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.

CU2.0 Podcast Episode 40 the Jim Blaine Marathon

At 30 he took over as CEO of State Employees’ Credit Union in North Carolina.  That was 1979.  Come 2016 and he retired. SECU had grown to $33 billion – and it had 256 branches and 5800 employees.

That’s the Jim Blaine story and here he sits for a marathon interview, the longest in this podcast’s history.

It’s worth the hour. Make time.

Blaine starts out by questioning the wave of mergers that is now rocking the world of credit unions. Why not just liquidate the institution and give every member $1000?

Keep listening and you realize he’s not exactly for doing that. In fact he denounces the loss of a few hundred credit union charters yearly.

What he is actually doing is highlighting a reality that, typically, those mergers accomplish just about nothing. The resulting institution, a bit bigger, is in fact no more competitive.

Blaine also worries about the loss of local institutions, where in many credit unions all decisions – including the trivial – get made at corporate HQ.

Is there in fact a future for credit unions?

Maybe. Maybe not.  Blaine highlights a strategy for keeping credit unions relevant. But he frets that many may not heed the message.

Are you listening?

Listen up to Blaine here.

Related podcasts mention in this interview include Bill BynumMaine HarvestTeresa Freeborn, and Cliff Rosenthal.

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 Episode 19 Chris Mitchell on Rural Broadband and Co-Ops

If you live in the sticks and want broadband, Chris Mitchell is the man to know.

If you are a cooperator and want to hear a co-op success story, Chris Mitchell also is the man to know.

That’s because – as director of the Community Broadband Initiative – Mitchell knows the reality of what’s happening in bringing high speed Internet to rural America.  He also records a weekly podcast, Broadband Bits. It’s a good listen.

By his estimate maybe 85% of the lower 48 states land mass lacks high speed Internet.

By contrast, 90% of significantly populated areas have that access.

This is about a whole lot more than streaming porn and playing online games.  It many ways it’s about the life of rural America, much of which faces a depopulation crisis.

Good broadband just may cure that.

Nobody thinks broadband alone will keep folks on the farm. But a lack of broadband just may be enough to send them packing.

Where do co-ops fit in? As heroes in fact, roles played in much of the country by both electric co-ops and telephone co-ops (of which there are many hundreds by Mitchell’s count).

A few decades ago the telephone co-ops began to offer broadband. In the last decade the electric co-ops – generally much bigger companies with deeper pockets – have entered the picture.

Mitchell expects a stampede of co-ops entering the fight.

This all is reminiscent of the rural electrification project that brought light to the countryside in the FDR New Deal.

It worked then. Mitchell believes it will work again and is optimistic that rural America doon will enjoy quality broadband, very possibly better than what urban America gets.

“The solution is in view,” Mitchell said.  “There’s little that would stop co-ops from solving this problem.”

 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.

The Cooperators Podcast Episode 18 Christina Jennings Shared Capital

Need a loan? You want to know Christina Jennings, Executive Director of Shared Capital, a Twin Cities based loan fund that is itself a cooperative and makes loans only to member cooperatives and there are around 250 of them.

In the past 30 years Shared Capital has made around 850 loans totalling $50 million. This year it will make around a couple dozen loans, said Jennings, with an average loan amount a notch over $100,000.

Listen closely to this podcast to hear about the loan application process. Jennings is very explicit about what’s needed to succeed.

As for the mix of co-ops funded, Jennings said Shared Capital has seen a huge spike in the number of worker co-ops – now more than half the applicants. It’s also seen a decline in food co-ops, in part because that sector is fiercely competitive right now.

Jennings also discusses how to assess the viability of a start up worker co-op.

All in, said Jennings, this is a great time to be in the co-op world – they now are seen not as a fringe but as part of the economic solution.

But opening a new co-op remains a long and tough slog that may take a decade to bring to fruition. That’s why a key question has to be: why are you forming a co-op?

Want to become a Shared Capital member? Jennings tells the how to in this podcast. 

She also tells a great story about how Organic Valley, a Shared Capital member, is living the cooperative principles in its support for other co-ops.

Along the way in this podcast you’ll hear mentions of previous podcast guests such as Stuart Reid (food co-ops),  C. E. Pugh (also food co-ops), Paul Bradley (mobile home parks), and also Davil Gill of Marquette Brewing, a start-up that in fact Shared Capital has been working with.

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.

What Do Younger Generations Want from Credit Unions?: The CU2.0 Focus Sessions


By Robert McGarvey

Chew on this Credit Union Journal headline:  Credit Unions are losing the war for Millennials.

Worse, the average member age keeps trending up.  Per the CUJournal article, “Half of credit union members are now age 53 and older. These are members who for the most part have gone through their home-buying and wealth-building phases and are approaching the slow draw down of assets in retirement, if not there already.”

Credit unions could pat themselves on the back for wooing more than their share of Gex X – 31% of members are in that cohort – but hold the back slapping because credit unions are desperately failing in the fight for Millennials (born 1981-1996), the prime ages for active borrowers.

The CUJ piece said: “Right now, just 24 percent of members are millennials, while 40 percent of customers at digital-first direct banks and 34 percent of customers at the top 50 global bank are millennials. Credit unions are losing the battle for the youth.”

Probably credit unions are doing no better in the fight for Gen Z (born 1996-2015), whose oldest members are now out of school, in the workforce, buying cars, using credit cards, and dreaming about home ownership. They are about 20% of the US population and a reality is that most credit unions just ignore them. That’s pushing Gen Z into the arms of fintechs (can you say Venmo?) and the global and digital banks . And that’s a mistake.

What do credit unions need to do to win these generational battles? CU2.0 recently convened two focus groups.  One with three Gen Zs, in the other three Millennials spoke up.

You won’t like what they had to say.

(Both sessions are in the CU2.0 podcast series. Hear their words from their very lips. Gen Z podcast here. Millennials here.)

There is good news. Both cohorts agree that credit unions have a lot of plusses. Free checking is widely available – especially important to many who are burdened with sizable student debts.  The non profit status of credit unions is a plus with these age groups. So is the community orientation of most credit unions.

And the last big plus are the vast credit union surcharge free ATM networks, via Co-Op and also via CuLiance, where each network is 2x the biggest bank ATM networks. Just one problem: very few millennials and Gen Z know about this. “I didn’t know about this network until today,” confessed one focus group participant who works for a company that consults with credit unions.

Just about all the participants said that few, if any, of their friends and generational peers knew about any of the credit union plusses. They don’t even know they are non profits.

“They seemed sketchy to me,” said one participant who indicated he had thought credit unions were kind of wannabe banks that weren’t big enough to qualify.

(Listen to the CU2.0 podcast with Teresa Freeborn who heads CUNA’s $100 million “Open Your Eyes” campaign to raise awareness of credit unions.”)

The bad news continues. Credit unions pride themselves on their branches – but do younger generations ever step in a branch? Nope is the answer from many.  “I haven’t been in a branch in three years,” said one in the focus group.

And credit unions have a lingering reputation for serving up antiquated, secondrate technology – which is especially bad news with generations who want to do most of their banking on a mobile phone. Is the technology really this bad? Doesn’t matter if enough of the young believe it.

So is this RIP credit unions? It is not. The focus group members pointed to the strength of the credit union message and urged credit unions to get busy and active spreading their messages on social media (and maybe not Facebook – listen to the podcast to learn why).

Another idea that emerged from the focus groups is the suggestion that credit unions get busy offering financial education and budgeting skills classes geared to the young – perhaps as young as middle school students.  With many young graduating college deep in student loan debt (upwards of $37,000 apiece), these generations could benefit from classes in basic budget skills.

And get them as members early and they just may stay members – especially when they understand that the ATM networks mean they can access their credit union no matter where their travels take them.

Last advice from the focus groups: run one of your own. Gather up three or six millenials for a one hour session, do likewise with Gex Z, and listen, listen, listen.  They will tell you how to market to them if you only ask. The best route to actionable information is to go to the source. They want to tell you how to serve them better, Just ask.

Listen to the two part CU2.0 podcast on what the young say about credit unions.  

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 37 Cliff Rosenthal on CDFIs

The McGarvey Credit Union Podcast: CU2.0 Podcast Episode 37 Cliff Rosenthal on CDFIs http://bit.ly/2Wd5vBw

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.

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 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.

Listen, too, to this podcast with Bill Bynum of Hope.

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