BECU, the fourth largest credit union in the U.S. and long-time advertising partner of DNA, is fast approaching the million member mark. Last week, Benson Porter, BECU CEO since 2012, spoke to Puget Sound Business Journal on the opportunities credit unions have in today’s climate of the consumer financial services market.
Founded in 1935 by 18 Boeing employees, the credit union pooled members’ savings (a total of $9) to afford other employees loans to buy tools for work. Since then they’ve expanded to more than $15 billion in assets by building their brand around their philosophy of putting members first.
The fundamental differences between credit unions and banks are particularly relevant to consumers in the wake of Wells Fargo’s recent fraud scandal. According to Porter, with credit unions “Cooperative structure is a key cultural underpinning because the owners and the members are the same people…in the for-profit model, you’re trying to return earnings to a group of investors…Last year, we returned $1.69 million to our members.”
When asked about nearing the million member mark, Porter explained, “For us, it’s not about growth, it’s about helping more people…It’s great to celebrate 1 million members and we’re proud of it, but that was not the objective. The objective was to help people.” With so many people fed up with traditional banks’ hidden fees and exploitative interest rates, not to mention shady business practices, credit unions are poised to convert bank customers into members in droves.
“There’s a very high degree of trust that what we’re doing isn’t about trying to sell products — it’s about what we can do to help them save money,” said Porter. “[For example,] if you have credit cards or lines of credit and your credit [score] improves — which we’re hoping to help you do that — then we automatically lower your rate.”