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Filene Research Institute Celebrate 25 Years of Examining the Future of Consumer Finance
Thursday, February 6, 2014 6:50 AM

Consumer finance think and do tank Filene Research Institute celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Filene will kick off its silver anniversary at its annual Chairman’s Breakfast at the Credit Union National Association’s 2014 Governmental Affairs Conference, featuring special guest Lisa Servon, urban policy professor at The New School.

“Filene Research Institute is the realization of an idea held by many credit union people for a long time,” said Mark Meyer, CEO at Filene. “The Chairman’s Breakfast marks our anniversary with not only the system leaders that formed us but also the members and contributors who’ve made these 25 years possible.”

“Lisa’s research on the financial needs of low-income consumers resonates with Filene’s original purpose to be a catalyst for a stronger credit union system and policy around all financial services,” said Meyer.

CUNA Mutual Group led the formation of Filene Research Institute in 1989 with support from CUNA, the National Credit Union Association, the American Association of Credit Union Leagues and state credit union leagues, and several US credit unions. The nonprofit is named in honor of Edward A. Filene, the Boston retailer who built up the Filene's department store chain and pioneered the US credit union movement in the 1900s.

Under the vision of CUNA Mutual Group then-CEO Richard “Doc” Heins, Filene’s purpose was to not only engage in research on credit unions and issues involving consumer finance but also be a place where credit unions could test new and even far-out ideas without fear of failure. For its first 16 years, the nonprofit partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business to produce academic research that helped credit unions respond to market needs and shape public policy.

Filene’s notable achievements from the past 25 years include:

  • Helping lay the groundwork for the Credit Union Membership Access Act of 1998 with its “Taxation of Credit Unions” and “Field of Membership: An Evolving Concept” reports
  • Launching the i3 program in 2004 to instill an innovation competency in credit unions and test financial ideas like Debt in Focus (now SavvyMoney), Savings Revolution and Save Up
  • Piloting REAL Solutions to help credit unions better serve low-and-moderate-income financial consumers, which the National Credit Union Foundation adopted as its signature program in 2006
  • Testing prize-linked savings accounts with the Doorways to Dreams (D2D) Fund and the Michigan Credit Union League in 2008, encouraging consumers to save by creating a chance to win a prize with each deposit
  • Introducing The Cooperative Trust in 2012, a community of young credit union professionals that stems from more than 10 years of Filene research examining the financial needs of young adults