The future is in our hands

CUInsight - September 15, 2021, by IONNIE MCNEILL, AACUC 

One thing we know for sure, “it’s better to start saving and investing earlier rather than later”. Another

thing we know for sure, “our youth aren’t being taught the importance of a financial education in schools”.

Therefore, that leaves us within the credit union community with a great opportunity – to make sure it’s

done right.


Credit unions have always served the communities that created them and by their very nature, are

educational institutions. Credit unions pride themselves on educating members on what’s out there, what

to look out for, and how to get the best rates and service.

This summer, the African-American Credit Union Coalition ( teamed up with BetterInvesting ( to support a non-profit that is on the forefront of financial and investment education for Youth of Color, CLIMB ( CLIMB hosted a Summer Stock Market Experience Program, that served over 200 youth nationwide, exposing them to investing, credit unions, careers in finance, entrepreneurship, investment clubs and portfolio management. This program was catered to African-American and Hispanic youth and resulted in 100 credit union accounts being opened and 50 Youth Roth IRAs being opened.

One of the highlights of the program was the Credit Union Panel hosted on June 22nd, where 11 participating credit unions explained the difference between credit unions and banks, the benefits of opening a credit union account early and having access to other financial education services their unique credit union provides to its members.

This panel, along with the 11 other weekly Speaker Series sessions, really helped to educate our youth, and their parents, on what we all know and take for granted by working in this industry – just how important it is to start saving and investing now and learning how to make better financial decisions.

It’s easy to say, “I wish they would teach this in schools”. But it’s more effective to realize that we, as a credit union community, are the only ones really well-equipped to teach this. And the best place to start is with our members and their families. Making sure they have access to accounts is not enough. Having access to a quality education regarding their finances, their financial goals and the resources and support to help make those goals a reality is what’s needed. And that is only available through partnerships. Partnerships with other non-profits such as AACUC and BetterInvesting who are doing the work, educating our youth and preparing them to have a fruitful future with a quality financial and investment education, starting in grade school.

The future is in our hands. For many of us, working and contributing to the credit union movement is more than just a job. It is a passion for us. For we know the benefits it can bring. We have witnessed the financial liberation it can offer. Do we not have the answers for the next generation? And if we do, are we pointing them in the right direction or waiting for someone else to do it because our job title doesn’t have “teacher” in it?

Let’s give the next generation a head start many of us didn’t have, simply by sharing our time, experience, and expertise with them. Join us next year, so that you can be part of the solution in helping to build wealth in the next generation, starting with education and exposure. We are one community, the credit union community.

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AACUC Meeting Coverage: Panelists Address Myths Around ITIN Lending
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SNELLVILLE, Ga.— Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) lending not only benefits immigrants, it’s also good business,

say experts who note that despite perceptions, the loans actually see very low delinquencies.

What often gets in the way of more credit unions making these loans are those types of “myths,” according to a panel of

experts speaking at the African American Credit Union Coalition’s virtual annual meeting.

ITIN loans are for people who are not eligible for Social Security numbers, often undocumented immigrants. ITIN's are issued

to both resident and nonresident aliens for tax-reporting purposes.

A big myth, explained John Wilkening, chief retail officer at the $893-million Notre Dame CU in Notre Dame, Ind., which has

an ITIN portfolio of $250 million, is the loans are high risk.

“I will tell you that these members pay us back,” Wilkening said.

He emphasized many credit unions fear not only will members who receive an ITIN loan default, but there is the additional concern over immigrants returning to their homeland and turning their backs on their obligations to the credit union.

“That is not happening within our ITIN portfolio,” he said. “These borrowers are trying to become part of our society in the U.S., and they are not running. These folks have so much honor, they are the salt of the earth, and it’s one of the most rock-solid loans you can make.”

More Misconceptions

Vanessa Kuduk, vice president of lending and Hispanic outreach at Members Credit Union, said thinking ITIN loans largely for a certain group of borrowers is not true.

“Thinking these are just for Latinos, that's a myth,” said Kuduk, who came to the U.S. herself years ago as an illegal immigrant.

“There is also this inaccurate perception that immigrants don't pay taxes, they do,” Kuduk said. “And I know there are many

documented Americans that don’t pay taxes.”

Those aren’t the only misconceptions, according to panelists. Another such myth is that assuming the data reported by the credit

bureaus is all the same when it comes to the use of ITINs for purposes of checking credit, said Mario Vega, consumer lending manager

at $238-million Guadalupe Credit Union in Sante Fe, N.M.

“When we first started making ITIN loans we used TransUnion,” Vega explained. “And this really became a matter of trial and error.”

Vega said the credit union discovered when it switched to Equifax it found a difference in the data when it comes to accepting ITINs.

“When we switched to Equifax we then were able to accommodate our entire membership,” he said. “What we have found is that Equifax is the best credit bureau service provider to use if you want to start ITIN lending.”

The Rewards

Outside of myth busting, the panel told the AACUC audience that accepting members with ITINs is rewarding for both the members and the credit union, and it builds lasting, profitable relationships.

Kuduk said Members Credit Union has not sought to simply build relationships with the immigrant communities it serves by “hanging out a sign.” Instead, it has benefitted from word of mouth from the borrowers themselves within their own communities.

“We build relationships within our communities,” she said. “We're going out and teaching financial literacy courses. We’re going to events and we're talking straight. We're explaining we need to bring these folks out of the darkness—it’s time in this nation for immigrants to come out of the shadows. We do a lot of communicating and calming of the people, and we sit down with them—often right at their kitchen tables. That is where we do our greatest work.”

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AACUC Conference Coverage: Insights Into What Young Adults (Don’t) Know About Finances

8/19/21, SNELLVILLE, Ga.–As credit unions provide financial education to young adults, the most effective message they can share is the “importance of now.”

That point was delivered by Ionnie McNeil during the African American Credit Union Coalition’s virtual annual meeting. McNeill, who is director of the Better Investing South Florida Chapter, provides young adults with guidance on investment and wealth building.

McNeill told the audience they can never underemphasize how important it is to get young adults to understand the long-term, wealth building value of investing early.

“They need to understand the importance of now,” said McNeill, known as the “Baby Billionaire.”

McNeill said that message is even more important for young adults of color, adding that in Better Investing classes she holds most minority participants know little about investing and most don’t know what a credit union is.

Most Powerful Force

“The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest,” said McNeill, who began investing at the age of seven.

McNeill polled the AACUC audience and asked if they would rather take $1 million today, or the final sum from a penny that doubles every day for 30 days.

“Everyone is going to choose the $1 million that’s right in front of them, right?” said McNeill, who added most people don’t see the true value in waiting 30 days for the revenue from a doubling penny.

But waiting pays off, she reminded.

“Let’s see who benefits most—those who took the million dollars now or those who waited,” McNeill  said. “If you were those who chose the penny, you would have is $5.4 million at the end of 30 days.”

The Biggest Obstacle

McNeill said the example shows how hard it can be for young investors to understand the benefits of investing early and waiting for wealth to build.

“I think the biggest obstacle for young investors is at the beginning, when things move very slowly,” she said. “I mean, from our example, one penny turns into two, two into four … but then halfway through the month you really see the trajectory.”

That trajectory is what McNeill said credit unions must help young investors see.

“That’s the energy that I want you to bring to this conversation, which really helps drive home why teaching youth and exposing youth to savings and investing at an early age is so important,” she said.

In the classes she conducts with Better Investing, McNeill said it is clear there is little understanding of investment among young adults of color.

“Most of the students did not have a credit union account, or even know what a credit union is. Even more did not know what a Roth IRA is,” she said. “At the beginning of (a recent Better Investing) program, we had about 400 students express interest, and with the summer and natural attrition we now have 255 students planning to complete the program. In our opening survey we asked if they had a credit union account and 60% said they did not.”

Changing Situation

McNeill said that situation has changed among the students as the summer program progressed, as well as the perspective the future is simply too far out.

“The hardest thing to do is get a young person to understand time,” she said. “Their relationship to time is very different than ours. They live more in the present. They don’t have a past long enough to really be retrospective, and the future seems too far out to plan. But they are actually the richest population, and they don’t realize how rich they can be if they start investing now. A little self-awareness, a little bit of education about investing and you can propel them into spaces they could have never dreamed about.”


Inspirational Message Helps Kick Off Meeting

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8/19/21 -SNELLVILLE, Ga.–Credit union leaders have been offered one personal tale of overcoming obstacles, three examples of people who have shown leadership, and six words to live by.

Speaking to the opening session of the African American Credit Union Coalition’s virtual annual meeting, Dr. Adeline

Nukuna urged her audience to adhere to these six words: “Be bold, be mindful, be brave.”

“These are not new words for any of you,” said Nukuna. “As people of color our lives have been defined and defended by

being bold and mindful and brave. We get tired sometimes feeling we have to prove ourselves every day and seemingly

every way. Even as an MD, I still get second-guessed because of the color of my skin and my accent. I am here, however,

to tell you you are not alone in this trouble. Even when you are tired from the fight, there is still the hands of others besides

you who can lift you into that beautiful sky above you, where the wind is always at your back carrying you.”

Nukuna, who received her medical degree and Ph.D. in medical microbiology from the Creighton University School of Medicine and who is now employed by Beebe Medical Group in Rehoboth Beach, Md., is also author of the book, “From Low to Glow: Shaping the Rhythm of Creation by Self Gift.” The book is described as a “practical roadmap around and above the self-limiting challenges of life.”

Unique Characteristics

According to Nukuna, boldness, mindfulness and bravery all have unique characteristics.

“Boldness is deciding to take ownership of who you are,” said Nukuna. “It’s the recognition of the authentic you.”

Mindfulness, she said, is about being “fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing at all times. In this loud and distraction-filled world, mindfulness can be a superpower on its own. It calls for us to minimize the distractions that cause us to forget who we are.”

Finally, said Nukuna, bravery is not about bravado, bullying or arrogance. 

“It is the wisdom to ask for help, guidance and direction when life is unclear or unkind,” she told the AACUC meeting. “Bravery is humility in action, because humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but instead thinking of ourselves less. Bravery has no use for pride and selfishness. Bravery accepts the help and wisdom of others. Bravery helps us give that help and wisdom to others without the expectation of reward or recognition.”

Moreover, added Nukuna, bravery “calls out injustice wherever it may be, in our hearts, our homes and even in our credit unions.”

Becoming bold, mindful and brave helps to overcome what Nukuna described as the “chorus of negative emotions” heard in life and at work and even inside one’s head, such as “Nobody would listen to this,” and “My idea is not good enough.”

Three Examples

Nukuna offered three “real-life” examples of the six words to live by, two of which she drew from credit unions. The examples included:

Boldness: Andy Janning

Janning is well-known to many in credit unions for his work with the National Credit Union Foundation and as host of the annual Herb Wegner Awards. 

Nukuna pointed to Janning’s experience in 2019 when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and they experienced the “emotional and financial trauma such a diagnosis brings.”

As a result, as reported here, the experience led Janning to launch what Nukuna called a “once-in-a-lifetime assignment” to create a program called “Side Effects” for the Foundation that highlights in videos and podcasts the financial crisis caused by cancer in the United States.

“Along the way Andy’s heart broke, not just for the financial crisis cancer causes, but also for the significant racial disparities in outcomes and death rates in the country,” said Nukuna, noting African Americans have the highest death rates from most cancers. 

Janning has also created an initiative called “End Terminal Debt,” a non-profit seeking to pay off up to $50,000 in loans held by terminal cancer patients across the country. At least half of the patients served by End Terminal Debt are African Americans, Nukuna said, saying she has been so inspired by Janning’s work she is providing seed money to the AACUC to help kickstart the initiative. 

Mindful: Renee Sattiewhite

Sattiewhite is president/CEO of the African American Credit Union Coalition and has overseen much of the organization’s growth. 

“Renee personifies the dictum of being mindful,” said Nukuna. “She leads with great mental presence and is present without forgetting the past. By combining that past and the present, she knows how to begin the future. She identifies opportunities that beckon her to her set goals. She embodies the spirit of people helping people.”

Bravery: Godfrey Madukwe

Madukwe is Nukuna’s husband. 

“Godfrey’s bravery is executed right at home,” she said. “He has a full-time job and is very good at what he does. For him, bravery means that to be strong in no way requires (him to) be weak.

He gives me a shoulder to lean on always. I would be more accurate to say his full-time employment is ensuring that all my endeavors come to fruition. He is that trusted shoulder and I let him take on some of the responsibilities that are supposed to be mine as the woman of the house. Godfrey does not consider the enormous sacrifices he is making for me and family as a weakness. He ensures my white coat is clean and ironed always. He does all this in spite of his own full-time job and imperatives…Godfrey lets me be who I want to be, my authentic self, (and does) all this at the expense of being called weak or saying I control him.”

One Young Woman’s Example

All of the examples, said Nukuna, remind her of the story of a young lady she once knew.

That young woman, she recalled, was newly graduated with a master’s degree and was entering a doctorate program. At the same time, she had to have emergency surgery for a cancer that thankfully turned out to be benign.  She was also facing a lack of funds to continue her education. 

“Mindful that blocks may well be stepping stones, her financial pinch became a springboard,” said Nukuna.

Nukuna further shared how the young woman’s dream was to study in the United States. That led her to spending countless hours in the library with a copy of a guide to medical programs in the U.S., a list she narrowed to 60. She then hand-wrote letters to the five-dozen programs and described her circumstances and her interest in doing research on HIV/AIDS.

“Weeks went by without any response to many of the posts,” Nukuna shared. “The few responses that came included expressions of regret, that they did not have money to support her. Stipends were going to be her lifeline. After more days of fruitless waiting, a gentleman in the U.S. called to say he was going to find some money in his grant for a small stipend for her, but she had to be accepted into a graduate program. She was accepted.

“She flew across the Atlantic with $1,000 to start life,” Nukuna continued. “The young lady and the gentleman met in the campus parking lot…where he pointed to the sky and said, ‘Look, up there, what do you see?’

It’s Time to Fly

“And I responded, ‘The sky,’” Nukuna said, revealing the young lady of the story was her. “That’s when he said to me, ‘As long as you work hard, the sky is the limit.’ That 24-year-old woman who dreamt of a career in medicine sent stacks of letters to strangers to bring that dream to life. He believed in me when no one else would. He invested in me when no one else would. He helped me see the sky and my unique place in it. 

“The world cannot hold us down,” Nukuna told the meeting. “We are meant for and made for the sky. Lift up your eyes boldly and see. Lift up your senses mindfully. Lift up your hearts bravely. This is our time. Let us now, my friends, come together and fly.”

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Episode 69: If you Build it, They will Come:

Financial Education and DEI in Today’s WorldBanking on Experience

Givers of hope. – Sounds epic, right? But it’s precisely what financial institutions have the potential to be IF their top priorities are to listen, educate, and include.


Joining me on CRMNEXT’s Banking on Experience to discuss financial education and DEI in today’s changing world is Andrea Finley- a true rock star in her field.


No really…she was 2020’s CU Rockstar for her work in financial education. ;) She’s also the Community Engagement Manager at AACUC (African American Credit Union Coalition), a certified diversity professional, and one of the most inspiring guests I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with on the podcast.

Topics we covered include:

Why Andrea is so passionate about this topicCommon challenges she’s seen in the field of financial educationA family affair: making finances less tabooHow credit unions can help turn obstacles into opportunitiesWhat DEI really means (some awesome perspective here) And more

Stay in touch with Banking on Experience by listening on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.

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Who cares? Is the credit union different?


August 12, 2021



The credit union difference – the driving force behind our movement. 

These are the first words we utter in our thirty-second elevator pitch to answer the age-old question, “What’s the difference between a credit union and a bank?” 

When we talk about the credit union difference, we offer a variety of ways that set credit unions apart from other financial intuitions. We tout our not-for-profit, cooperative model and we emphasize that credit unions put people over profits. We reassure our audiences that credit unions return their earnings to their member-owners. Ultimately, we work very hard to say: “We are not like them, we are different.” 

But what is it that makes us different? Is our difference limited to the products and services we provide? Against what backdrop are we measuring our difference? 

Credit unions are different because they were founded on cooperative values. The credit union difference goes far beyond reduced fees, savings rates, and loan rates. When credit unions measure themselves, by themselves, or by other financial institutions, we do our movement and our members a huge disservice. 

Service and Benefit Above All Else

Credit unions are different when they embody the cooperative principles, placing service and benefit to all members above all else. The seven cooperative principles are the guiding light for credit unions. They keep our organizational values focused on self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. 

Our world has drastically changed since 1844 when the Cooperative Principles were established. It is important that credit unions consider how these principles should be applied to best serve the ever-changing needs of their members and communities. 

We are living in a time when the people we prioritize over profits are grappling with the realities of social injustice and economic disparities. Credit unions have a built-in responsibility to serve and to create more diverse, equitable and inclusive communities. Our cooperative movement should adopt the 8th Cooperative Principle, created by Maurice R. Smith, that affirms diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as an ideal that should be pursued.  

Credit unions that support DEI as a shared credit union cooperative principle are different. 

Going Beyond the Call 

Credit unions were established to promote thrift for provident purposes, and they have fulfilled that call since the first credit union was established in 1909. In recent memory, credit unions used their collective, cooperative superpowers to come to their members aid during the COVID-19 pandemic. We still hear countless stories about how credit unions support their local communities and promote financial wellbeing for their members. 

If we already support our members financially, what other ways can we show them that their voice matters? I believe the answer to that question goes beyond the products and services credit unions provide. 

As cooperatives, credit unions have a social purpose. Part of that social purpose is to fill the gaps that for-profit businesses often ignore. This includes access to affordable credit and banking services, particularly in communities that are struggling the most. 

Credit unions can do more to stop the widening of the wealth gap and create more paths to financial wellbeing. This charge is not limited to community development credit unions but includes those without the designation. Collectively, credit unions can be the anchor that stabilizes our communities by providing access to capital. 

To be different, credit unions must go beyond the call and lean in. 

Measuring Ourselves, By Ourselves

A word of caution: we cannot allow our firm belief in the credit union difference to create a self-righteousness service model.  When credit unions measure themselves, by themselves, they run the risk of painting an unauthentic picture of the impact they may- or may not- be making. 

While there are many things that credit unions get right, there are many things that we need to improve upon. For example, DEI and service to communities of color are two big areas that credit unions are still struggling in. We still have a lot of work to do, but one thing we can do is look beyond our immediate professional circles for examples of what an inclusive service model looks like. 

Exclusive, and self-righteous, service is selective of whom to serve. But inclusive, and selfless, service is built around service to all people, not just a select few. As cooperative credit unions, who serve over 120 million members, we don’t get to choose who should and shouldn’t be served. If we lean into the eighth cooperative principle, and embody an inclusive service model, we can begin to chip away at the iceberg. 

Until we wholeheartedly adopt DEI into the framework of the credit union service model, we will not be much different than other organizations or financial institutions.

Let’s expand our understanding of the credit union difference. We can get creative and find new things that make us different, competitive, and valuable to the diverse group of members that we serve.


NASCUS and AACUC Announce Mutual Membership Alliance

8-10-2021, Arlington, VA – The National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors (NASCUS) and the African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC) proudly announce a mutual membership alliance designed to strengthen the state credit union system and enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) engagement strategies within the industry.

“Our mission is centered around forging a vibrant dual charter system and promoting a relevant, growth-oriented, and healthy state charter option. This partnership with AACUC further enhances dialogue with regulators and state-chartered credit unions while promoting personal and professional growth within the industry as a whole. As a champion in the DEI movement, AACUC’s Commitment to Change will help us shape an inclusive environment and provide learning opportunities to strengthen the state system.” NASCUS President and CEO Lucy Ito commented.

AACUC, formally established in 1999, was created to increase the strength of a global credit union community through professional development and advocacy. Led by President and CEO Renée Sattiewhite, the AACUC has become an all-encompassing organization for individuals (professionals and volunteers) in Credit Unions, Insurance, Regulators, Consultants and other entities in the credit union industry.

“AACUC and NASCUS are structured to create a fair and equitable industry while encouraging growth and living the ‘people helping people’ philosophy. I look forward to deepening our collaborative relationship and working together to make a positive lasting impact on the lives of millions of Americans. This partnership opens the door to state regulators and offers AACUC the ability to give feedback on the effect of rules and regulation to the African-American community,” stated AACUC President and CEO Renée Sattiewhite.

As a result of this alliance, members from each organization will have the opportunity to learn best practices, expand their knowledge of real-world issues, and deliberate on the regulatory landscape. With the DEI movement gaining considerable steam over the past several years, this alliance is an excellent opportunity to expand a collective mission of inclusive cooperation and bring the state credit union system closer to a future in which diversity, equity, and inclusion thrive.

Ms. Ito further commented, “AACUC’s relentless drive for change and inclusion across various cultures and groups beyond the African American community is transformative for our industry. NASCUS is honored to collaborate with them and expand on the DEI message to our network of 45 state agencies and more than 2,000 state-chartered credit unions.”

With this partnership, AACUC holds associate member status with NASCUS, and NASCUS maintains a corporate membership with AACUC.



AACUC is considered a leader in the credit union industry adopting the 8th Cooperative Principle and providing knowledge of how credit unions can become more diverse and inclusive.

NASCUS is the national association that advocates for a strong and healthy state credit union system, and whose members include state regulatory agencies, credit unions, credit union leagues, and organizations that support the state credit union system. Our mission is to forge a vibrant dual charter system by promoting a relevant, growth- oriented, and healthy state charter option. More information about NASCUS can be found here.

The CU 2.0 Podcast 157
DEI Doubleheader
Emma Norman (Local Government FCU and AACUC)
and Lynn Heckler (PSCU) DEI 2021 3



cu-2-0-podcast-157-dei-doubleheader-emma-norman-local-government-fcu-and-aacuc-and-lynn-heRobert McGarvey
00:00 / 50:09



Welcome to the CU2.0 doubleheader podcast where you will hear two perspectives on DEI and the industry. 

"We are stronger together." That is what Emma Norman, director of learning and development at Local Government Federal Credit Union and also chief diversity officer at the African American Credit Union Coalition, has to say when asked why LGFCU is all in when it comes to supporting the Credit Union DEI Collective.

She adds that what she tells credit unions is that "DEI has to be part of your strategy."

Think on that.  DEI - diversity, equity and inclusion, a movement that gained force in the past year as evidence multiplied that the United States is a country with deep, lingering racial divides - just maybe is a whole lot more than a nice to do.

"DEI is a business imperative," said Lynn Heckler, chief talent officer at PSCU. Her point: the credit unions and allied companies that want longterm success will be very sure they look much like their communities and across America those communities are increasingly diverse.

This is a wide ranging podcast, with two very different voices and perspectives but the two women agree on this: DEI is a real, important concern.

Local Government FCU of course is a powerhouse. Its assets exceed $3 billion.

PSCU is the nation's leading payments CUSO - it supports 1500 credit unions and their many billions of payments annually.

These are two important institutions - and that is why it matters that they are saying DEI is real and it is real  for any business.




Corporate Partnership Furthers CO-OP’s Contribution to the Strength of the Credit Union Movement

JULY 13, 2021:  RANCHO CUCAMONGA, California, and SNELLVILLE, Georgia

Credit union payments fintech CO-OP Financial Services today announced an expansion of its support for the African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC) by committing to a five-year corporate sponsorship.


Through this long-term commitment, CO-OP will work with the AACUC to help develop, promote and participate in the Coalition’s events and initiatives, including its Annual Virtual Conference, planned for August 16-21. 


“There is strong cultural alignment between the AACUC and CO-OP, as both organizations are grounded by a purpose to strengthen the credit union industry,” said Dorthy Mack, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council Co-chair at CO-OP. “Watching the AACUC’s growth has been exciting; it’s a testament to the movement’s acknowledgement of the need for change and AACUC’s tenacity to lead the way. CO-OP is honored to join AACUC leadership, members and supporters in the unification, education, conversations and investments that will bring the movement closer to a future in which diversity, equity and inclusion thrive.”


CO-OP’s own DE&I Council serves as a forum for conversation within the company. The Council works to foster a workplace where every employee feels valued, respected and connected. Recently the Council invited employees to form Engagement Resource Groups based on employees’ shared characteristics, life experiences and interests. Mack anticipates the Council’s work will dovetail well with the activities of the AACUC, enabling a highly engaging partnership.


“We look forward to deepening our collaboration with CO-OP team members who are clearly eager to partner in bringing about meaningful change,” said Renee Sattiewhite, President/CEO of the AACUC. “This is a crucial time for all people, and especially those in a position of strength and influence, to fight against racism in all forms. CO-OP has a significant opportunity to make a lasting difference in the lives and careers of the people helping millions of Americans live financially healthy lives.”


About CO-OP Financial Services

CO-OP Financial Services is a payments and financial technology company whose mission is ensuring the success of the credit union movement. CO-OP payments solutions, engagement services and strategic counsel help credit unions optimize member experiences to consistently provide seamless, personalized multi-channel offerings, while delivering secure, sophisticated fraud mitigation service. For more information, visit

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Elan announces corporate partnership
with African-American Credit Union Coalition


Corporate partnership commitment will support diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in the credit union industry

JULY 12, 2021

Elan has become the newest corporate partner of the African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC), a non-profit organization of African-American professionals and volunteers in the credit union industry dedicated to increasing diversity through advocacy and professional development.


The partnership provides AACUC with additional resources to further its mission to strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion in the credit union industry through initiatives that work to close the racial wealth gap, bolster community involvement and more.


“We are pleased to welcome Elan as a corporate partner in support of our mission and Commitment to Change: Credit Unions Unite Against Racism™ Initiative,” said Renée Sattiewhite, AACUC President and Chief Executive Officer. “Elan’s corporate partnership will help in our outreach and work with member credit unions and their communities to close the wealth gap.”


AACUC’s work to increase diversity and inclusion in the credit union industry and beyond includes assisting in creation of curriculum aimed at addressing wealth equity in communities of color and supporting the development of a model focused on reaching and building partnerships in diverse communities for large credit unions. AACUC offers scholarship, mentorship and internship programs that connect qualified candidates with valuable development opportunities.


“Similar to the hundreds of credit unions we serve throughout the nation, Elan Advisory Services supports and shares the Commitment to Change mission of the AACUC,” said Elan Advisory Services’ (a division of Elan Financial Services) SVP and General Manager, Matt Good. “We are excited and proud to be a corporate partner of the AACUC and look forward to working with the AACUC and the credit union industry as we all continue to draw strength from diversity.”   


About Elan Financial Services
Elan is America’s leading agent credit card issuer and partners with 1,300 financial institutions nationwide. For over 50 years, Elan has offered an outsourced partnership solution that provides financial institutions of all sizes the ability to offer a competitive credit card program. Elan has continually developed and introduced industry-leading technologies to improve cardmember satisfaction and drive ongoing program growth, all while sharing the program economics with our partners. For more information, visit

Playing the ally card


Everyone can be a DEI supporter

Let's Be ClearRenée Sattiewhite
00:00 / 49:01

JULY 12, 2021:  Renée Sattiewhite, AACUC

Conversations about race can be a difficult journey. The topic is laced with colloquial phrases and misnomers. A simple expression can provoke deep emotions and misunderstandings.

I have grown up hearing the phrase “playing the race card.” This is an idiom that refers to the mistreatment of a minority group. In some instances, the phrase is weaponized to put another group on the defense. I think its time we turn this phrase on its head from a different perspective.

Recently, I had the privilege of moderating a DEI panel for a Corporate Partner’s conference. The panel consisted of 3 well respected gentlemen who are CEOs of credit unions with over a billion dollars in assets. The panelists were John Bissell, Greylock FCU, Paul Kundert, University of Wisconsin FCU, and Maurice Smith, Local Government FCU and Civic FCU.  They were asked to provide their insights on their organization’s DEI Journey, which they did brilliantly.  

The panel discussion was a hit. Each were engaged, transparent and honest. This led me to push them a little further and pose a revealing question. I was moved to ask, “We hear about the Race Card often…what would an Ally Card look like?”

This is a good time to pause for a moment and share a little inside baseball about panel discussion moderations. The role of the moderator is to keep the conversation focused and moving. We often prepare by writing a few predictable questions. Every now and then, something special happens. These are the moments when the conversation shifts in an unexpected way. This is when we realize we have hit upon a revelation. This is when I get goose bumps and tear up.

Back to the story. These three panelists did not know that the question about a race card versus an ally card was coming. We did not preview this. Their responses were thought-provoking and oh so honest. Dare I say our speakers allowed themselves to be vulnerable among their peers.

During the discussion, we landed on the fact that having an Ally Card doesn’t just mean that you are “white” person who feels bad about how the Colored Majority has been treated in the United States of America. An Ally Card can be many things, and anyone can be an Ally.

For instance, I am an Ally. In my role at the African American Credit Union Coalition, I am often asked to provide insights on aspects of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Black Culture. Those insights include:

  • Providing statistics on African Americans who are leading credit unions.

  • Assisting in the creation of organizations’ DEI Plan.

  • Providing counsel of what to do for Black History Month.

  • Providing counsel of what to do for Juneteenth.

  • Providing techniques to have uncomfortable and difficult conversations.

  • Providing information on using Black or African American (I wish you could be a fly on the wall when I have these conversations with the Colored Majority).

  • Providing definitions of the difference of being curious and micro-aggressive.

  • Black Hair Care.

  • The “Talk” – what to do when stopped while driving and Black.


During the panel discussion, we determined that you didn’t have to be a “white” person to be an Ally. Anyone who has an interest in providing support, insights and resources to the Colored Majority can be an Ally. 

The World Council of Credit Unions has a Global Women’s Leadership Network. Susan Mitchell, founding Chairwoman, was instrumental in creating the He for She Initiative. That initiative focuses on enlisting the support of men to help promote and sponsor women in business. Imagine if we replicated that concept with Allyship? Anyone could participate. It doesn’t matter what your background, all you need is a willingness to learn, self-educate and be courageous enough to admit your blind spots and to self-correct. 

I am proud to be an Ally. It is important to remember that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is not just about race. It is so much more than that. The very principles for which we stand salute the notions of equality, inclusion, and engagement. Any movement that furthers these ideals is consistent with credit union values.

If this feels compelling to you, you may ponder “how does my credit union become an ally?” Start by listening to the entire audience. The audience includes your membership, your staff, and your community. Voices unheard are lost opportunities for engagement. It is in the best interests of credit unions to build allies to be an ally.

I invite you to join AACUC, our members and all the allies in the Credit Union Movement on this journey. We will proudly play our Ally Card and show the world what our credit union community really stands for.

CU 2.0 Podcast Episode 156
Renee Sattiewhite
AACUC DEI 2021 2

Renee Sattiewhite AACUC DEI 2021 2CU2.0 Podcast
00:00 / 37:48


You know Renee Sattiewhite. She's CEO of the African American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC), has been a past guest on this podcast (episode 101), she is a co-star in DCUC's Tony Hernandez's recent podcast (155) and she is the person to see if you want to know how African Americans are faring in credit union c-suites, in boardrooms, and as they stand in teller lines.

But, lately. in the DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) universe, her interests are broadening and she is pondering how many minorities (Latinos and women for instance) are succeeding in credit unions.

DEI, she says, is not a minute, it's a movement.  Indeed.  Started amid the despair of last summer - George Floyd RIP - a year into it and the question has to be, what's been accomplished.  Sattiewhite tells her opinion in this podcast.

Know that progress is getting made. But this is hard, continuing work.

A recent project is CCEP - cross-cultural exchange program - where credit union people are pared with another, typically of a different race, possibly a different gender - for a 90 day dialog. 


A talk with Sattiewhite is lively. She laughs.  She mentions people you should know (Pete Crear, Victor Corro -- both past CU 2.0 podcast guests by the way).  

She also expresses fundamental optimism because, she says, talk with young people (Millennials and Gen X) and "they are not playing around."  These young people want change and are unprepared to accept less.  For them real racial and gender equality is non negotiable.

Listen up.

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

And like this podcast on whatever service you use to stream it. That matters.

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


AACUC Expands With
a New Chapter in Texas

On Thursday, the African-American Credit Union Coalition announced that it has established a new branch of the AACUC in Texas.

The Texas Regional Chapter was formerly under the AACUC’s Southern Regional Chapter and, according to a statement, “will further spread the message of diversity, equity and inclusion to the 425 credit unions based in Texas, including 225 low-income designation credit unions and 18 community development financial institution credit unions.”

“Since its founding in 2018, the Southern Regional Chapter has done an amazing job raising awareness of our mission and our commitment to change,” AACUC President/CEO Renee Sattiewhite said. “Texas is home to hundreds of credit unions serving diverse populations. Our board recognized the need to form a standalone chapter that would serve as a resource to those credit unions, as they serve their members.”

In a statement, the AACUC said the Texas Regional chapter’s purpose would be to provide networking, community involvement and professional development opportunities for the member base. The AACUC said it hopes the new chapter will help increase “the global credit union’s movement strength by adding the focused perspective and energy of credit union volunteers and professionals of African-American and African descent.”

According to the AACUC, the Texas Regional Chapter Executive Committee includes:

  • Chapter President: Malcolm René, President/CEO of Houston Metropolitan Federal Credit Union ($76.5 million, Houston)

  • Chapter Vice President: Delana Bolen, Vice President of Sales and Support, Cornerstone Resources

  • Chapter Secretary: Tony Black, President/CEO of BCM Federal Credit Union ($46.5 million, Houston)

  • Chapter Treasurer: Vashyon Jackson, Assistant Vice President/Branch Manager, Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union ($13.3 billion, Live Oak)

  • Parliamentarian: Carolyn Jordan, SVP, Remote Services and Member Development, Neighborhood Credit Union ($1 billion, Dallas)


AACUC Board Treasurer Tracey Jackson has been named the board sponsor for the Texas Regional Chapter.

“I’m thrilled to lead this ambitious group of credit union voices in my home state,” Malcolm Rene, president/CEO of Houston Metropolitan and Texas Regional Chapter President, said. “I am certain that our Texas chapter will strategically build upon the work that the Southern Regional Chapter has already done to further serve the growing needs of the Texas community.”

By Michael Ogden | July 01, 2021 at 04:48 PM

CU 2.0 Episode 155 Tony Hernandez DCUC on the AACUC CCEP
(Initials Decoded Below)
DEI 2021 1

cu-2-0-episode-155-tony-hernandez-dcuc-on-the-aacuc-ccep-initials-decoded-below-dei-2021-1Artist Name
00:00 / 46:18

Now don't you wish you had a magic decoder ring?

There's an alphabet soup in the podcast title. Let me decipher.

DCUC - Defense Credit Union Council, the trade group for some 181 military themed credit unions (and many are behemoths - Navy Fed, Pen Fed, you get the picture).

Tony Hernandez is the DCUC CEO, after logging 25 years in the Air Force where he finished as a colonel.

AACUC is the African American Credit Union Coalition.  You know AACUC because last year the CEO Renee Sattiewhite was a guest on the show.  Remember that name because you will hear it frequently in this podcast.

As for CCEP that's a new AACUC initiative that has paired people of different backgrounds and often different races for a 90 day interaction.

Hernandez is on the steering committee, and he has authored CUInsight blogs explaining the why of CCEP.  

The first CCEP round comes to a close in July, but the hunt already is on for participants in a new round.  

Experts debate when the US will become minority majority, meaning whites will no longer be in the majority, but one fact is certain: that day is coming and now is the time to focus on efforts to produce more harmonious race relations,  And a big part of that just is talking with people not like us.  (Whatever we are.)

Along the way in this Hernandez podcast you will hear a great deal about why defense credit unions matter, why they have an ideal membership mix, and how a 25 year Air Force veteran transitioned into the credit union world.

Hernandez' personal story is something you didn't expect, from how his wife was instrumental in his getting the DCUC job (never sneer at being a plus one!) to musings about the difficulties in ascending the military ranks ladder.

Listen up.

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

And like this podcast on whatever service you use to stream it. That matters.

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


AACUC Announces Dean
of the DEI Leadership Academy
for Financial Professionals

Michelle Nearon.png

Snellville, GA, June 30, 2021 -- The African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC) today announced Dr. Michelle Nearon, the Associate Dean for Graduate Student Development and Diversity of Yale University, has accepted the position of Dean of AACUC’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Leadership Academy for Financial Professionals. The DEI Leadership Academy for Financial Professionals will invite financial professionals and industry partners to commit to change through further illuminating diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“We are excited to have Dr. Nearon as our Dean for AACUC’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Leadership Academy for Financial Professionals,” said President and CEO Renee Sattiewhite. “Her experience in both teaching and administration makes her a perfect fit for our team. I look forward to working with Dr. Nearon to help expand our DEI footprint and social impact.”

Dr. Michelle Nearon is the past immediate Board Chair for Bethpage Federal Credit Union. She was named Board Chair in 2017, making her the first female to serve in this position. A skilled leader, Nearon joined Yale University in July 2008 as Assistant Dean and Director of the Office for Diversity and Equal Opportunity in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. In June 2015 she was promoted to Associate Dean for Graduate Student Development and Diversity. She is a member of the Yale Board of University Health and serves as Chair for the Graduate School’s Climate and Inclusion Committee. She provides the strategic vision and leadership to build and maintain a supportive campus community where graduate students from diverse backgrounds and experiences are supported in their intellectual, social, and professional pursuits. Nearon received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in aerospace engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brooklyn Polytechnic University, respectively. She earned her Ph.D. from Stony Brook University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering in 2000. After graduating, she remained at Stony Brook University until June 2008 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering while also simultaneously serving as the Director of Recruitment and Diversification for the University’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Leaders within the credit union ecosystem discuss organization commitments in a panel webinar.

DEI in the Credit Union Ecosystem

LendKey, June 24, 2021 - Recent events have amplified systemic racial injustice that America continues to face, and many individuals continue to fight for change and equality. LendKey was proud to partner with leaders from the African American Credit Union Council, National Association of Federal Credit Unions and Navy Federal Credit Union to discuss their respective organizations commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

Join the discussion

Join our 60 minute discussion, where panelists share how recent events of unfortunate systemic racial injustice has changed the way their organization approaches diversity, equity, and inclusion and how credit unions and their partners can collaborate to be more impactful with their DEI efforts.

In this discussion, panelists will share information about:

  • Efforts to improve diversity in the workplace

  • Local community initiatives

  • Practices to improve DEI during recruitment

  • DEI challenges in the financial industry

Meet the panelists

6/8/2021 - So we invited a very upbeat and energetic AACUC President/CEO Renée Sattiewhite on the show to share her thoughts on this NY Times feature -- and what it means to her organization, as well as credit unions. Renée also talked about how this feature story came about, thanks to a nomination by Kevin Paasch, president of MemberWealth Management and general agent for MassMutual Life Insurance.

In addition, Renée shared the success of the first "1-to-1Woman Mentoring Program" -- a pilot mentorship program that teams up white credit union executive women leaders with young black women professionals looking for a path to the C-suite, as well. According to Renée, the executives learned just as much from the young professionals. So both parties greatly benefited and the inaugural "1-to-1Woman Mentoring Program" is slated for bigger and better things to come.

Lastly, Renée lists all the other programs and events (2021 Virtual Annual Conference) on the launch pad for AACUC this year. Exciting times for this organization and it seems it's just getting started. Check out our conversation and let us know your thoughts. And enjoy the entire interview below for all the details.

“An individual has not started living fully until they can rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity. Every person must decide at some point, whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment: ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Conquering Self-Centeredness Speech
Montgomery, Alabama, August 11, 1957

May 12, 2021 by Anthony HernandezAACUC - Recent national headlines and widespread outcry on issues of race and culture has forced changes into all aspects of American life. Apart from politics, these changes have consumed our attention in sports, academics, commerce, and even religious life. These conversations are good and should always strive to be inclusive of all Americans.

Yet, talking about race and cultural differences can be very difficult. Fear of saying the wrong thing or offering any type of feedback can result in people holding back on good ideas, challenging our proposals, or even telling our personal stories. As such, silence is not good for any organization moving forward.

This is why the African American Credit Union Coalition created the Cross-Cultural Exchange Program (CCEP). Since credit unions serve at the intersection of race and culture, it is up to credit unions to set the example of what it means to be focused on DEI principles. One of the very first steps in going down this road is to get people from different races and cultures to start talking in earnest. 

The good news is conversations and earnest dialogue are already taking place for each of the participants in the African-American Credit Union Coalition’s new CCEP. For now, the CCEP is a pilot initiative that offers participants an opportunity to step back from their rapid pace and engage with fellow credit union professionals from distinct backgrounds. It is intended for these professionals to connect and share with a peer who is on a similar journey—someone outside of their own race/cultural background.

Participants are setting aside time to have informal meetings to build and enrich a relationship by learning from each other, exchanging ideas, experiences, finding commonality and common ground among participant’s values, virtues, and visions. Mostly, the expectation is to create a pathway toward inclusive excellence while sharing knowledge and expanding networks. The conversations thus far have been both rich and engaging. All topics dealing with race and culture are on the table.

Getting people to talk about difficult subjects is an important part of moving forward as a community and a nation. We not only need to see things from a different perspective, but we also need to engage at a personal level. That means we need to encourage asking tough questions, accepting frank answers, and developing empathy for alternate points of view—on both or multiple sides of the debate. This is the basis for creating the Cross-Cultural Exchange Program.

Over the next 90-days, participants will build rapport with paired partners and participate in small groups to find consensus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) topics. There are many views informed by experiences and education along with media and political preferences. The goal is to break through all the noise and clutter to find common ground then move toward healing cultural wounds and misunderstandings. This all starts with simple conversations between to individuals—nothing more, nothing less.

In addition to being exposed to a variety of personal cultural experiences, the expectation at the end of the 90-day pilot is to capture an appreciation for different perspectives, highlight multiple approaches to problem solving, and figuring out how to apply lessons learned in future DEI initiatives. AACUC expects to improve the program and to expand the numbers of participants after this pilot program concludes. We are excited about the conversations that have already taken place and look forward to sharing these. Stay tuned for more as we progress further on this 90-day journey.”

Co-Authored by: Daniel McCue

African-American CU Coalition to Be Featured in
NY Times’ ‘Black Wall Street Storefront’

AACUC-National-Logo-Horizontal.png | May 23, 2021, Snellville, GA – The African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC) is being featured in The New York Times Black Wall Street virtual storefront, which starts May 25.

AACUC was nominated by Kevin Paasch, president of MemberWealth Management and General Agent for MassMutual Life Insurance.

“The New York Times has such a rich history and is a premier source for the top news articles coming out of the financial services industry,” said AACUC President/CEO Renee Sattiewhite. “We are honored to be highlighted alongside thriving Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs that are proven valuable partners in a time when our world needs them the most. Thank you to our friends at MassMutual for considering us for this opportunity.”

Range of Businesses

The AACUC said The New York Times vetted all nominations and selected a range of 20 Black-owned businesses that have national appeal and are appropriate for the virtual storefront. The effort is part of the newspaper’s year-long event recognizing the 100th anniversary of Black Wall Street – the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Okla., that was once one of the most prosperous African-American communities in the United States. On May 31, 1921, racial violence led to the destruction of Black Wall Street, which was seen as a threat to white-dominated American capitalism. 

“In a time when our industry and the nation is seemingly laser focused on promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, it is critically important that we recognize the historical Tulsa Race Massacre,” said Sattiewhite. “We ought to pause and consider how this has detrimentally impacted the African American community and, furthermore, do all that we can to ensure this never happens again by creating equitable opportunities for minorities to flourish and thrive.”

National Spotlight to Shine on AACUC in Black Wall Street Virtual Storefront
The New York Times initiative in partnership with MassMutual remembers the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.  


By Peter Strozniak, CreditUnion Times | May 24, 2021– The African American Credit Union Coalition will shine in the national spotlight on May 25 when The New York Times in partnership with MassMutual will feature a Black Wall Street virtual storefront as part of its remembrance of the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa (Oklahoma) Race Massacre in 1921.

Kevin Paasch, a long-time supporter of the AACUC in Snellville, Ga., nominated the industry organization for The New York Times-MassMutual initiative that will raise awareness of the importance of social and economic equity and to promote the importance of supporting small business, including Black-owned companies.

“The only conference I go to every year still is the AACUC because I believe in what you’re doing to help other African-American young people, and older people and low-income communities to learn about money and become financially independent,” Paasch said during a Zoom meeting Thursday that announced AACUC will be highlighted in the national newspaper. “The way I can give back is being able to give back to an organization that gives back to the community. And I know AACUC is following the same mantra of being that one organization, helping thousands for the benefit of millions.”


Paasch is president of Member Wealth Management and general agent for MassMutual Life Insurance office in Virginia Beach, Va.

The 100 businesses, including the AACUC, that will be featured on a Black Wall Street virtual storefront will be posted on a New York Times landing page on Tuesday. Additionally, the newspaper will feature these businesses in targeted ads throughout the year to keep the initiative’s messages front-of-mind, Paasch said.

The Tulsa Race Massacre occurred over 18 hours on May 31 and June 1, 1921. According to, the tragic event was triggered after a Black teenager was falsely accused of sexually assaulting a white woman in an office building. During that time, the nation was experiencing racial tensions, including the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, lynchings and other racial violence. Simultaneously, African-Americans organized to prevent these attacks in their communities.

As rumors flew about the Black teenager’s attack, an angry white mob clashed with Black men who were outnumbered and retreated to the Greenwood neighborhood that was also named Black Wall Street because it was one of the most prosperous communities in the country, according to

In addition to the thousands of Black-owned homes and hundreds of Blacked-owned businesses that were damaged or destroyed by fire, a 2001 Race Riot Commission concluded that 100 to 300 people were killed and more than 8,000 people were made homeless.

“In a time when our industry and the nation is seemingly laser focused on promoting diversity, equity and inclusion, it is critically important that we recognize the historical Tulsa Race Massacre,” AACUC President/CEO Renee Sattiewhite said. “We ought to pause and consider how this has detrimentally impacted the African-American community and, furthermore, do all that we can to ensure this never happens again by creating equitable opportunities for minorities to flourish and thrive.”

Last summer during the nationwide demonstrations calling for racial and social justice in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, the AACUC led an initiative named “Commitment to Change: Credit Unions Unite Against Racism,” which is being supported by many credit unions, state leagues/associations, national trade organizations and vendors from around the nation to advance diversity, equity and inclusion programs throughout the industry.

“We are honored to be highlighted alongside thriving Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs that are proven valuable partners in a time when our world needs them the most,” Sattiewhite said. “Thank you to our friends at MassMutual for considering us for this opportunity.”

women's mentoring banner copy.jpg

AACUC Pilots 1-to-1Woman Mentoring Program



5/19/2021, Snellville, GA – The African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC) continues with bold initiatives to address racial barriers in credit union and corporate structures. America’s social climate exhausts direst and many organizations implement Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) teachings and panels to enforce staff member awareness to prejudges and oversights but AACUC gets personal with a pilot mentoring program, 1-to-1Woman.

1-to-1Woman paired nine Caucasian (White) female executives with nine rising African American (Black) female professionals to learn the areas that stoke blind spots, hinder economic development and growth, and the commonalities of gender bias in the workforce. The 1-to-1Woman pilot mentoring program sought White executives with a history of achievements and who are empathetic forerunners on relevant issues. The rising Black professionals were selected based on merit, education, and credit union industry experience. 

In the United States, mentors are more likely to mentor someone of their same culture. With the majority of executive level positions being held by Caucasians, this leaves less opportunity for African Americans to be apprenticed. Therefore, in a highly competitive network system, Black professionals are often perceived as steps behind their White counterparts. 

“The 1-to-1Woman Program was a great opportunity to connect with executives outside of my organization to explore how I can grow professionally and personally. This mentoring program allowed a safe place for taboo and uncomfortable conversations to take place as a way of understanding different perspectives in the workplace. Most importantly, the program has created an impactful platform to continue the relationship between me and my mentor,” Jazmine Kilpatrick, Membership Development Manager, Local Government Federal Credit Union with mentor Libby Calderone, President & COO, LSC.

1-to-1Woman Program proved to be a two-way bridge that crossed racial barriers to confront difference and bond on similarities. “Participating in the 1-to-1Woman program helped each one of us demonstrate our commitment to inclusion in our lives and in our industry. I learned from every woman in the program and look forward to continuing the conversations and friendships,” April Clobes, President & CEO, Michigan State University Federal Credit Union.

1-to-1Woman is a four-week module created and facilitated by Shellee Mitchell, Program Specialist, NASCUS; Susan Mitchell, CEO, Mitchell Stankovic & Associates sponsored the pilot program.  “Congratulations! It was indeed a memorable program and we are already seeing the impact. My partner, Latonya Allen created a career plan that she shared with her CEO to advance in leadership. Incredible. This is a special group of women and I am honored to be a part of the inaugural program,” Susan Mitchell, CEO.

How CUs can counter the ‘monolithic,’model
minority stereotypes during AAPIHM and beyond


April 28, 2021by HAZELMAE OVERTURFAACUCMay is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPIHM)! It is a month to lean into and celebrate the accomplishments, achievements, and contributions of Asians and Pacific Islanders to the United States. For me, this AAPIHM feels a lot more urgent and significant due to the increase of anti-Asian rhetoric and increase of Asian hate crimes in 2020 and onward. My own experiences with blatant racism, and especially microaggressions, have bubbled up from the hidden depths that I previously shoved below, and then coupled with the feelings of increasing fear for the safety of my Asian family members and friends (and myself), it all has just felt literally and figuratively heavy. On the other hand, this time has also been filled with increased awareness and support from my allies, and a greater sense of purpose and hope for the future. This acknowledgement of duality is a common philosophy in many eastern civilizations and is a tool I often call upon for perspective or centering.

I feel fortunate to be a Filipino-American Credit Union professional. Our movement, values, and structure are the epitome of cooperation, a focus on community, and alleviating social and financial issues. Credit Unions could be (and should be) a leader of pursuing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and making positive change within our organizations and of course, in the communities of our memberships. It is a place where I have found some safety and the space to continue to move the equity needle forward.

A few years ago, I was sitting in a prominent credit union training. We were reviewing census data of a major American metropolitan city with the lens of racial equity and development issues. As we reviewed maps of segregation and gaps for financial access, the aggregated data only showcased the following groups: Whites, Blacks, Hispanic/Latinx, and Native Americans. I recall feeling so uncomfortable in my seat. It was then that I looked around the room and again felt just as invisible as the missing racial group on the slides. Immediately after that class, I mustered my courage and resolve and provided feedback to the facilitator. I consider this a defining moment of the start of my work in equity and inclusion. 

For most Asian and Pacific Islanders (APIs), my training experience above is probably a familiar experience: we aren’t included in statistics or lumped together in ways detrimental to understanding the full API experience. Two main drivers of these feelings are the “Model Minority” myth/stereotype, defined as a belief that all Asian Americans are successful, smart, wealthy, hard-working, self-reliant, docile and submissive, obedient and uncomplaining, and never in need of assistance; and the generalization that Asians are a “monolith”—one large, homogeneous structure or group. These two prevailing thoughts shape and influence the unique racial and ethnic identities and experiences of API people in the United States. 

There are more than 40 countries in Asia—all with very different histories, cultures, languages, and other characteristics. Just as diverse as the number of countries represented, the API socioeconomic experience is also one that has the largest range from poverty to wealth. According to the Pew Research Center, Asians near the top of their income distribution (the 90th percentile) had incomes 10.7 times greater than the incomes of Asians near the bottom of their income distribution (the 10th percentile). This 90/10 ratio is greater than blacks (9.8), whites (7.8), and Hispanics (7.8).

In data from the US Census Bureau and FDIC, Asians are shown to be higher than whites in median income and comparable in poverty rate, unbanked, and fully banked percentages. Without a disaggregated view of the different subgroups under “Asians,” these figures (and decisions made from them) do not consider the disparities faced for those subgroups (Center for Global Policy Solutions).

Economic Figures by Race

            Median Income1   Poverty Rate1    Unbanked2   Fully Banked3

Blacks          $45,438          22.7%           13.8%         45.8%

Hispanic       $56,113          15.7%           12.2%         49.7%

Asian           $98,174            7.3%             1.7%         69.2%

White          $72,204            9.9%             2.5%         77.1%

1 U.S. Census 2019 2 FDIC 2019 3 FDIC 2017

It is credit unions’ responsibility to include these insights and considerations to serve our members and communities well and inclusively. We have a direct role in minimizing obstacles of systemic and social barriers that limit economic mobility not only for APIs, but for all BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) people. Credit unions were made to provide financial services more compassionately and human-focused. Here are three steps that all credit unions can take to support the API community and counter the monolithic, model minority stereotypes:

  1. Commit to continuous learning.
    There are numerous resources and organizations that can help you on your API cultural competence journey. Also, check out local organizations and events in your own community.

  2.  See and include the “Invisible.”

As mentioned earlier, disaggregating the data to include subgroups in the “Asian” category would give organizations a better understanding of their membership and/or markets. While this isn’t always possible and may take some new data collection strategies, an even better option would be to do the work and get to know your members and your communities more intimately. Making the invisible visible, may take work and resources up front, but the data and direct connection would be invaluable. Imagine the inclusive marketing opportunities or the creation/offering of more applicable and inclusive products and services for different groups.  

  3.  Make Equity and Inclusion a priority.

In my personal DEI journey, I’ve been discovering that Diversity isn’t enough. Sure, representation is helpful, but not if it is just a placeholder. Other steps include promoting diverse API employees into leadership and influential roles or on your boards; creating safe, trusted spaces to share; and lastly, practicing selfless listening. Action must be taken to prioritize equity and continued inclusion. If you see us hurting, don’t ignore or dismiss our pain.


So in this AAPIH month and onward, as you commit to moments of learning and awareness of notable Asian and Pacific Islander figures and historical events, please include the invisible ones in your communities, the ones in your field of membership, the ones with small business accounts, the ones in your employee directory…we are speaking and need everyone to listen.


Special thank you and acknowledgements: 

  • To my BECU family: Thank you for being a space of growth and continuous learning.

  • My #CrasherFam, CUDE family: All my gratitude for keeping purpose constant. 

  • Renee Sattiewhite and the AACUC: For believing in me, amplifying my voice, and creating an inclusive and supportive environment in allyship and solidarity.

  • And of course, the biggest appreciation to my wonderful family, especially to my mom, who was never a submissive or silent woman!

HBCU’s Are Worth Recognition


April 14, 2021 by RENÉE SATTIEWHITE, AACUCHistorically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are more important than ever.

Perhaps you are wondering: “Well, what exactly is an HBCU? Or maybe you are saying to yourself: “Renee, why are HBCUs important to the credit union system?” Well friend, I’m glad you asked.

The 107 HBCUs across the country were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the mission to serve and educate the African American community. These epicenters of culture and higher education were founded on the belief that every individual ought to receive a strong education despite their ethnicity, race, or income level. With over 25% of African Americans earning their degree from an HBCU, it is no doubt that HBCUs have played an instrumental role in the development of African American professionals. I am a former instructor for Spelman College’s Continuing Education Department and my 7 years at the college were eye-opening.

Research from the Nationwide Retirement Institute says that nearly 90% of African American college students considering a financial services career report that they believe there are challenges that specifically impact financial professionals in the industry today. I can’t help but to conclude that their concerns most likely arise from the profound lack of diversity in the financial services industry.

Recent events in our country have certainly raised national awareness of the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). However, the financial services industry still struggles with recruiting and retaining people of color, most notably at the senior level. In fact, I would argue that the credit union movement struggles even more in this area when compared to our banking counterparts.

Goldman Sachs recently launched a $25 million, five-year commitment to invest in the strength of HBCUs and created a program that gives students hands-on training, networking opportunities and mentorship. Morgan Stanley is providing scholarships and career training for HBCU students to enhance their skillset and prepare them for corporate success in the financial world.

What are we doing in the credit union industry to support HBCU students and graduates?

Wayne A.I. Frederick, President of Howard University in Washington, D.C., said that “It’s a danger to the national interest not to invest in these institutions.” I must say that I couldn’t agree more. The unfortunate reality is that HBCU’s are underutilized in the credit union movement.

How can we truly propel our movement forward without tapping into the greatest pool for African American talent? The short answer is, we can’t. Sure, we see the value proposition and business case for DEI, but we must carefully assess how we can improve African American representation in the credit union system.

Leveraging HBCUs, specifically, will help us break the barriers that have long been in place to keep people of color from integrating into the financial services marketplace. The fewer people of color that we have in our boardrooms and in our branches, the less we can authentically live out our mission of “people helping people.”

The truth is that many African Americans can directly relate to the lived experience of the underbanked. Research shows that credit unions are more likely than banks to serve the underserved communities. If that is the case, our front offices should reflect the communities that we serve.

Let’s lay the foundation for the next generation of credit union professionals by working with HBCUs to increase diversity in the credit union movement.

What if credit unions came together to create a new credit union that serves HBCUs? My colleague Gary Perez, president/CEO of USC Credit union, for example, started this important conversation that could be carried out sooner than we think. An HBCU credit union could provide affordable financial services and tailored financial education to fit the unique needs of HBCU students, alumni, faculty, and staff members.

The value proposition of HBCUs also closely aligns with those of credit unions. Rooted in faith, community, and service, HBCUs provide tremendous value to our society. Like credit unions, HBCU’s are meeting the needs of underserved communities and promoting financial wellbeing for all. Although they do not have the formal title, I would go out on a limb and say that HBCUs are cooperative in nature.

When credit unions partner with HBCUs, we can help increase the number of African American credit union professionals nationwide, providing them with the training and mentorship opportunities that they need to be successful. When credit unions partner with HBCUs, we can help address the racial inequities facing our communities, moving beyond a commitment to change to taking action to change.

Creating an inclusive and equitable credit union system requires us to invest our resources back into the communities that need them the most. Credit unions will reap the benefits that come with a diverse workforce while also helping powerful young men and women develop their finance skills. We cannot do this work alone; it will require us to work together.

HBCUs are the stewards of African American intellectual thought leaders and professionals. I can’t think of a better resource to strengthen credit union diversity than HBCUs.


Association for Black Economic Power Creates New Alliances with Leading Community-Based Organizations and Credit Union Industry Partners For the Launch of Village Financial Cooperative



4/27/2021, MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Debra Hurston, Executive Director at the Association for Black Economic Power (ABEP) announced today new support for the launch of the Village Financial Cooperative from two leading organizations in the credit union sector.   “We remain committed to the launch of the Village Financial Cooperative, and will be working in close coordination with both the Minnesota Credit Union Network, and the African-American Credit Union Coalition,” said Ms. Hurston.


Mr. Mark Cummins, President & CEO of the Minnesota Credit Union Network said, “We’re seeking to provide the critical mentorship and support needed for the launch of the Village Financial Cooperative.  Our member credit unions and the staff at the Minnesota Credit Union Network are truly excited to bring the cooperative principles of the credit union movement to this worthy project.”


“We fully understand and support the vision of ABEP for creating a Black-led financial institution at this critical moment in time, and in one of the most underserved communities in the country.  Our hearts and resources are pledged to help to catalyze the launch of the Village Financial Cooperative in any way that we can,” said Renée Sattiewhite, President & CEO of the African-American Credit Union Coalition.


“In addition to the new alliances we are forging within the credit union sector, our objective is to continue to  nurture a broad base of support for the Village Financial Cooperative, including consumers, small businesses, chambers of commerce, faith-based organizations, foundations, financial institutions, and local and state government.  Our target launch timeline is during the first half of 2022, and will be based upon several pending regulatory approvals,” said Ms. Hurston, Executive Director at ABEP.


Ms. Debra Hurston was appointed to lead ABEP in December 2020, following a transition in the leadership of the organization. Past and current sponsors of ABEP and the Village Financial Cooperative include: Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation of MN, McKnight Foundation, Minneapolis Foundation, Pohlad Foundation, the Northside Funders Group, and a variety of individual and corporate donors. 


The ABEP Board of Directors includes:


  • Valerie Geaither, Chair is Professor Emerita of Community and Family Studies at Metropolitan State University.

  • Ernest Draper, Treasurer is a Certified Financial Planner providing financial advice to individuals, families and business owners.

  • Gracie George, Secretary is a Risk Management Professional at U.S. Bank.

  • Shane Hughley, Director is an executive at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis with responsibility for overseeing the Ninth Districts Currency Payment Systems operations.






ABOUT ABEP: The Association for Black Economic Power (ABEP) is a nonprofit organization created to establish a Black-led financial institution to address systemic financial challenges impacting Minneapolis residents, particularly people of color.  This vision was birthed from North Minneapolis community members who strongly believe that institutional economic power is the critical ingredient to addressing the inequities blacks experience in Minnesota.   Additionally, as a community development organization, ABEP seeks to impact the underserved communities it serves from the standpoint of affordable housing, workforce development, and small business acceleration opportunities.

Learn more at:

ABOUT MnCUN:  The Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) is the state trade association for Minnesota’s credit unions. The Network, working in conjunction with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), works to ensure the success, growth and vitality of our member credit unions by creating a positive public environment through leadership, political advocacy, education, awareness and regulatory assistance.  Overall, more than 1.9 million Minnesota consumers are member-owners of the state’s credit unions. As not-for-profit financial cooperatives, credit unions, on average, offer higher savings rates, lower loan rates and have lower and fewer fees, compared with other financial institutions.

Learn more at:


ABOUT AACUC:  Founded in 1999, the African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC) has grown and is ever changing to meet the needs of the dynamic credit union community which it serves. It has become an all-encompassing organization for individuals (professional and volunteers) in Credit Unions, Insurance, Regulators, Consultants and other entities in the credit union industry. AACUC promotes personal and professional growth of its members as well as collectively articulating concerns and advocating resources to improve economic development of surrounding communities that are often under-served by majority financial institutions.  In 2020, AACUC launched the Commitment to Change: Credit Unions United Against Racism initiative. Learn more at:


African-American Credit Union Coalition Nominated to Serve

On the Community Advisory Board At The American Fintech Council

4/6/2021SNELLVILLE, GA – Renée Sattiewhite, President & CEO of the African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC), announced today the organizations’ nonprofit affiliate membership in the American Fintech Council (AFC), and the nomination to serve on its Community Advisory Board.


“We are pleased to advance the mission of diversity and inclusion in the financial services sector along with AFC and its Community Advisory Board.  Financial inclusion that improves accessibility for the unbanked and underbanked is truly the greatest priority that we must address in order to close the racial wealth gap in America,” said Sattiewhite.


“We share AACUC’s dedication to building a financial services industry that is more inclusive and diverse. We are eager to work closely with AACUC and our Community Advisory Board to push forward policies that improve the financial well-being of all Americans, with a particular focus on communities of color and other underserved and vulnerable populations,” said AFC CEO Garry Reeder.


The American Fintech Council is truly committed to providing consumers with access to fair and transparent products and services.  AFC member companies operate under the following guidelines:

  • Members advance the highest standards of fair lending and non-discrimination

  • Credit products cannot be disguised or mischaracterized in order to avoid lending laws and regulations

  • Consumer offerings must adhere to the maximum interest rate charges outlined in the Military Lending Act

  • Small business lending products must adhere to the guidelines of the Small Business Borrower’s Bill of Rights


ABOUT AFC: The mission of the American Fintech Council (AFC) is to promote the expansion of financial services technologies for the benefit of consumers and commerce, including improving access to credit and providing other developing digital products and services.  Independent evaluators find that AFC members are both lowering the cost of financial services and improving access to financial services. Approximately 25% of AFC member loans were concentrated in the 10% of communities with the fewest bank branches per capita, which are disproportionately low-income. Borrowers from an AFC member company increased their credit scores, did not dramatically increase household debt, were more likely to buy a home, and less likely to become delinquent on their mortgage loans, according to Federal Reserve Board researchers.

Experience Beyond Measure and Phenomenal Pursuit

March 12, 2021by SHELLEE A. MITCHELLAACUC“Black women are the most educated demographic in the U.S. when you look at the number of associate and bachelor degrees earned. But for a number of reasons, their education levels and the financial rewards they receive aren’t aligning, particularly in the business world,” Inc., August 2019.

Credit unions have a broad audience to be a forerunner in diversity equality. In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg researched individuals and corporations on the power of habit to either remain in or change a circumstance of any value. Duhigg writes, “Habits are what allow us to “do a thing with difficulty the first time, but soon do it more and more easily, and finally, with sufficient practice, do it semi-mechanically, or with hardly any consciousness at all.”

African American women have been and are denied. African American women are qualified, when equally provided a space to exist. If society continues to subjugate all women, by emotions and appearance, for African American women there is another view as subordinate shadows to those who helm as dominant leaders. Ritualistic portrayals have recast this role since the early films in silent movies. Caucasian women were delightful and deserved recognition for portrayals of heroism. African American women were present to care for and support the protagonist and applaud her victories. The Caucasian’s victory was portrayed as a collective celebratory win. Only for the Caucasian, came increase and prosperity and for the African American, the consolation that once again her insight has elevated yet another soul. Current controversy in the major film industry is a public demonstration of years of repetitive misrepresentation and inequality. 

One reason to consider this revolving issue is Cultivation Analysis. Cultivation Analysis is a communication theory, created by George Gerbner and Larry Gross in 1976. The research of Gerbner & Gross states that people form their opinions and consciousness is shaped, by transmittal and ritualistic portrayals in television (media) messages that attempt to mimic social beliefs. These messages, often exaggerated, are misguided from true individual and social reality.

Cultivation Analysis has messaged that African American, Black, women are good because of selflessness, strength, unending nurturing (even as single mom) who sacrifice for the whole with the benefit of teaching and living by a moral code. African American women too, are not immune to media messages and fall prey to the portrayal of her place in society.

In melancholy, is the state of the African American woman. She too has entrusted the ritualistic message and succumb to mediocrity. Cultivation Analysis has shown many generations that the world is limited to such a “Person of Color.” The message not only resonates through television and film, but takes course in household dialogue, educational infrastructures, and professional ambitions. Families, parents, teachers, influencers, bosses remind the African American woman to hold her place and be thankful for her portion.

Subliminally, viewers ingest television, bulletins, banners, and advertisements, where the African American woman is in the background, standing at the edge of the picture, or sitting to scribe with a Caucasian who stands. The misgiving these messages transmit to cultures, nationalities, ethnicities, and genders are that African American women are not the best, not the lead, not to behold, not corporate, not to corner office, not to executive, and the message revolves. 

As credit unions advance in the financial industry as people serving people (P1), perhaps implementing Principle 8: Diversity & Inclusion (P8), suggests that African American women are leaders, executives, senior managers, board members, and board chair. Maybe it’s an opportunity to consider Black women’s tenacious ability to endure consistent debasement with a smile, fortitude to manage a home with lesser pay, determination for African American children to achieve higher education, and to work with integrity and collaboration despite the inner turmoil that she carries because another Black male or female has been killed by a civic protector. Phenomenally, these skills can be transferred into corporate success measures, if given the chance to be seen from a different lens.


Work From Home Presents Risk For Some Staff

Success is often measured in promotions, project leadership,
and recognition, but to be successful, one needs to be known.

March 8, 2021, Maurice Smith

For years, some members of our staff have lobbied for the flexibility to work from home. I have resisted
because I 
believe a key success factor for our credit union is our ability to relate to one another. Call me
old-fashioned, but I 
think it is valuable for employees to build in-person relationships that foster stronger

During the coronavirus epidemic, we adjusted our office to allow employees to perform some credit union
work at 
home. The exigency of the situation called for unconventional adjustments. As a result, the pandemic
has prompted 
more calls for workplace optionality. 

I can feel the fingers wagging as some of my colleagues tell me, “I told you so. We can work from home and be just as productive. Smith, your stodgy ways were stifling and unnecessary.”

Not so fast.

I will admit when I’m wrong. Often, I am. In this instance, I think the jury is still out on the matter. I believe there are other factors to consider before we pronounce the end of the traditional workplace.

First, we should realize all workplaces are not the same. Work from home might be a viable status quo for some credit unions, but the practice should be put in the context of a larger strategic plan. Credit union leaders should ponder how a new work pattern affects their ability to serve members.

Second, relationships matter for some credit union cultures. It does for our credit union. We commonly refer to ourselves as a family. I can’t imagine not seeing my family for an extended period. A relationship means I can relate to you. So, when stress arises in the office, I have a basis of knowledge about you that helps me understand your point of reference and how you handle tension.

Finally, I want to spend more line space on this point. We, as leaders, should be wary of the unintended consequences of our decisions. I believe we have a particularized duty to provide equal opportunities for all our employees. This is the crux of equity and inclusion — ensuring classes of people are not overlooked.

Let’s start with the basic notion that all employees want to be successful. Success is often measured in promotions, project leadership, and recognition for one’s craft. To be successful, one needs to be known. After all, a CEO who does not know an employee is less likely to consider that person for an advancement.

Now, this might sound old-fashioned. Early in my career, I sought to be recognized. I wanted the CEO to know who I was. I would be meticulous about my attire. I would arrive early and stay late at work. I relished the moments when we’d pass in the hallway and had a brief conversation. I figured altogether I was building a case that I would be ready when the opportunity for leadership would arrive.

Now consider an environment where the management of the credit union loses personal touch with the people who work for the credit union. The watercooler conversations are not happening. No more bumping into one another in the hallway or parking lot. Employees are reduced to a Zoom square on a monitor. Something feels lost to me.

If we look at this environment and ponder who is most likely to be disenfranchised by virtual detachments, it is likely the marginalized staff. These are the folks who gain from the impromptu hallway chats. These employees lose the opportunity to gain confidence by presenting before their colleagues in the conference room. These colleagues miss the subtle social cues and nonverbal signals one gets from proximity.

My fear is a work-from-home environment takes something away from members of the team who need a little grooming to thrive. That was once me early in my career… an inexperienced, skinny kid from a small North Carolina town. I had the advantage of growing a career among supportive colleagues. I made plenty of mistakes. I learned a lot from guidance in the moment.

I admit maybe there can be a balance between work from home and being completely embedded in an office. I suspect we will have to learn how to manage both worlds. As we do, let’s be mindful to not injure the careers of our folks by isolating them from their credit union colleagues.

Maurice Smith is the CEO of Local Government Federal Credit Union and Civic Federal Credit Union. Both credit unions are member-owned cooperatives serving the financial needs of employees, appointed officials, elected officeholders, and volunteers of local governments in North Carolina. Smith celebrates 41 years in the credit union movement.

Smith received his B.S. in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and earned a Juris Doctor from the North Carolina Central University School of Law. Smith is licensed to practice law in North Carolina, the United States Supreme Court, and the District of Columbia. Smith is also a North Carolina Certified Superior Court Mediator and a CUNA Certified Credit Union Executive.


Reviving the value of career development


February 12, 2021by RENÉE SATTIEWHITEAACUC – The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people work. 

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that 83% of employers are adjusting their business practices in light of the pandemic. Now more than ever, companies are providing employees with flexible work environments, innovating employee benefits, and constantly building employee morale. 

Up until now, we have kept our eyes on cutting costs, streamlining business operations, and keeping people on payroll, which is understandable. But as the shock of the global pandemic subsides, we must create a sustainable vision for the future. A future that recognizes the dynamic shift in the relationship between organizations and their employees. 

Part of adapting to the changing professional environment is reviving career and professional development conversations within the credit union movement. This creates a great opportunity to put the spotlight back on career growth and advancement goals to keep employees happy, engaged, and loyal. 

At AACUC we believe the time is ripe to advance career advancement opportunities across the credit union movement. It is becoming increasingly important to prioritize training skills and reignite discussions with employees about their success, professional development, and educational resources.

According to Career Builder, career advancement “is one of the most important elements for employee satisfaction and retention at a company.” In fact, many employees are choosing to work at organizations that help them build their career, over organizations that are paying well. This tells me that our industry must actively seek ways to offer current and potential employees exciting new opportunities that provide exposure, engagement, and education. 

Mentorship programs have great benefits for both organizations and employees. It can help increase employee retention and engagement. Sowing into the lives of young leaders can also bolster an organization’s succession plan. Mentorship is truly the most effective way for employees to build relationships, strengthen professional networks and receive insights on their career trajectory. 

A strong mentorship program offers professional guidance and support to the mentees, as well as one-on-one career support. It also fosters long-term professional and personal relationships between an ambitious mentee and an experienced mentor. 

If you don’t know where to begin, consider these out-of-the-box ideas for creating a strong mentorship program: 

  • Address the stigmas of racism and feminism by pairing together women from diverse cultures and backgrounds. This facilitates an environment where the mentor and mentee can learn from one another and shine a light on the blind spots that hinder social and economic advancement. 

  • Bridge generational gaps by pairing together young and seasoned professionals. This creates a reverse classroom structure where the mentor can learn from the mentee. For example, mentors can learn more about how to best utilize social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

  • Strengthen international relations by pairing together individuals from different countries. This breaks ethnic barriers and allows both the mentor and mentee to gain international exposure and cultural understanding. 


Mentorship is also a tool for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Employees from underrepresented communities face numerous hurdles throughout their career. They are more likely to feel isolated as a result of being the minority. They bear the brunt of corporate microaggressions and unconscious biases from their fellow employees. This can lead to frustration, poor performance or even burnout. One prevailing solution to this predicament is developing impactful mentorship programs. 

Remember that most underrepresented professionals starting out do not have the proper access and exposure to senior leadership, which can negatively impact their growth trajectory. Research from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations found that mentoring programs “dramatically improved promotion and retention rates for minorities and women – 15% to 38% as compared to non-mentored employees.” 

We should seek to approach mentorship with inclusivity and equity in mind. This means that in a successful mentor/mentee relationship, there is an acknowledgment that both parties have something valuable to offer. It is a reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationship. When we approach mentorship with this in mind, we can advance people from all backgrounds in the workplace and create a shared sense of belonging. 

Creating and implementing a successful mentorship program can be difficult to navigate. Here are some things to keep in mind:


  • Ensure mentors are aware of their implicit biases. We all have biases but its important to leave our personal preferences when entering the door of mentorship. It will do the relationship a huge disservice if those personal preferences lead to inequity.  

  • Implement a training process. Don’t assume that participants understand the role of a mentor or mentee. Provide guidance through a training session that clarifies the expectations of the relationship.  

  • Measure Success. Make sure that the mentors and mentees are tracking their progress and reflecting on future learning opportunities. Organizations should also provide surveys to gauge whether the program met its intended goals. 


Our priority is to reciprocate learning and networking, build leadership and management skills and foster the development of lifelong friendships. This is how we will equip new credit union leaders for the future and bolster the longevity of our industry.

AACUC Announces African American Credit Union
Hall of Fame Honorees

2021 HOF Honorees 2.png

February 18, 2021, SNELLVILLE, GAThe African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC), will be inducting five credit union leaders into its Hall of Fame at the Virtual Induction on Monday, March 1, 2021, the day before the Credit Union National Association Governmental Affairs Conference (CUNA GAC) begins.  The 2021 honorees are: Anthony Bailey, Jim Blaine, Gerald Brooks, John Pembroke and Lynette W. Smith. 

Bailey has more than 25 years in the credit union movement, including 17 years at Pepco Federal Credit Union and 8 years at Department of Commerce Credit Union.   He is a graduate of both Wesley College and Bowie State University.

Blaine retired from State Employees’ Credit Union, headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he served as CEO from 1979 to 2016. SECU is the second largest Credit Union in the United States, with $38 billion in assets and serving 2+ million members.  Jim is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and holds an MBA from Duke University. 

Brooks is the Chairman of St. Louis Community Credit Union (SLCCU).  Under his leadership, SLCCU and Carrollton Bank began a collaborative agreement to increase lending, provide greater access to affordable services and expand financial education to the local underserved and LMI population. Brooks has also served as Chairman of the African Heritage Association of St. Louis.

Pembroke’s experience includes 25 years in financial services, marketing and e-commerce. He served as chief marketing officer at PSCU Financial Services, one of the largest Credit Union Service Organizations in the U.S. He became the President/CEO of CUES in 2013 has played a leadership role in developing and launching a new direction in CUES’ strategy, branding culture. Pembroke holds a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a MBA in Marketing and Policy Studies from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.

Smith has been in the credit union industry for 31 years and has served for the past twelve years as the President/CEO of TruEnergy FCU (formally Washington Gas Light FCU).  She also serves on the Board of the AACUC and on Board of the Metropolitan Area Credit Union Management.  Smith received from NAFCU, the CEO of the Year Award for credit union’s under $150 million in assets. 

“This year’s honorees are shining examples of professional excellence.  Each one is a stellar leader and contributor to the credit union movement,” said Larry Sewell, AACUC Chairman of the Board. 

Visa, Inc., is the Presenting Sponsor and the honorees are sponsored by NAFCU, Fiserv, Carolinas Credit Union League, State Employees’ Credit Union of North Carolina and PSCU.


About the African American Credit Union Hall of Fame History
On October 16, 2008, the AACUC unveiled an exhibit featuring African Americans in the credit union movement the first 100 years at the America’s Credit Union Museum in Manchester, N.H.  Continuing with that effort, the Funding Development Committee created the African American Credit Union Hall of Fame.  This virtual hall of fame was created to accomplish two goals: One, to honor and recognize African Americans who have and are contributing to the credit union movement--many who are unsung heroes and trailblazers.  To be inducted you must have accomplished or achieved the following:  1) provided in excess of 10 years of service in the credit union industry; 2) worked to provide financial services for people in general; and 3) identify at least four significant accomplishments, which benefited African-Americans’ access to financial capital.

The second goal was to be a consistent source of income for the AACUC through sponsorship opportunities on the website.  For instance, there are two trailblazer submissions available included with membership with the AACUC at the organizational level.  Additional trailblazer submissions are $250.  It is a great way to recognize your African-American peers, co-workers and colleagues who have made contributions locally. Hall of Fame inductees typically are sponsored by the credit union or a vendor that the inductee worked with for $1,500.

‘They picked you for a reason’
Kourtney Berry seeks to ‘inspire and motivate and foster meaningful relationships.’

February 3, 2021 Darla Dernovsek, One Comment

Kourtney Berry knows the “why” that drives her work as youth outreach manager at Suncoast Credit Union in Tampa, Fla.

“The main thing I seek to do every day in my role is to inspire and motivate and foster meaningful relationships,” she says.

Berry attended Florida A&M University, a historically Black college and university (HBCU) that prepared her for the challenges of being a young, Black professional. After out-of-state internships, she returned to Tampa for corporate public relations jobs that allowed her to work with senior executives at varied companies.


“It was rewarding because not only was I exposed to exclusive projects, I began to receive essential constructive criticism,” she says. “You take that constructive criticism and turn it into your motivation to continue to be better.”

Early in her career, Berry sometimes struggled to believe she was ready for the professional opportunities that came her way.

Today, she shares this advice with others in the same position: “Remember they picked you for a reason. Have the courage and confidence to act like it.”

A “roundabout” journey led Berry to Suncoast, where she leads a team of three people who deliver financial education and serve as liaisons to schools and nonprofit organizations.

While the team serves community residents of all ages, their focus is on youth, which includes working with 28 schools that run their own mini-credit unions (in-school branches are suspended during the pandemic).

Berry empowers her team to create education programs that improve financial literacy and help Suncoast’s youngest members start saving. Outreach to minority communities lets her give back to the organizations that fostered her success.

‘You can’t help but see the shift
and the impact we’re having on the
highest role of leadership in this country.’

Kourtney Berry

Berry notes Suncoast is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion among employees and members, which reinforces her determination to reach all audiences with meaningful, relevant, financial education.

“Especially when we go to underserved communities, we don’t give fairy tale examples,” she says. “We make sure they know having money isn’t just about being rich, but about living your richest life.”

Berry recharges her batteries through her faith and strong connections to extended family in the Tampa area and beyond. Within the credit union movement, she gets support from the African American Credit Union Coalition and the National Youth Involvement Board.

She notes she’s never lacked a resource because someone in the credit union network always steps up to share it.

Vice President Kamala Harris’ swearing-in “exuded Black history,” Berry says. Like Harris, Berry is a graduate of an HBCU and a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

Berry honored Harris by wearing pearls, jeans, and “Chucks” (Converse All-Star sneakers) to work on Inauguration Day.

She also cites voting activist Stacey Abrams and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms as role models who continue to prove how much Black women can achieve.

“You can’t help but see the change that’s being made,” Berry said. “You can’t help but see the shift and the impact we’re having on the highest role of leadership in this country.”


Scholarship winner comes home to lead
‘Representation matters,’ says SECU’s Kelli Holloway

February 2, 2021 Darla Dernovsek, One Comment

Kelli Holloway expected her college scholarship from State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) Foundation, Raleigh,

N.C., to lead to a career as a lawyer.  Instead, it led her to become vice president of member education and outreach

at $46 billion asset SECU.

Holloway’s path curved toward her hometown after she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel

Hill. An only child, she returned to Raleigh to help care for her mom while saving money for law school.

She hoped being a scholarship recipient would give her an edge in getting a job at SECU—and she was quickly offered a position as a financial services officer helping members with loans and mortgages.

Holloway also gave presentations at elementary and middle schools. After an executive saw her presentation, she became a member education specialist.

“This matches my passion and my purpose,” Holloway says. “How awesome that I was able to make it my position.”

Today, Holloway leads a team of 10 employees who develop programs and presentations and support the branch staff who help deliver them to members, schools, youth groups, and community organizations in all 100 North Carolina counties.

Holloway describes herself as a “radical optimist” who is passionate about her faith and demonstrates “radical acceptance” that life is different during a pandemic.

As a manager, she compares her “radical enthusiasm” for her team to the crowd in “The Price is Right,” where everyone cheers for each contestant to succeed. She believes credit unions thrive through teamwork that gives everyone a seat at the table.

“There’s a freedom in being radical,” Holloway said. “When you feel comfortable with the uncomfortable it shows good leadership, so that’s the kind of radical optimist I aim to be.”

‘If we’re going to say we’re diverse,
we have to walk it, we have to talk it,
we have to show it.’

Kelli Holloway

Holloway is willing to speak up to help others understand diversity, equity, and inclusion opportunities, and is a member of the Southern Region Committee Board for the African American Credit Union Coalition. For example, she helped amplify an employee’s comment that messages from leadership should be diverse.

“Representation matters,” Holloway said. “So if we’re going to say we’re diverse, we have to walk it, we have to talk it, we have to show it.”

After the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor sparked protests, Holloway realized “employees were suffocated by the grief that this moment provided.”

She was tasked with spearheading a “Crucial Conversations” course to help managers become sensitive to racial injustices and respond with empathy. More than 100 SECU managers have taken the 90-minute course so far, with plans to deliver it to several hundred additional managers in coming months.

Holloway sometimes feels the combined stress of social tensions, of being a Black woman in a leadership role, and of juggling the challenges of career, motherhood, and caregiving for her own mother. She relies on faith to restore her spirit, along with spending time with husband Mike and daughters three-month-old Ava and three-year-old Zoie.

Holloway’s faith brings the perspective of “the willing heart and the servant leader” to her work.

“There’s no ceiling on your capacity to learn about others and care and put yourself in their shoes,” Holloway says. “That’s how you’re able to change not just policies and procedures but minds and hearts.”