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In 1844, a small group of weavers from Rochdale, England created the blueprint for how their newly-formed cooperative would operate and serve the local community. These values, known as the Seven Cooperative Principles, serve as the operating guidebook for credit unions and cooperatives throughout the world. This blog was created to honor that legacy and to showcase the everyday efforts of credit unions in the Carolinas that embody the cooperative mission and purpose.


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Guest post: What I learned at the Principles & Philosophy Conference

Posted By Marcus Rhymer, Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Editor's note: Marcus Rhymer recently attended the 2015 Principles & Philosophy Conference as the CUaware Scholarship winner. Marcus recaps his experience and takeaways at the conference in this guest post.

This year I was given the opportunity to attend the 2015 Principles and Philosophy Conference in Greenville, South Carolina. This opportunity was provided to me through a scholarship by CUaware. Forty-four others from Carolina Credit Unions joined me for this engaging two day journey.

While this conference had many components of a traditional conference format, a few things differed. This conference became a deep dive into the foundation of the Credit Union Principles and Philosophies which included full engagement from all participants. Jeff Hardin of the Carolinas Credit Union League and Amy Gravitte from Coastal FCU, along with many others members of the core committee led the discussion. However, primarily smaller groups, seated at individual tables, shared their experiences and ideas to enhance our overall experience in world of Credit Union Principles and Philosophies.

My experience at the conference may have differed from others at this conference. I have been in the credit union industry for 15 years and attended this conference to get an idea as to how this could benefit our staff. The conference more than accomplished this. I found it especially beneficial for credit union employees who are new to the movement. Attendees will be fully immersed in the world of credit union principles and philosophy. It is also a great refresher for those of us who have been in the industry for some time. Here are ten takeaways from the 2015 Principles and Philosophy Conference:

10. Downtown Greenville is a wonderful city to host this conference. Even though we experienced abundant rain during our two day stay at the conference, it did not stop us from enjoying some excellent dining and some great views. We were very fortunate to have Greenville historian, John Nolan, give us the history and background of the city as well as the insights on the future of Greenville. The location of the hotel and conference center in relation to downtown dining and attractions makes this a very walk-able conference. Everything is convenient, rain or shine!

9. The Seven Cooperative Principles for Credit Unions: Personal Introductions and a discussion of each principle began our agenda. What are the seven principles? Are some more obvious than others? Can we still follow all seven principles in today’s environment? Can we manage these principles better? Each table was able to examine and discuss a particular principle in-depth and share the analysis with the group.

8. Hats, Wigs, and Mustaches: The core committee took our soon to be Credit Union Principles and Philosophy experts on a journey through time. The goal of this role-playing experiment was to take us through the history of cooperatives and credit unions. Where have we been and where are we going? Our movement has had many champions along the way: The Rochdale Weavers in England, an early cooperative founded in 1844; Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen, who founded the first rural credit union in Germany; and Alphonse Desjardins who started the first United States Credit Union in New Hampshire. Entrepreneur and Philanthropist Edward Filene, whose legacy still has a major footprint in American business; and Dora Maxwell, who unfathomably started 120 credit unions in six months, are among these pioneers on the Mount Rushmore of Credit Unions. They each had the vision and the passion to provide our movement with the inspiration to serve our members.

7. Thought Provocation: While understanding and respecting our history, our group posed a question early in this conference. Do we need to change? The credit union industry is changing based upon increasing regulatory concern, compliance, and many other factors. As a group, we wondered do we still need to embrace each and every principle? Can we embrace these principles and stay competitive? Do we need to modify any of these principles to fit today’s increased regulatory environment? We opted to continue our two day journey and re-address this important question after our agenda was complete.

6. The Foundation Remains: “People Helping People”. “Not for Profit but for Service”. The Credit Union philosophy remains the same. The principles that guided the Rochdale Weavers in 1844 are the same principles that we as financial cooperatives use today: Voluntary Membership, Democratic Member Control, Members’ Economic Participation, Autonomy and Independence, Education-Training-and-Information, Cooperation Among Cooperatives, and Concern for Community. We must stay true to our principles. It is of utmost importance that our management teams and employees understand and practice these principles. These seven principles are what make us different! We must continue to differentiate ourselves to our members so they will understand why they chose us, why they trust us, and why it’s in their best interest to be part of a financial cooperative.

5. Challenges: We must overcome perceptions. Many potential members believe a credit union is not convenient. A credit union won’t have the products and services for my banking needs. I can’t join a credit union because of membership restrictions or SEG affiliation. These misconceptions must be addressed and overcome to increase our membership. We as credit unions know these potential member perceptions to be untrue. It’s up to us to inform our communities that we are convenient, we do offer everything they need, and they most likely can join our credit union! We must educate potential members on the benefits a being a member of a financial cooperative.

4. FaceTime: Our group had the opportunity for an enlightening FaceTime experience with Mike Beall, who is a political activist in the credit union movement. During our Face Time session, he shared many valuable experiences regarding credit union legislation through his years in the movement. He is passionate about working with credit unions.

3. Panel Discussion: The Movement is Worldwide, The Movement is Local: Being a history buff, I really enjoyed this session of the conference. Story Telling Time! Actually it was much more than that but this session had that kind of atmosphere. From our core committee, Terri Hendrix, Deb McLean, and Sandy Glasson shared their experiences from the beginning of their credit union careers until today. Terri Hendrix took us from Edinburgh, Scotland to Brazil and into Africa during her experiences abroad with the World Council of Credit Unions. Deb McLean talked about her passion in helping the Latino community set up a safe place to save and borrow money. She discussed the obstacles she overcame in order to help the Latino community in North Carolina go through the process of setting up credit unions in a difficult regulatory environment. Sandy Glasson led us through her 37 year journey from a small Air Force Base credit union in Georgia to her current position at Coastal FCU in Raleigh, North Carolina. These discussions spanned the spectrum from the World Council all the way back to the member.

2. The Winds of Change: As we journeyed through the “Not for Profit, But for Service” learning map, we examined the past, present, and looked towards the future. The movement and changes are undoubtedly noticeable. During our past, many business entities were separate and stayed within their particular mission or scope of service. However, in today’s market, we have large banks, insurance companies, auto dealerships, and brokerage firms among others trying to do what we do. We also have large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Apple, and PayPal operating outside of a retail model and offering some type of products and services that credit unions and small community banks offer. Once we navigated this map, we of course learn that these challenges can be met through our operating principles. We just need to put these principles at the forefront of our future plan.

1. “The Onion It’s all about the Member: When we begin to peel back the layers of the Cooperation Among Cooperatives Onion, we will find that at the core is our membership. From the layers of the World Council, CUNA, State Leagues, Local Chapters, and the Credit Union; the very reason for every layer comes back to our members. Looking back at our initial thought provocation, one thing is crystal clear. While we must evolve with the changing environment, we certainly do not need to change our principles. In fact, credit unions must be even more engaged in practicing these principles to guide our financial cooperatives into the future. It’s what made us better in the beginning. It’s what will make us better in the future.

Marcus Rhymer serves as the indirect lending manager at Latitude 32 Credit Union in Charleston. He is a 2000 graduate of East Tennessee State University and is a Life Member of the ETSU Alumni Association. In addition to his role at the credit union, Marcus is a 2015 graduate of the Southeast CUNA Management School, is actively engaged with the local Lowcountry CUaware Council, and serves as the secretary of the Lowcountry Chapter of Credit Unions. Marcus and his wife Kristen have a four-year-old named Zach.

Tags:  CUaware 

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CUaware Lowcountry picks Protégé, holds expert panel

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, July 21, 2015

In addition to the networking event and panel discussion, the Lowcountry
Council of CUaware also held its Protégé Competition, featuring (from left)
Sean Crowley, Patrick Deming and Akira Jacobs. Jacobs, of South Carolina
Federal Credit Union, won the competition and will compete in the CUaware
Protégé  Finals in October.

More than 40 credit union professionals gathered in North Charleston Wednesday evening, July 15 for the CUaware Lowcountry Council meeting. The fast-paced meeting featured a networking opportunity for attendees, plus a panel of local credit union experts.

The meeting kicked off with the Council's CUaware Protégé Competition. Three contestants, all from South Carolina Federal Credit Union, gave a five minute presentation on a credit union topic they each selected. In the end, Akira Jacobs, SC Federal's insurance, investment and benefits coordinator was selected by the judges. Jacobs will now advance to the CUaware Protégé Final Competition at the Leadership Conference in Pinehurst in October.  

The panel discussion featured four local experts talking about various initiatives underway at their credit union. Nise Lowell of Heritage Trust Federal Credit Union shared details about student-run credit unions that Heritage Trust is opening at two local high schools. The credit union hired sixteen area high school students to run the two branches, which will open for business in August.

Bonnie Ciuffo of SC Federal updated the attendees on the credit union's foundation and its impact on staff philanthropy & community involvement. The South Carolina Federal Credit Union Foundation supports a variety of organizations, including the American Red Cross, Lowcountry Food Bank and Eagle Harbor Ranch. 

Claudette Smith, the manager of CO Federal Credit Union shared a personal account of what lead her to assume the leadership role at the credit union 14 years ago, and the impact CO FCU is having on the local community. Civil Rights Leader Esau Jenkins helped found CO and several other cooperative enterprises during the 1950s and 1960s. The credit union continues to honor its founding purpose,by providing financial services to members who have had a hard time accessing affordable credit. Smith also praised the efforts of Heritage Trust in helping the smaller CO FCU stay ahead of the curve on key regulatory and compliance issues.

The panel also featured Troy Hall of South Carolina Federal discussing something he is passionate about - leadership development. Hall noted the credit union's approach to providing a stimulating and rewarding professional atmosphere to employees. He also challenged more seasoned attendees to "pour into someone" who is just starting their credit union careers by becoming a mentor

In addition to the credit unions participating in the Protégé Competition and panel discussion, Latitude 32 FCU and CPM FCU also attended the meeting and contributed to the success of the 30 minute networking session. The Lowcountry Council will next meet in the fourth quarter with its annual Legislative Advocacy Day. This event connects credit union employees with their elected leaders in Columbia and Washington, DC. More details on this event are coming soon!       

Tags:  CUaware  CUaware Protégé 

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CUaware Lowcountry to spotlight local experts, Protégés

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Friday, June 26, 2015

The Lowcountry Chapter of CUaware is gearing up to present a CUaware "Experts in the Area" social event. The event will help credit union staff gain insights from some of the Lowcountry's very own great credit union minds and spend one-on-one time with other rising credit union professionals.

The event takes place July 15 from 6:00 until 8:00 pm at the Crowne Plaza in North Charleston (4831 Tanger Outlet Blvd). Along with networking with your local credit union peers and hearing from a panel of credit union experts, the chapter will also host its CUaware Protégé Competition.

The Protégé Competition will spotlight the Lowcountry's emerging credit union professionals. Each Protégé candidate will take a written test and give an oral presentation about a credit union topic. The winner will go represent the Lowcountry in a competition to become the 2015 CUaware Protégé! 

The experts panel will discuss leadership, community impact, education and the co-op model in the Lowcountry. All told it will be a fun, educational and engaging event for credit union employees of all ages!  

If you'd like to go, please click here to make your reservation. Tickets are $5 and due at the door. If you have any questions, please contact Stephanie Ownby or Corey Pace.

Tags:  CUaware  CUaware Protégé 

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CUaware Lowcountry volunteers at local shelter

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lowcountry credit unions joined forces to volunteer at Eagle Harbor
Ranch in Summerville May 12. Volunteers painted and assembled a
horse fence at the shelter for young people.

Principle Six: Cooperation among cooperatives. Credit unions work together to improve services to members and build sustainable communities.

Principle Seven: Concern for community. Since credit unions are locally owned financial institutions, they are committed to investing in the community.  

More than 20 credit union volunteers from Lowcountry credit unions joined forces to volunteer at Eagle Harbor Ranch on May 12. The project, which included painting and updating the Eagle Harbor facilities, is part of CUaware's focus on volunteerism this month.

"We had a great turnout and accomplished a lot during our time together," shared CUaware Lowcountry Council Member Stephanie Ownby (South Carolina FCU). "It was great to be able to showcase our cooperative spirit for such a wonderful organization."

In addition to painting the barn and house on the property, volunteers also assembled a horse fence. All told, credit union volunteers in the group each gave six hours of service to Eagle Harbor Ranch.  

Located in Summerville, Eagle Harbor Ranch’s mission is to “be a place of refuge and shelter for children ages 4 to 21 who are orphaned, neglected, abused and abandoned. It is the organization's desire to empower each child to rise above their past through love, structure and an opportunity to succeed in life.”

In addition to rolling up their sleeves and assisting Eagle Harbor with painting and other touch-up projects, other credit unions and credit union professionals unable to attend the event donated needed items to the organization. The Lowcountry Council will next hold a networking and social event over the summer. For more information on how you can get involved, please contact Stephanie Ownby.    

Tags:  CUaware  Principle Seven  Principle Six 

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CUaware spotlights volunteerism with May events

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Friday, May 08, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 08, 2015

Principle Seven: Concern for community. Since credit unions are locally owned financial institutions, they are committed to investing in the community.

Following a successful series of educational events held across the Carolinas in January, CUaware plans to spotlight volunteerism in the month of May! Councils in both Carolinas are putting the final touches on what is sure to be a memorable set of events.

On May 12, the Lowcountry heads to the Eagle Harbor Ranch for a Community Give Back. Credit unions across the Lowcountry plan to combine forces to do a variety of terrific projects to benefit Eagle Harbor, a place of refuge and shelter for children ages 4 to 21 who are orphaned, neglected, abused and abandoned. It is their desire to empower each child to rise above their past through love, structure and an opportunity to succeed in life. Event details are available here.    

On May 19, the Triad CUaware Council will host a lunch & learn spotlighting the reasons why credit unions give back to their communities. The session takes place at Truliant Pavilion (3200 Truliant Way in Winston-Salem) from 11:30 am - 1:00 pm.

The event opens with credit union staff in attendance sharing what volunteer and community service projects their credit unions support and why. Guest speaker Mark Curran (Lion's Share FCU CEO) will then talk about the credit union's community involvement. The event continues with Carolinas CU Foundation CEO John McGrail introducing the Foundation's latest project with Victory Junction - Reach

Lunch will be provided and there is no charge to attend. The Triad Council's May event will be followed by a group volunteer project over the summer. Please contact Laura Engle for more information or to register. Deadline to register is May 18.

On May 26, the Pee Dee Council plans a spotlight on volunteerism. Details are still being developed as of this writing. Please contact Will Crosswell for more information, or you may RSVP by clicking here

SAVE THE DATE! On May 28, the Triangle Council will host an evening event at Mia Francesca Trattoria. The event will celebrate CUaware's four year anniversary, be an opportunity to hear more about upcoming volunteer events, and hear the timeline for selecting the CUaware Protégé for the chapter. Please direct questions to Brandon McAdams.

Tags:  CUaware  Principle Seven 

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