allow them to exist in the first place—but the advantages of credit unions go far above just being nonprofits.

Credit unions have a drastically different culture than their banking cousins. That difference in culture isn’t just a marketing slogan. It’s real, it’s authentic, and it will inevitably impact the way credit unions respond to the financial challenges many Americans are about to experience.

Credit union boards and employees don’t just want to help serve their communities.

They want to help save those communities.

Tragedy, unfortunately, is one of the most effective ways to change entrenched habits. For decades credit unions played an important role in the financial and business health of communities, but times and banking habits have changed. Large banks have, over time, eroded the role credit unions play.

Large financial institutions are driven by economies of scale.

But no amount of convenience replaces compassion. A sophisticated app can never take the place of someone who knows your struggle and believes in your ability to overcome tremendous challenges. While I am new to this industry, I see an economy of care in every credit union I visit. Inside of a credit union, being accountable to members isn’t just about a nonprofit tax status.

It is something credit union employees—from tellers to management—live, breathe, and believe.

Before long, the “new normal” will just be normal—but let’s not forget this moment, where our challenges united us all. Let’s not forget a moment where a pandemic reminded us of the value of a credit union that believes in you, is accountable to you, and is ready to help all of us get back on our feet.