The P.A.

A weekly address from Patrick Adams,
President of St. Louis Community Credit Union

Believing That People Can Change Is A Lifeline For Their Future

On September 9th, 2013, posted in: Uncategorized by

St. Louis Community Credit Union (SLCCU) is trying to change the paradigm that accepts that low-moderate income (LMI) families must stay in a household funk as it relates to their standard of living. We don’t buy that. Some people besmirch the credit union’s desire to better our community. They can call us naïve or overly optimistic, yet it does not change our perspective that with a little work on the credit union’s part, and a whole bunch of tenacity and intestinal fortitude on the consumer’s part, we can move the dial to better the lifestyle of those who so desire.

To understand the credit union’s position, a premise has to be adopted that is not always true, but is true more often than not. If a family is LMI, they have lived closer to zero money for longer than most. If you live close to zero money long enough, you will wake up one day on the wrong side of zero and your reputation will be smeared across countless repositories that keep track of such things. It is what it is and from there, banking costs increase and the likelihood of gaining mainstream banking services scurries away to the point of having no real options other than check cashing and payday lenders. Too wide a brushstroke? I think not. We see it every day.

To begin the journey back is arduous and frustrating. This is where SLCCU steps into the equation. First, it starts with our credit union’s willingness to extend services to those who have a bruised or battered background in their past banking relationships. This is by the nature, a riskier business venture. The banking and credit union industry have a prevailing attitude that “a leopard doesn’t change its spots.” In other words, if you had a bad go of it in an earlier life, you will repeat your bad behaviors again and again. We are counterintuitive to this thinking.

Why can the credit union take the additional risk? One, we are mission-oriented and purpose-driven. Two, we have the perfect business model. Three, we are member-owned. Having members creates an affinity and trust that most for-profit bankers can only long for.

Because of our mission to serve LMI populations, we work harder to make square pegs fit in round holes. And guess what — they do more times than not with a little “whittlin” around the edges. Our not-for-profit status allows for a little more risk. (We don’t take risks that are imprudent to the well-being of our other members, but a minor mistake or two in one’s past doesn’t eliminate another chance). Lastly, folks have an inherent nature to take care of one another. If we properly convey the message that the money from one member helps the other members then we begin seeing the commitment to neighbors taking shape.

If we can get enough people to move our way, there will be no need for check cashers or payday lenders. These businesses take advantage of one’s past only because there is a niche in the market that needs filling. Well, SLCCU can fill said niche at a savings of literally hundreds of dollars per year. If the savings was put in an account and left alone, there would be $370 plus dollars at the end of a year.

That’s real money, and the beginning of building wealth. Wealth creates options. Options create hope. Next thing you know, kids are going to college or vocational school, home improvements are made that increase the value of housing, and credit files are repaired leading to the ability to borrow.

Still think we’re crazy, unnecessarily naïve or overly optimistic? No way, it just takes somebody moving in that direction.

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