The Cooperators Podcast Episode 8 Alex Stone CooperationWorks!

Alex Stone’s business is this: helping new cooperatives to start and helping existing ones to mature and do better. That’s the core mission of CooperationWorks! where she serves as executive director.

How is she doing? The podcast opens with a simple question: how many new co-ops form in a year?  Stone explains exactly why that question is a lot harder to answer than you might think.

For Stone cooperatives got into her being early, during her student days at UC Berkeley where she lived in co-op housing and was also involved in a food collective.

Cooperatives, she saw, just work better in many cases.

That’s why she relishes her role in helping all kinds of cooperatives and in this wide ranging podcast she discusses worker owned cooperatives, housing co-ops, grocery co-ops and a lot more.

A key CooperationWorks! function is providing training to would-be cooperators and also board members. We just aren’t born knowing how to prosper in a cooperative system – but we can learn how to do it.

Another role of the organization is gathering data about co-ops but, as Stone readily admits, data is slim in many cases.

Buckle up for a fast ride into cooperatives today and tomorrow.

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 7 Frank Shipper on Worker Ownership

Worker owned businesses just are better.

Don’t believe me. Believe Frank Shipper, an emeritus professor at Salisbury University in Maryland and editor of a book, Shared Entrepreneurship.

Shipper is a scholar who has spent years studying worker owned businesses – both ESOPs and worker cooperatives – and he really is convinced that in many cases worker owned businesses just outwork their conventionally structured competitors.

Why aren’t there more worker owned businesses? Partly it’s ignorance. Most of us just don’t know that much about them, and many of us confuse them with communes.

There also are issues around raising capital, especially with worker cooperatives.

Shipper, for his part, has labored hard to dispel the ignorance.  And that’s what this podcast is about.

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 28 Patrick Conway PCUA on Lobbying and Much More

Consider this podcast a crash course on credit union lobbying, 2019 style. Our instructor: Patrick Conway, CEO of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, a very large league with upwards of 370 members.

PCUA lobbies both in Harrisburg, the state capital, and in Washington, DC.

A lot of what PCUA does however could be considered credit union education. For instance, PCUA has played a lead role in the new Philadelphia ID card – designed to give Philadelphia residents a low cost ID card. Will it be adequate for opening a new account at a credit union? That’s still being sorted out and PCUA is in the mix, offering education and counsel to its members.

PCUA is doing likewise with cannabis banking, a topic of significant interest to Pennsylvania credit unions.

Along the way we also talk about credit unions haves and the have nots and, in Pennsylvania, assured Conway, the big credit unions offer plenty of assistance to smaller institutions.

Other topics on the agenda: credit union tax exemption, the CUNA-league relationship, and what credit union can do to win greater consumer acceptance.

This is a rich podcast.  Give it several listens.

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.

Crying Out for an End to Overdraft Fees — Meet Grain Technology

By Robert McGarvey

Probably the single most despised charge at financial institutions is the overdraft fee – and a NerdWallet survey of the exact charges imposed by a selection of mid-sized (Navy Federal) through mammoth (Chase) institutions found fees at $20 (Navy Federal) and as high as $39 (KeyBank).

$35 is a particularly common charge in the survey.

Rapacious greed.

Ask yourself this. You present a Visa card at WalMart and the card is declined (and you know it’s because the balance is overextended and a payment is late).  Does the cashier say, “Sorry, bud, card declined and now you owe us another $35 for being a nuisance.”

That does not happen.

You walk out without your purchase but you aren’t dinged for a nuisance charge.

Overdrafts are different – charges are the norm – even tho at the financial institution all that happens is that bits and bytes shuffle around on a computer screen.

In the olden days, yes, a bounced check was a hassle. It generated lots of paperwork. Many hands of many clerks got involved. Very probably a fee was justified.

Not today. It’s all automated.

A few innovative, digital first institutions (Simple and Chime for instance) already charge no overdraft fees.  More will follow. But very probably many legacy institutions will cling to the fees because it’s easy money.

Some credit unions have worked up their own ways to help members dodge overdrafts – Hope Credit Union tell about its tools in this podcast – but many smaller institutions don’t know exactly how to handle this issue.

So they charge overdraft fees, the old school style.

It hurts consumers. It’s terrible for a financial institution’s reputation. But it is easy money.

So now third party work arounds are in the mix.

For the consumer the message is simple: you can keep your legacy checking account but make yourself immune to overdraft fees.

How?

Meet Grain Technology, a Northern California based start up on a mission to stamp out overdraft fees and, in the process, help thin file consumers create credit histories.  Win win.

For the participating credit union, it’s plug and play. The member links the sharedraft account to Grain and Grain takes care of the rest.

And Grain has been invited to play in the Arizona fintech sandbox where it is allowed to pilot its tools freed from some regulatory constraints. The company already has plans to offer its tools to students at Arizona State, the nation’s biggest university.

Exactly what does Grain do?  In a conversation with Carl Memnon, COO of Grain and a co-founder (hear the podcast here), the details emerged.

The building blocks are that Grain takes a new look at the consumer’s spending habits, income, expenses. It generates a proprietary algorithm. This lets it predict when a consumer’s linked checking account is likely to go into overdraft and Grain can offer an injection of cash to inoculate against an overdraft fee.

The charge? Grain sees its APR ranging from 12% to 15.99% and it envisions cash injections typically ranging from maybe $25 to a few hundred dollars.

Result one: no more overdraft fees.

Result two: the consumer builds a credit history that Grain will report to monitoring agencies.  For a thin file young adult that just may be a real blessing. Especially since many of those generations are averse to using conventional credit instruments.

Right now Grain is looking to partner with credit unions that want to help members sidestep overdraft fees. Most of those consumers, said Memnon, probably will come from the money center banks (with overdraft fees typically around $35 per incident).

What would prompt a B of A customer to ditch that institution in favor of a much smaller credit union? Just one overdraft fee could do it.  Especially when the recruitment pitch is that this tool will stop overdraft fees, period.

Memnon said Grain also envisions sharing its interest income with participating institutions.

All while essentially living up to the credit union mission of helping consumers manage their money better.


Find out more about Grain here: team@trygrain.com.

Listen to the CU2.0 podcast with Grain here.

The Cooperators Podcast Episode 6 Melissa Hoover, DAWI, on Worker Cooperatives

The deep dive into Workers Cooperatives continues in the Cooperators Podcast.  Last week we talked with Esteban Kelly of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives. This week it’s Melissa Hoover, executive director of Democracy at Work Institute, self described think and do tank that is doing a lot of thinking about worker cooperatives and how to form more of them, and how to position them to succeed.  

Hoover throws out lots of big ideas in this podcast but a key thought is that just maybe for many of us, as home ownership becomes but a dream, the real way to personal equity is a share of a business.

According to her for many workers that just may be a new, 21st century reality and it is a compelling driver for the belief that we will be seeing a surge in the numbers of new worker cooperatives.

Many of those co-ops likely will be in service businesses. Healthcare. Home care. Gateway jobs into the economy and if the worker can also be an owner, how great is that.

A technical point. We started this podcast using one service but ran afoul with technical difficulties.  In this podcast you will hear my recap of that short conversation.  And then you will hear the actual podcast recording – using a different service – with Hoover.

I kept that four minute starter recording however. For those who want to hear it, here’s the link.  It’s audible but the clicks and strange noises are annoying.  

The full Hoover DAWI podcast is here.


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 5 Paul Bradley on Co-Ops and Mobile Homes

Owning a mobile home park is like owning a Waffle House where the customers are chained to the table.

That quip is attributed to a leader in the mobile home industry.  

It’s a thought Paul Bradley, president of ROC USA in New Hampshire, often mulls. That’s because his company is in the business of helping mobile home park residents join together into a cooperative to buy the land their mobile home sits on.

Understand the weirdness. Mobile homes aren’t mobile, not usually. If they are, it would cost the owner thousands of dollars to move it.

They are in a poor position when it comes to dealing with rent hikes.

But when they are owners, everything changes.

Not one of the hundreds of deals Bradley has put together has gone bust. Not a one.

It’s a tremendous example of cooperative principles really working to transform lives.

A lot more can be done and, in this podcast, Bradley calls out for more efforts to bring cooperatives to the economically disadvantaged.

What’s stopping you?

Listen to the podcast here.

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 26 Carl Memnon, COO Grain Technology on an End to Overdraft Fees

Just say no more to overdraft fees.

And make this decision good for your members and also good for your credit union.

You may even grab a few customers away from Chase and the other money center banks.

That’s the promise of fintech startup Grain Technology.

In this podcast Grain co-founder and COO Carl Memnon tells about the company’s proprietary algorithm that lets it devise strategies for making fast loans to users who are about to trigger an overdraft charge and to also help those users find easy ways to start saving.

The latter is the why behind the company’s name – users will see their assets and their credit score grow “grain by grain,” said Memnon.

Memnon also talks about being in the Arizona fintech sandbox and the benefits for a small startup in playing in this sandbox.

Grain is actively seeking to align with credit unions that want to offer its overdraft protection service to members. In the podcast Memnon tells about the benefits to credit unions but a big plus is having cool technology that in effect let’s the member know they will see no more overdraft fees.

Listen up, you’ll find plenty of interest in this podcast.

Listen here.

BTW, the sirens you’ll hear are ambient noise in New York where Memnon was during the call.  If you’ve spent any time in New York you won’t even hear the siren. I couldn’t scrub it out so decided just to enjoy the New York moments.

Like what you are hearing in this podcast? Find out how you can help sponsor the 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 4 Esteban Kelly on Worker Owned Co-ops

Presented by Robert McGarvey.

Listen in here


That sound you hear just may be a tidal wave of worker owned cooperatives.

At least that’s what Esteban Kelly, executive director of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, is hoping for and working for and dreaming about.

He believes that just now be the time for worker owned cooperatives.

Why? Because for so many of us our economic lives are grim. Income inequality is the economic buzz work du jour but it’s just that old saying, the rich are getting richer and the poor, well, you know what’s happening with them.

Kelly says that in a decade maybe 0% of Americans will have zero assets.

That’s busted, baby.

Worker ownership of businesses just may be the cure.

And a lot of it is happening today. Retiring Baby Boomer entrepreneurs are selling their companies to their employees, often as a worker co-op. Home health workers are joining together and forming co-ops. So are cleaning crews.

There’s soaring recognition that it just is better to own a slice of the pie.

Listen to this provocative half hour podcast.

And know we have three or four more worker cooperative podcasts in the pipeline.  Now’s the time to learn more about this movement. And The Cooperators Podcast is where to learn.

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 McGarvey Credit Union Podcast: CU2.0 Podcast Episode 25 Joe Bergeron Vermont Credit Unions

Say congratulations to Joe Bergeron – he’s in his 40th year of service to Vermont credit unions and he presently serves as CEO of the Association of Vermont Credit Unions where he has a close up view of the issues and ideas that rock his state’s 19 credit unions, which vary in size from a $1billion+ institution to tiny ones.

In this podcast Bergeron also talks about the relationship between the state leagues and CUNA, state government and the federal, and how small credit unions sometimes matter way beyond their size.

For a topical hook he also talks about CUNA’s GAC and what Vermont credit unions get from that confab.

It’s a wide ranging talk with an eye always planted on the future.

Listen to this podcast 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 3 Daniel Smith, the Cooperative Network

Listen to Daniel Smith talk about cooperatives in the states where his Cooperative Network operates – Wisconsin and Minnesota – and you might think this has to be the promised land. Just about every legislator knows about cooperatives. Most belong to some.  Just about every citizen does similar – many belong to three or five or more.

But listen closely and what Smith is discussing are the crucial issues cooperatives just about everywhere face: the war for talent, the struggle for support in government, and life and death issues that ag co-ops in particular now struggle with.

Smith’s Cooperative Network is a fascinating organization.  It represents co-ops from 12 different sectors – everything from some of the nation’s largest ag co-ops to small Union Cab, a worker owned transportation company in Madison.

They seem diverse – they are diverse – but, said Smith, their cooperative foundation means they have more in common than might initially meet the eye.

Give Smith a listen and you just may hear a blueprint for how to fight for and win more respect for co-ops everywhere, not just the upper midwest.  It’s an inspiring talk.

Listen here.

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.