What I’ve Learned from Working at a Credit Union
The Credit Union Difference and the Great Basin Difference
What have I learned from working at a credit union? Maybe the question should be, what haven’t I learned?
When I first started my career at Great Basin Federal Credit Union, I honestly didn’t know too much about the credit union world. Similar to the average consumer, I knew credit unions existed, I was a member of one once. I knew that they were financial institutions, and that they weren’t huge corporations like B of A, but that’s all I knew. I didn’t realize there was so much more to it.
Aside from all of the amazing training I have received, learning about everything from loan auditing to ACH posting, I learned a lot about the credit union movement and what makes us so much different than banks.
The Credit Union Difference
First of all, there’s a little something called the credit union difference. In short, “credit unions are not-for-profit organizations that exist to serve their members. Like banks, credit unions accept deposits, make loans and provide a wide array of other financial services. But as member-owned and cooperative institutions, credit unions provide a safe place to save and borrow at reasonable rates.” 1
Credit unions really are different, and in this industry, we like to highlight that! We have the same products, technology, and easy access that you can get at other financial institutions, but we’re not driven by making profit off of our customers. We’re driven by giving the best service and most value to our member-owners. As a cooperative, we all win together.
Learning this really opened my eyes to the fact that credit unions really do offer the same products and services as banks, but have more of a heart when it comes to consumers money.
Credit unions are not-for-profit organizations, so somewhere in between for-profit and non-profits, you can find us! This means that we still need profits to run, keep our doors open, and provide all of the products and services our members need, but we also return the profits to our members. This can be in the form of less or lower fees and better rates. (No, really. We really aren’t looking for ways to fee you, and we are more flexible with our policies than banks.)
Realizing this was another eye opener to me. Less fees, lower rates, more savings… why wouldn’t I (or anyone) bank at my local credit union?
When you open an account here at Great Basin, you are required to keep $25 in your savings account for the life of the account, this is your share in the credit union. You’re an owner! And as we also like to say, you’re the boss. As an owner, your voice is heard. Whether it’s through attending the annual member meeting, answering one of our email surveys, or talking with our local staff about your wants and needs. We truly want to be sure we are providing the best to our member-owners. And when we’re not, we fix it.
Having a say in a company is such a powerful thing. I really enjoy continually learning what our members want and finding ways I can help make that happen.
Volunteer Board of Directors
Did you know that we also have a volunteer board of directors and supervisory committee? We don’t report to any outside shareholders or paid board members. Our board members are members just like you, some with full time jobs, who take their personal time to commit and volunteer to oversee the credit union. They make sure the decisions made are in the members best interest and that the profits are being used in the best way.
Our board members really embody our values, and it is so refreshing to see, especially from the inside. These people really care about doing what is best for the members, and show that we are for the people not for the profit.
Credit unions usually have some sort of membership qualifications, but don’t let this scare you or make you think you can’t join a credit union. To become a member at Great Basin you must live, work, worship, own a business, or go to school in Washoe County.
There are so many credit unions out there, with their own look, feel, values, and service promises. Being a member and employee at Great Basin, I love feeling like I belong somewhere, and that I can bank somewhere that knows my community on a first-hand basis.
Credit unions are usually local, and tend to be really involved in their community! We love our community just like you do. We spend many hours giving back in various ways all year long, our employees are especially involved in Moms on the Run and our branches participate annually in fundraisers for Operation Backpack, Pack the Pak, and more. We also offer free community seminars all year long on topics ranging from retirement to budgeting to college planning. In addition to seminars, we offer free online financial education so that our community can learn and make the best financial decisions they possibly can.
Being involved in the community is a lot of work, and from the inside, I can see how much work we put in to making sure Great Basin is there for our community. It truly gives me an amazing feeling inside knowing that we contribute so much to local causes.
Credit unions tend to share resources, and that is one of the coolest things I have learned throughout my career here. The people I have met in the industry are never hesitant in sharing new ideas, what has or hasn’t worked for them, and resources. Going to conferences really showed me how many people are so passionate about what they do and how many support the credit union movement.
Many credit unions, including Great Basin, even participate in something called Shared Branching. With this, you can access CO-OP’s nearly 30,000 ATM’s and 5,000+ shared branches nationwide. This means you have more direct, surcharge-free access to your money than most traditional bank customers do.
The Great Basin Difference
Service has always been what separates us from other banks or credit unions. We offer the products and conveniences that you need, and that’s important to us. But our members get more. They stick around for a long time, and they’ll all tell you it’s because of the service. We know your name, we appreciate you, we’re down-to-earth, and we take your financial situations very personally. And we’re truly local. We are the largest Washoe County-based credit union!
Every time I have an interaction with a financial institution now, I try to remember what is important to me in my financial institution. Everyone has different things that are important to them, whether that is the tellers knowing your name, having the lowest rate possible, or having someone there to give you advice on something you don’t know much about. The experiences I have had here have made me grateful to be able to better evaluate where I want to keep my money, as well as making me proud to work at an institution like this which has a greater purpose. I love being able to share the credit union difference with my friends and family!
I also asked a few of our employees what they’ve learned from working here:
“I have learned many things working for a Credit Union in my personal and professional life especially working here at Great Basin. I have learned that Great Basin strives to create a special environment for member and employee experience. Finding your ‘second’ home is vital in any work environment and I can honestly say that I have found my second home here at Great Basin. From my first day, I had already felt like part of the family as I was able to meet each and every one of the employees that work here at the Credit Union. Unlike any other bank or credit unions, Great Basin truly strives for admirable service and I believe each employee exemplifies every single one of our service promises. Great Basin has a special place in my heart because it is local, it is community oriented and we passionately care for our members. From raising money for certain events like Moms on the Run, the Veteran’s Memorial or Operation Backpack, Great Basin does their absolute best to make an impact on members, employees and the community.” -Marissah
“I’ve learned how to be more confident with myself; in my abilities, my knowledge, and not to let fear hold me back. ????” -Keisha
“Banks know to teach the concept of empathy but Credit Unions will actually go the extra step to listen, feel and not give our members a “one size fits all” experience. I’ve found that servicing in a Credit Union naturally requires a far more personalized approach due to the fact that we’re member owned.” -Jill