Now is Prime Time to Show the Credit Union Difference

After the latest First Republic Bank collapse, many are continuing to closely watch the stability of the banking and credit union sector. At Patelco, we continue to navigate uncertainty with our members and in our communities. We are working hard to stay true to what we say, and living out our mission of building better financial lives for our members is as important as ever, as is ensuring our employees, members and the community are informed and empowered with information. 

Like many of us in the credit union industry, we are tracking and unpacking the current situation and how it relates to and reinforces the strengths of the credit union difference.  

Lately, I’ve also been reflecting on the financial crisis of the 1980s for insights into what history can teach us. During that time, I worked in the savings and loan industry as the vice president of retail banking. A combination of economic, financial, legislative and regulatory pressures culminated in a number of banks failing. 

While many have compared elements of the recent fallouts with the past, there are differences – and one key element is critical for the credit union industry in today’s environment - the ability to communicate quickly in a myriad of channels, from digital to in-person. 

History can lend us insights, especially for those of us that have navigated financial crises before. What is different today is the opportunity to leverage our collective knowledge to navigate uncertainty and protect the health of the credit union and our members while engaging, educating and empowering employees, members and the community with relevant and real-time information at every level, touch-point and channel. 

With challenges, there are opportunities. Today, for credit unions, large and small, our opportunity is to show the credit union difference, tell our story and put a spotlight on how our member-owned institutions are designed to serve. 

Before the recent bank collapses, many were not invested in digging into the details of the health of their financial institution. That is changing, and we welcome it. Let’s educate our members and communities on key financial health indicators along with where to find and how to read a balance sheet - reinforcing the transparency and partnership we are in together at a credit union.

At Patelco, we’re engaging and empowering leadership, employees and members with information and education to understand the current situation, how to evaluate the health of a financial institution, a review of our financial statement and the credit union difference overall.

From a communications channel standpoint, we’re leveraging every channel to provide our team and members with access to information anytime and anywhere they want it. Proactive communication starts internally and extends externally, starting with leadership and employee meetings designed to arm branch staff with knowledge and information. Every team member at every level is available to connect with employees, members and the community. 

We’re actioning informative and educational content in our member-facing channels, emphasizing digital. These channels include our member emails, website, social media, webinars, podcasts and a recent special live Virtual Member Town Hall where we saw over 300 members join us live.

The curation of knowledge at every touchpoint is powerful and empowers word-of-mouth among our members beyond the credit union walls. Credit unions are primed for this by the very nature of why and how we exist. 

While I can’t speak for every credit union, I can speak for Patelco and its financial strength. I am encouraging peers and colleagues in the industry to do the same. We have a solid track record of stability and resiliency through dynamic and challenging times. Now is the time to demonstrate and amplify the credit union difference with members and beyond.

About Author:
Erin Mendez is the president and CEO of Patelco Credit Union, a not-for-profit credit union committed to serving the financial health and well-being of its membership. With more than 462,000 members, primarily in and around northern California, Patelco is committed to improving its members’ financial well-being and fueling hope and opportunity by offering personalized solutions, advice, and expertise that empower them to achieve personal financial freedom. Founded in 1936 with $500 in assets by employees of the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company, Patelco is in the top one percent of U.S. credit unions with more than $9 billion in assets. For more information, visit

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