CU2.0 Podcast Episode 46 Kirk Kordeleski on Doubling Your Size and More Good News

Can a credit union double in size in five years? You bet, says Kirk Kordeleski, a senior consultant with Best Innovation Group and before that, CEO of Bethpage Federal Credit Union on Long Island where he did exactly that.

Kordeleski points to Navy and also BECU as examples of other credit unions that have also experienced exponential growth.

How? That is why you want to listen to this podcast. He gives the recipe, in some detail, here.  Boiled down it’s think competitively and believe – really believe – you can use inherent credit union advantages such as tax exemption to take a billion or more in dollars of business away from money center banks who very probably won’t even notice it is gone.

There’s more in this podcast. Kordeleski also tells why this is a time of immense, perhaps unprecedented opportunity for credit unions. Use digital and use data to allow your institution to expand in ways that a generation ago would have been unimaginable.

The bad news: a decade from now the number of credit unions may be about half what it is today. Expect 2000 credit unions to vanish in the next decade.  You don’t want to be among them?  There are plenty of survival tips in this podcast.

Listen here. 

Like what you are hearing? Find out how you can help sponsor this podcast here. Very affordable sponsorship packages are available.

Find out more about CU2.0 and the digital transformation of credit unions here. It’s a journey every credit union needs to take. Pronto

The Cooperators Podcast Episode 23 Brel Hutton-Okpalaeke NASCO on Student Co-Ops

Put Brel Hutton-Okpalaeke in your contacts if you are a college student searching for affordable housing. That’s because he is the director of development services at NASCO,  North American Students of Cooperation, where the primary focus is on cooperative housing, especially for students.

Now is the perfect time for NASCO – colleges have been raising student housing and board fees at a brisk pace and, unbeknownst to most, schools run those functions as profit centers. They are not usually loss leaders.  What’s more, schools know that while all eyes are on tuition increases – jumps in prices for room and board frequently are under the radar.

Enter co-op housing where, frequently, students put in work requirements and an upshot is that savings over university housing and board charges can be substantial.

The downside? It takes a number of years to form a new student housing co-op. Schools increasingly are hostile to such co-ops (they want the revenues!). And many cities and towns are downright hostile towards housing options for significant numbers of unrelated adults.

Add in difficulties in securing financing to pay acquire new housing.

That’s why NASCO is crucial. It helps students navigate these difficult, churning waters.

And know there are real plusses to co-op housing for students.  The format teaches how to function in a democracy and, for many, co-op housing is an introduction to cooperatives in general. A few years in a co-op house can lead to credit union membership, membership in food co-op, and maybe even membership in a worker owned cooperative business.

CU2.0 Podcast Episode 45 Gary Oakland BECU

Call this the credit union oral history sequence – Blaine, Bucky Sebastian, now Gary Oakland who took over BECU, with around $700 million in assets, in the mid 1980s and when he left in 2012 it had become a $10 billion+ credit union, one of the nation’s very biggest.

How did Oakland do it? In this podcast you will hear his recipe for credit union success which, put simply, is make the member the center of this universe.  When the member is served, the credit union will thrive.

“It’s all about the member,” said Oakland.

Oakland sees a bright credit union future – but he wonders about the arrival of bank trained executives and how that background will impact credit unions.

A break that came BECU’s way was when the big bank in Washington State, Seafirst nearly went belly up in the 1980s – and was saved from that only when Bank of America took it over.  That gave BECU smoother sailing in its quest to be dominant in its state.

Oakland says he is proud that he left BECU with a small credit union attitude in a big credit union body.

It’s an inspiring credit union tale.

Listen up here.

Like what you are hearing? Find out how you can help sponsor this podcast here. Very affordable sponsorship packages are available.

Find out more about CU2.0 and the digital transformation of credit unions here. It’s a journey every credit union needs to take. Pronto

The Cooperators Podcast Episode 21 Nigel Forrest on Arizona’s Cooperatives

Go ahead, tell me you don’t think of Arizona when the conversation is about cooperatives.

You would be right.

The Grand Canyon State is not Wisconsin or Minnesota or Vermont.

But your podcaster – me – lives in Arizona and so I asked Nigel Forrest, a research associate at Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability, to update me and you about the state of cooperatives in Arizona.

Keep in mind that Arizona, in its comparative indifference to cooperatives, is akin to perhaps two thirds of the nation’s states.

And the good news is that Forest believes there is real upside potential for growth in cooperatives in Arizona.

He sees that as good, because cooperatives also bring more sustainability, more economic democracy.

Right now he pegs the number of cooperatives in Arizona at 50 to 60, mainly credit unions and the second biggest group is rural electric co-ops.

But he says there is vast potential for many new worker co-ops, especially as aging small business owners retire. They could close their business – or just maybe sell it to their employees.  It’s obvious which is better, for the employees, also the community.

Forrest also hopes for a new food co-op in Phoenix, the nation’s fifth biggest city and it has none right now. But he sees real possibilities.

He also has ideas about how to grow awareness of cooperatives.

And the ideas just may work in other states.

He also reports on new platform co-ops that are surfacing in Europe and that just may find use in the US, Arizona included.

Listen up.

This podcast includes a reference to the Community Purchasing Alliance – podcast here.

The food co-op expert whose name I blanked on is the Food Cooperative Initiative – podcast here

The CU2.0 Podcast Episode 43 Caroline Willard Cornerstone

Cannabis banking. Data breaches.  Taxation of credit unions. The disappearance of small credit unions.  The rise of $10 billion+ credit union behemoths. Welcome to the world of Caroline Willard, CEO of the Cornerstone League and, before that, she spent a decade at Co-Op in senior marketing slots.

What do credit unions need to do to survive? What do leagues need to do? Willard offers candid and also optimistic thoughts about these life and death questions.

She also offers insights into what leagues can do to help small credit unions survive in an age of ever more complex and expensive compliance requirements.

And she challenges credit unions to be a bit more like Rocket Mortgage – and if you want to continue to write home loans you will pay heed.

Pay heed too to her thoughts on how taxation of credit unions just might be an existential threat to the industry.

Related podcasts in this series include the two-pack on cannabis bankingTeresa Freeborn on CUNA’s $100 million credit union awareness campaign, and Joe Bergeron of the Vermont League and Pat Conway of the Pennsylvania – NJ league

Listen up here.



Like what you are hearing? Find out how you can help sponsor this podcast here. Very affordable sponsorship packages are available.

Find out more about CU2.0 and the digital transformation of credit unions here. It’s a journey every credit union needs to take. Pronto

CU2.0 Podcast Episode 42 Walt Laskos, CCUA, on Credit Unions Fighting Elder Fraud


Elder fraud is big business. The FBI calculates last year’s losses at over $700 million and involving two million seniors.

That’s a lot of pain.

The scams are predictable. “Your grandson has been arrested. He’s in jail in Memphis.  You need to bail him out. It’s dangerous. Send $5000 in gift cards.”

There are variations. But the usual drill is that a relative has fallen into trouble and the senior can be the hero.

Horrible.

But now credit unions are entering this scene.

Here to tell us what credit unions are doing is Walt Laskos, senior vice president, strategic communications at the Cooperative Credit Union Association, a multi state league covering Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Delaware.

Leagues – usually – spend the bulk of their time lobbying.

But CCUA is putting a lot of energy into fighting elder fraud and helping credit unions to do likewise.

It’s also very, very good PR for credit unions, says Laskos.  That’s not why CCUA does it but the side benefit is really.

Listen up as he talks about what CCUA is doing, with whom, and what the community reaction has been.

Hint: think very very positive

Listen up here.

Like what you are hearing? Find out how you can help sponsor this podcast here. Very affordable sponsorship packages are available.

Find out more about CU2.0 and the digital transformation of credit unions here. It’s a journey every credit union needs to take. Pronto

The Cooperators Podcast Episode 22 Cathie Mahon Inclusiv on CDFIs

Talk to Cathie Mahon, CEO of Inclusiv, and it’s a fast ride into what mission makes a credit union special, distinctive and in her mind the answer is clear: serving the underserved and usually that means economically disadvantaged.

She has tantalizing insights too. For instance: she tells why the business model of community development credit unions may in fact be primed for greater success than the model followed by most credit unions.

This is all about making credit unions work for their communities.  That’s cooperative principles in action.

There are about 1000 so-called community development financial institutions (CDFIs). They do good work. Tune in to find out more.

CU2.0 Podcast Episode 41 Sherri Davidoff on Cyber Insecurities and You

Put phishing emails in front of credit union employees and how many will fall for them and cough up sensitive info? 20 to 60% will get conned.

And that can be costly to a credit union, both in terms of money and reputation.

Enter BrightWise, a Des Moines Iowa cyber training company created by Sherri Davidoff, CEO of LMG Security, and the Iowa Credit Union League’s holding company Affiliates Management Company (AMC).

After training, said Davidoff, the number of employees who fall for the phishing con tumbles below 10%.

What BrightWise will focus on, said Davidoff, are fun, short videos – think maybe five minutes – than an employee can absorb at his/her leisure.

Smarter employees are critical because how hackers work has changed, said Davidoff. “It’s no longer 13-year-olds in their moms’ basements that are hacking us; it’s organized crime groups all over the world,” Davidoff shared with NBC’s Today Show.

“People tend to think cybersecurity happens in the IT department,” added Davidoff. “Front-line staff are under constant assault from crooks and their automated robots, look-alike communications and other crafty tricks. We have to arm employees with knowledge, but also give them the tactics they need to sidestep cyber sneak attacks.”


Want more details on the Paul Allen scam? Read this.


Listen up to this podcast for a fast overview of the cyber threats credit unions face – and what they can, indeed must, do to protect themselves and their members.


Listen here

Like what you are hearing? Find out how you can help sponsor this podcast here. Very affordable sponsorship packages are available.

Find out more about CU2.0 and the digital transformation of credit unions here. It’s a journey every credit union needs to take. Pronto

The Cooperators Podcast Episode 20 Jake Schlachter We Own It

By Robert McGarvey

Corruption. Greed. Ignorance. Racism. Sexism.  Words you don’t usually hear spoken about cooperatives.  But brace yourself because in the next hour you will as The Cooperators Podcast talks with Jake Schlachter, founder and executive director of We Own It, a Madison Wisconsin based organization aimed at energizing the 130 million of us who belong to cooperatives in the US to seize control, to put our cooperatives in the directions we want them to go.

We have that power.

We just have to know it. And use it.

We are member owners. We Own It wants to remind us about that. And offer us tips on how best to use our powers.

The primary focus of We Own It right now are electric cooperatives and, yes, they have a glorious history. They brought light to the darkness of rural America.  It sounds like a Biblical moment.

But now, at many rural electric co-ops, it’s more akin to the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.  

Board members paid six figures for what many believe are volunteers jobs.

Boards with no African Americans serving populations with many African American members.

Boards with no women.

Boards that could spell solar if you spot them the consonants. And many of those boards also just don’t get that adding broadband Internet to their services just may save them for generations to come.

Some electric co-ops are grand indeed. Some aren’t.  We Own It aims to energize members to transform the latter.

We Own It also has its eyes on credit unions which talk a good game of member ownership – but many credit unions fail miserably when it comes to empowering their member owners. Have you ever voted in a credit union election? Ever?

The podcast also detours into food co-ops – and what they can teach electric co-ops and what they can learn from other co-ops.

BTW, Jim Blaine sits on the board of We Own It. He gets his own podcast here. Other, related podcasts include Stuart Reid (food co-ops) and C. E. Pugh (also food co-ops).  And Chris Mitchell discussed rural broadband and electric co-ops here.

To read my interview with scholar Robert Putnam on “Bowling Alone,” read my interview here.

This is fundamentally a very optimistic podcast. But at times it may seem we stepped into Apocalypse Now and all we can do is mumble the horror, the horror.

Buckle up.  

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.