Credit Union Core Values: Any Different Than Banks?

First The Financial Brand looked at the core values of 50 banks, then credit unions. How are they different? How are they similar?

Both banks and credit unions give high rankings to values such as Honesty, Commitment, Respect, Excellence and Service, and both put Integrity at the top of their lists.

For easy comparison, here is are two illustrations — one for banks’ core values (above), and one for credit unions (below). The more common the word, the larger it is. The relative emphasis (or frequency) of the core values of banks and credit unions are fairly comparable, as indicated by the relative size of the words within each diagram.

Banks' Core Values

Credit Unions' Core Values

What’s striking about this comparison isn’t necessary the similarity in core values. It’s the core values that aren’t shared by both credit unions and banks that are most interesting. Here are some of the core values listed by credit unions that weren’t listed by banks:

1. Cooperation, Democratic Principles
This isn’t the same thing as Partnerships, something that both banks and credit unions listed. This goes beyond mere collaboration. And this is as it should be. Credit unions were founded on the principle of “people helping people,” so one would expect to see credit unions value things like Cooperation and Democratic Principles. However, there seems to be fewer and fewer good examples of credit unions exercising their democratic processes. Mostly, members vote on board members, name changes and mergers/conversions, as mandated by law.

2. Ethical
Six credit unions said “operating ethically” was a core value, while no banks listed it. But don’t fault banks for excluding Ethical from their core values. It’s not like you can say, “Well, banks didn’t put Ethical on the list, so that means they’re out to break the law.” The bigger question is why do credit unions feel the need to say they will “operate ethically?” Isn’t that a given? It’s kind of like Accuracy — you just expect a financial institution to be ethical. Maybe the word is Responsible, something listed by seven credit unions but only one bank. Or Prudence (credit unions = 2, banks = 0).

3. Environment
The Environment was such an important issue to two credit unions that they listed it as a core value. Again, no banks.

4. Employees
A few credit unions said their Employees were among the things they value the most. Perhaps banks, by their very nature, are forced to put Shareholder Value first?

5. Fun
Only two credit unions said Fun was important to them. No banks. What’s sad about this is that only two financial institutions out of 100 believe in Fun. Financial services are as boring as it gets. It’s too bad more banks and credit unions don’t see the opportunity to make banking more pleasant and entertaining for both consumers and employees alike.

“Integrity, Teamwork, Excellence, Commitment, Honesty, Respect, Service, Professionalism, Customers, Trust, Community, Loyalty, and Innovation should be applicable to most every kind of business. A hospital, a paper supply company, a construction company, even an exterminator could share these values. As a consumer, I expect businesses I deal with to have these values at their core.”

It might help to think of the financial industry’s common core values as more of a generic Banking Bill of Rights — something that applies equally to every financial institution and every banking customer. Throw out all the cliches; they’re just antes — chips you’ve got to throw in just to play in the financial space. Then, you can finally be free to explore some of the more interesting core values that your organization could be considering.

Here’s some thought-provoking core values that could help differentiate a financial institution — things you don’t expect from every bank or credit union:

  • We believe in being Proactive.
  • We believe in Work/Life Balance.
  • We believe in Accountability.
  • We value Transparency.
  • We believe in fostering Engagement.
  • We value Relationships.
  • We believe in financial Knowledge and Education.
  • We believe in Diversity.
  • We believe in Nimble/Flexible and remaining Agile.

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