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Credit Unions—The Ethical Alternative for Unhappy Bank Customers
Monday, October 3, 2016 6:35 AM

John Vardallas, CUDE, Speaker, Rainmaker Business Consultant

The recent admissions by Wells Fargo Bank employees that they were opening unauthorized accounts for their customers have rocked the financial services world. In the process of these violations, they committed fraud and invaded customer privacy—all of which have led to Department of Justice and congressional investigations.

These employees' activities have called into question the ethical banking practices of the once-cited "best bank in America" by business author Jim Collins in his bestselling book Good to Great. The mantra of getting the right people on the right bus and getting them in the right direction has become a dismal failure of leadership at Wells Fargo.

Credit unions can and should take advantage of this opportunity to capture more market share in a “Bank Transfer Day 3.0” type of local campaign. Thousands of disgruntled Wells Fargo Bank customers are jumping off the stage coach and will be looking for a new and ethical financial institution with which to conduct their business. And Wells Fargo isn't the only bank dealing with the fallout.

Credit unions have only but to leverage their locally owned member-centric People Helping People philosophy to grow their business and expand market share. Cooperative not-for-profits now have four competitive advantages going for them:

  1. Choice,
  2. Access,
  3. Resources, and
  4. Ethical treatment of all members.

It's a short list, but a weighty and important one. Credit unions can drive home the fact that they offer products and services to members based on individual needs, not sales quotas, and that their staff work with each member as a partner or financial advocate in determining what is best for the member, not the credit union.

These differences should be emphasized as part of your brand and highlighted when you promote credit unions as safe and ethical financial institutions to join and do business with in your community. It's the "why" of what credit unions do.

The Ethical Treatment of Members is one of the core operating principles of the credit union movement, and now more than ever that should matter when consumers choose and engage with a financial institution.

This is a time for Credit Unions to emphasize our greatness. If you're not taking advantage of this opportunity to connect with disappointed bank customers, you're losing new members.

John A. Vardallas, CUDE, is CEO/founder of in Madison, Wisconsin. He is a professional speaker, business consultant, author, blogger, and futuristic strategic planner to the credit union system, as well as a senior faculty strategist and project evaluator for SCMS. For more, please visit or contact him at