Last year, in a Reflections paper for Swoboda, Matt Bland, CEO of Co-op Credit Union, reminded readers of the importance of addressing purpose in credit unions. In Purposively Purposeful: the case for credit union clarity of purpose, Matt encourages credit unions to re-think how they define and communicate their purpose, and usefully breaks this down into chronological steps based on his own experience. 

Matt’s message is reinforced in a recent article by Mike Valentine for the Credit Union Times (which may show paywall if you are not a subscriber). In 5 Steps to Leading with Purpose, Valentine demonstrates how credit unions can “do well by doing good” with an unambiguous and clearly expressed purpose. 

Both of these pieces offer excellent insight and advice on how a refined purpose can improve credit union services in all aspects from business models to customer relationships. Here are the key take-aways: 

  1. Is the purpose clear? It is absolutely critical to take the time and effort to earnestly engage with the motivation behind the organisation; taking a step back to re-evaluate and ask big picture questions like “what is the need we fulfil in society?”
  2. Building blocks. Understanding the history and starting from within the movement, from internal employees is the only way to ensure a solidified movement. Looking at “Purpose in Practice”, how the idea of purpose has manifested into the services credit unions provide.
  3. Reach out! Credit unions have flourished by prioritising community with their members, but there could be a stronger concentration on correspondence between credit unions. Consulting with others, being open-minded to new ideas and considering feedback are core aspects in improvement.
  4. Accountability. Constructing a detailed framework to monitor progress is essential.

Purpose encapsulates the foundation, spread and success of credit unions and it is critical to examine it through a modern lens and ensure that it is expressed in the business model. 

Swoboda is looking to continue the development of ‘purpose thinking’ in credit unions. If you have thoughts or contributions on this discussion, please contact Paul Jones,