The Cooperators Podcast Episode 17 Cliff Rosenthal CDFIs

by Robert McGarvey

You want to know about community development financial institutions? Cliff Rosenthal is the man you want to talk to.  He literally wrote the book on CDFIs and also the longstanding credit union initiative to serve the unbanked: Democratizing Finance: Origins of the Community Development Financial Institutions Movement.

This podcast also posted to the CU2.0 Podcast series which I run.  That’s a professional credit union series but the Rosenthal podcast has wider appeal because – fundamentally – it’s about bringing financial services to the unbanked and underbanked and stimulating more economic activity in communities that may be ignored by mainstream banks and even many credit unions.

Credit unions of course are cooperatives. Not all credit union employees know that. But it is fact.

Have CDFIs lived up to their potential?

Have credit unions changed the shape of financial services in America?

Rosenthal has opinions and he shares them in this podcast.

Along the way he talks about his stint at the CFPB – and the ingrained credit union executive distrust of that institution. Which may not be entirely warranted.

Rosenthal pulls no punches. He said, “It dismays me that 100 years after the birth of credit unions we still have a significant problem of the underbanked and unbanked.” And, note, about 25% of households falls into the category.

 Rosenthal also said that in 1990 there were around 13,500 banks and thrifts and a like number of credit unions.  There now are about 5500 of each.  “The number of credit unions falls by 200 to 300 each year.  Ten years from now there will be 3000, 3500 credit unions.”

That math is flawless. And it has to scare you.

In this podcast, you’ll hear a discussion of the successes of a Mississippi CDFI credit union executive Bill Bynum.  He told his own story in this podcast.

You’ll also hear about Jim Blaine, the charismatic, longtime CEO of State Employees’ Credit Union in North Carolina, one of the country’s biggest.

And you’ll also hear Rosental insist that many credit unions that focus on serving the underserved do better financially than those that focus on fighting with banks for more affluent consumers.

If you enjoy this podcast, listen in to the podcast with Cathie Mahon, CEO of Inclusive, a trade group for institutions that focus on community development.

 Like what you are hearing? The Cooperators Podcast seeks sponsors and supporters to help us spread the word about cooperatives and how they often are the better way. Contact Robert McGarvey to find out what you can do to sustain this podcast.

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