People often make the mistake of referring to us and treating us as if we are a bank. It's an easy mistake to make, and it's a pretty common assumption, so here's an explanation of what makes credit unions unique.
Right off the bat, credit unions aren't thought of as banks. The type of organisation we're classified as is a "community-based financial cooperative". This term defines the type of organisation which uses members' money in a pool, allowing them to essentially borrow from one another instead of from the big, scary bank.
Members own the organisation. Instead of acting like savings in a bank, the money you have in your credit union account actually functions as shares, meaning that you own a little portion of the business just by having money in your account. This means that instead of being run by an ownership/corporate committee of snooty executives, credit unions are owned and run by their members, often represented by a board of directors from within their own community. Ultimately, member have a say over all that takes place within the organisation, because ultimately, they're the owners!
Credit unions don't work for a profit. Unlike banks, the community is in the best interests of every credit union, and making a profit is never on the cards. All profits made throughout the financial year of a credit union are returned to members in the form of various rebates and dividends. In our case, members receive an annual dividend on their shares balance, as well as a loan interest rebate if they've been borrowing with us.
Membership relies on a common bond. Credit unions restrict membership to those who belong to a certain community, allowing people from the same place, or people with the same employer, or people from other members' families to know that the others in the membership collective are close to them. Our common bond is the 10-mile radius around our offices, so members can know that the're a part of a tangible, defined community which works to help those within it to get by.
We're designed to help. While banks are helpful and useful (even necessary), their core interests aren't always best for their clients. The setup of a credit union always caters things towards you, the member. Everything we do is aimed towards helping as many of our members as possible, because they're the ones who own the place!
We hope this has been a useful way to learn a little more about how we differ from the banks. There's much more to know on a much deeper level, but we'll leave all that to the people doing the special exams.
Remember that if you ever want to know anything, let us know and we'l find some way to educate everyone. Let's bring Weekend Wisdom back!
Keep up to date with Christmas in the office and our resident "Giraffe on the Staff" - he'll be hanging around our Instagram profile too, so be sure to keep an eye out!
PS, aren't there some weird stock images out there?