30 July 2008
The Smaller the Better? (Maybe size does matter)
At the age of twelve I was a towering 5’7”. As one of the first boys in my class to have my growth spurt, I was able to experience what no one in my family could. I was tall. I was in the back row of my basketball team photo. I was bigger and stronger and hairier and had a deeper voice than most of my classmates. It was good to be big.
Seventeen years later, I’m still 5’7”. With the passing of every year I was able to see my contemporaries grow taller and taller, while I became (seemingly) smaller and smaller. I went from being one of the tallest people I knew my age, to being one of the shortest. Tough? You betcha! I’ve heard every short joke ever created, and have been the unwilling recipient of countless comments on my height, or in this case, lack thereof. It’s been tough to be small.
Or has it?
Yesterday I flew from Charlotte to Houston to speak at the Texas Credit Union League’s Mid-Asset Summit. My seat was in the exit row. While nearly everyone else on the plane over the age of 7 looked cramped, uncomfortable, and displeased with their seating arrangement, I was nearly able to stretch my legs straight ahead of me. Sure, I felt cramped shoulder to shoulder (such is life on airplanes), but in terms of legroom I thought the plane was quite spacious.
And today I talked to amazingly passionate credit union CEOs from mid-sized credit unions in Texas. After conversations with these executives, I have never felt better about being a part of this industry. We discussed why it has never been a better time to be small, the mainstream media’s general distaste for all things big and profitable, and the subsequent public distrust of large firms. Small, not-for-profit financial institutions have what most large financial institutions do not: the genuine ability to craft solutions to their field of membership’s unique needs, a transparent and trustworthy “we are here to help our members, not to profit off of them” public persona, and the ability to honestly prove innocence from the recent meltdowns in the financial services sector.
Do small credit unions have a lot of work to do? Sure, some do. Mostly, though, I think it’s a great time to be a small or mid-sized credit union. It’s just a matter of communicating our unique stories, serving our members in powerful, personalized ways, and continuing to be what we have been: transparent, honest, and a cost-saving solution to regular Americans’ financial service needs.
Don't ask me to reach the top shelf in a cupboard. Don't make me the center on your basketball team. But please don't expect me to be ashamed of my credit union's size.