By: William J. Mellin, President/CEO, New York Credit Union Association
The first credit societies were formed in Germany in the 1850s, and within the first decade of their establishment, there were over 180 cooperative banking institutions in the country serving 18,000 members.
In 1900, when Alphonse Desjardins organized La Caisse Populaire in the Quebec town of Lévis, he could not have envisioned the credit union movement as it is today.
But Desjardins bet the credit union movement would spread rapidly across the continent — just as it did in Europe — as more consumers learned about the benefits of the cooperative banking model.
He was right. Just seven years later, the first credit union in the United States, La Caisse Populaire Ste. Marie in New Hampshire, opened for business. As the cooperative banking model began to grow, credit unions started to pop up in nearby states, including in New York.
Today, the credit union movement is a national and global financial force, representing hundreds of millions of consumers and over a trillion dollars in assets. Clearly Desjardins’ bet on the credit union movement paid off.
This year’s International Credit Union Day theme is “Local service. Global reach.” The theme is strikingly concise and accurate. As noted in my brief history lesson above, credit unions have always been locally focused institutions with a global foundation.
Of course, it would be difficult to discuss the history of the credit union movement, or the movement’s reach, without mentioning CUNA Mutual Group.
CUNA Mutual Group exemplifies the “Local service. Global reach.” idea. Their support for the Association and the New York credit union movement allow us to expand our local services in New York. But their commitment to the credit union system overall ensures we maintain our global reach.
Here in New York, CUNA Mutual Group provides the Association and the New York credit union movement with direct support. Their sponsorships and donations, in addition to their products and services, make our movement stronger. In short, CUNA Mutual Group is an extraordinary and committed partner, and the Association would not be where we are today without them.
Alphonse Desjardins died in 1920, fifteen years before CUNA Mutual Group was founded. He may or may not have envisioned that a company like CUNA Mutual Group would one day serve as the cornerstone of the credit union movement. But fortunately, his vision for a credit union movement with a global reach lives on. And so does our strong, symbiotic relationship with CUNA Mutual Group.