Happy International Credit Union Day. After writing about the seven principles of cooperation at the core of the credit union movement, I wanted to share my thoughts on this special day.
As you might be able to see from this banner from the World Counci of Credit Unions, this is their 75th anniversary.
So, just what is International Credit Union Day?
In its 65th year, this year is extra special. On their website the World Council of Credit Unions tells us that:
International Credit Union (ICU) Day® celebrates the spirit of the global credit union movement. The day is recognized to reflect upon the credit union movement’s history, promote its achievements, recognize hard work and share member experiences. International Credit Union (ICU) Day® has been celebrated on the third Thursday of October since 1948.
The ultimate goal is to raise awareness about the tremendous work that credit unions and other financial cooperatives are doing around the world and give members the opportunity to get more engaged.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that there are “(o)ver 86,000 credit unions (operating) in 118 countries worldwide”. According to Wikipedia, there are 686 credit unions in Canada and 5,236 federally insured credit unions in the United States. That’s a whole lot to love, don’t you think?
What can we celebrate? How about a list of firsts?
I think some of us worry that credit unions are often stodgy and dull and that they never do anything interesting. But according to this fascinating list put together by Credit Union Central of Canada back at the end of 2012:
As financial institutions established to respond to member needs, credit unions boast a rich history of innovation. Here are some of the products and services that are now, interestingly, taken for granted by most Canadians:
- First financial institutions to lend to women in their own names (in the 1960s)
- First to offer daily interest savings
- First full-service ATMs
- First fully functional online banking
- First loans based on borrower character
- First payroll deduction service for deposits and loan payments
- First open mortgages
- First home equity lines of credit
- First debit card service.
- First registered education plans.
- First branchless bank (Citizens Bank)
- First cheque imaging service
That’s a pretty impressive list, don’t you think?
Caring for your community never grows old
Credit unions go back to 1900 in Canada and 1908 in the United States. And they all stem back to one person, Alphonse Desjardins. Among other things, Desjardins was a stenographer in the Canadian House of Commons. Cool, eh?
If that name sounds familiar, he continues to be recognized for his work founding credit unions in North America through the name of the Desjardins Group, “a Canadian financial service cooperative and the largest federation of credit unions (French: caisses populaires) in North America.”
Let’s celebrate – we deserve it
Credit unions across Canada and the United States play vital roles in their local communities. And as the list above shows, they are leaders in personal financial innovation. These are things to be proud of, here in Canada and the United States, as well as elsewhere around the world.
So go ahead, get out there, and tell your family, friends, and entire neighbourhood about the benefits of being a credit union member. They deserve to know. And if you want help spreading the word, let me know, because I would love to help.