How the association fits into the big picture

In a related article, we outline what the Association does for credit unions. It’s a clinical look at the functions of the Association. This article will assimilate some of that information and tie it to a broader picture of the industry and general operating environment for credit unions.

In short, much of the purpose and benefit of the Association is that it provides a focal point for Utah’s credit unions. This is important for at least two reasons.

First, it’s a place where credit unions gather and interact. They meet in person and online, during training, conferences, and networking activities. This creates bonds between credit union professionals and enhances the common interest of credit unions. These connections facilitate the sharing of information, and the feeling of being part of something bigger than just an individual credit union.

Since its inception, credit unions have called their industry a movement. A credit union’s purpose is not to make money. It’s a not-for-profit cooperative, organized by members to benefit members. No class of stockholders is getting rich by extracting funds from another group of people. Boards are volunteers. Executives are compensated less than bank executives, for comparable work. The point of the credit union is not to enrich one group over another. It’s to promote financial well-being for all. It’s a cause as much as an industry. And therefore, a movement.

The Association, by providing a place where credit unions and their volunteers and employees interact, acts as a focal point of this movement by gathering those people, and talking about the shared mission. In a sense, the Association functions as the guardian and promulgator of the credit union philosophy.

Second, the Association focuses the voice of the 53 member credit unions, and their 3.6 million members in the advocacy spheres. In an increasingly noisy space, and where policy makers hear from many constituents each day, it’s impossible and infeasible for each credit union to garner much attention from policy makers. By uniting their voices into a single voice, which is louder by virtue of representing more people, credit unions increase their efficacy.

The Utah Credit Union Association represents credit unions, and credit unions act on behalf of their members. This means that, ultimately, the Utah Credit Union Association is there for the Utahns who belong to credit unions. At the end of 2023, credit unions affiliated with the Utah Credit Union Association had roughly 3.6 million credit union members. While some of those members are outside of Utah, and others have accounts at multiple credit unions, it’s clear that, ultimately, a huge number of Utahns are represented by the Utah Credit Union Association. Probably in the range of 2 million to 2.5 million Utahns.

In a state of 3.4 million people, that’s significant. The Association is not a narrow interest.

In addition, because all consumers benefit from the downward pressure that credit unions place on financial services pricing, all consumers benefit when credit unions thrive. Ultimately, the Association benefits all consumers.

Policy makers understand this. They understand that when a representative of the Association speaks to them, they’re speaking not on behalf of a special interest group, but explicitly on behalf of a massive portion of Utah, and implicitly on behalf of the rest. An executive or volunteer of a single credit union in Utah cannot say the same, no matter how significant the organization.

Therefore, the single industry voice adds potency to that industry’s voice. It provides a single source of truth for policy makers, one that knows how to appropriately draw on members to add emphasis and serve as clarifying examples to general points.

In the end, the Association brings potency, cohesion, and efficacy to the credit union movement because ultimately—and as the old cliché goes—the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.