So I got an e-mail today from a member who is not too happy with us. It happens on occasion, and it is my job to listen and try to resolve any questions or issues they have. In this case, a member requested a consolidation of a couple of loans with us in addition to an amount he is overdrawn in his checking. We granted the request with a stipulation that the credit line be suspended. This member was upset because he still wanted access to his credit line to borrow more money. He had some very compelling reasons, including the fear that his credit score could decline if he no longer has open credit on his file. That is true – it could.
Like when we raise our kids, sometimes we have to say “no” if we think it is in their best interest. When you are in a stressful situation, especially when it comes to finances you may not see at the time that borrowing more money is not the answer. I want my members to succeed. I have to make decisions that are sometimes unpopular. Remember I work for my members, so if they do not succeed I do not have a job.
Sometimes, your kids can say things that can sting a bit. If you don’t have kids, think about the “zingers” you said to your parents. Well, like being a parent these words do not feel great when you hear them, but you have to have the poise knowing that you are doing what is in their best interest (even if they cannot see it). This member included in his e-mail “It seems like your bank/ underwriter has no [confidence] in us. I understand you don’t want us get in more debt, but it seems like your bank is looking more after [its] interest than us (the customers). In the last 4 or 5 years we have tried to be a good client/customer to your bank, and getting no help when we really need it, is not a good thing!”
Firstly, I have been around long enough that when a member calls us a “bank” and refer to themselves as a “customer”, I don’t get so defensive. It is not the words that bother me it is that no matter how hard as an industry we try, a large population does not understand the difference. We are a Credit Union and we serve our members. That is very different from a bank because our goal is different. We work to earn capital so that we can give the best rates to our members with a low fee structure and deliver it with exceptional service. Every person who has an account is a member, regardless of how much money they have. A bank has a handful of investors to whom they are responsible for paying absurd amounts of income. Where do you think they get that money? They take it from the everyday working class citizen who is just trying to get by so that the rich can get richer.
Would it surprise you to say that what this member feels is true? We just have a different perspective as to why it is true. We want to make loans and in fact if we do not make loans, we do not make interest income therefore we cannot pay great dividends that the savers love. But when a loan gets charged off it is not like the balance floats away into thin air…we lose the potential interest and all principle unpaid. Obviously we need to have confidence that a loan will be repaid or we would not grant it. So that is where his second sentence is so important. He hit the nail on the head. It is true – we are looking out for our best interest and not his. I remind you that our responsibility is to our membership. They depend on us to make sound decisions so that they can continue to enjoy the benefits a credit union member deserves. The second sentence is also true. He has been a good member but where we differ is that I think we DID help him. By declining his request for more credit, it will force him to make some tough decisions in life so that he can dig out of a hole, not dig deeper. Of course we offered to work with him to modify his loan during these difficult times. We will not turn our back on him but we have to be on the same page on the path to his financial recovery. He may have to decide that a lower credit rating right now is the short term consequence for a long term payoff.
In the end, like with our children we take the comments that sting and the criticisms that they spew because we know we are making a decision that is for the greater good for them and the rest of the “family”. I am not afraid to say “no” when I am confident it is the right thing to do, even if nobody else sees it.