Guest Columnist

Credit unions will continue to help Iowans

University of Iowa Community Credit Union at 716 A Ave NE in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Mar. 2, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
University of Iowa Community Credit Union at 716 A Ave NE in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Mar. 2, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

From the Great Depression to the Great Recession, and fake accounts to redlining practices, banks have a lengthy history of apologizing for breaching consumer trust. Yet somehow, our state banking association has tried to paint “big” credit unions such as the University of Iowa Community Credit Union as the bad guy.

The truth is, more Iowans are turning to cooperatively owned credit unions because they have lost trust in other financial institutions. In turn, Iowa credit unions are growing and saving Iowans more money. We certainly do not need to apologize for that.

Unlike big banks that return profits to select stockholders, credit union growth directly benefits members through better rates and fewer fees. Quite simply, as a credit union grows, so does the cost savings for Iowans.

In the past year alone, UICCU’s not-for-profit, cooperative structure has saved members $69 million. Looking for a real-life example? In 2018, we’ve originated 6,100 mortgages without charging the typical 1 percent origination fee, saving Iowans more than $12 million. Statewide, Iowa credit union members save $117 million annually compared with what they would have paid for similar services.

While UICCU has been the bankers’ target, they fail to put size into perspective. Wells Fargo alone is bigger than the entire credit union industry in the United States. In fact, the “too big to fail” banks have only gotten bigger since the housing crisis 10 years ago, and bank profits are at an all-time high.

Here in Iowa, banks are on track to hit a record of profits in 2018 and are outpacing their national counterparts. Competition from credit unions clearly is not hurting banks; credit unions such as ours help keep fees and rates in check for all Iowa consumers.

UICCU is committed to giving back to our communities. This year, we supported more than 500 charities, our staff volunteered more than 3,600 hours, and UICCU contributed more than $1.7 million to support charities and events in Iowa communities. As we grow, so does this amount.

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As the 2019 legislative session begins, we hope to work with the Iowa Legislature on initiatives that help Iowa consumers live their best financial lives instead of rehashing the decades old tax debate with the banks.

Credit unions already pay millions in taxes each year, including a state tax on legal reserves.

If the tax discussion comes up again, we urge you to remind your legislators that for-profit banks and not-for-profit, cooperatively owned credit unions are not the same. And we’re not sorry about that.

• Jeff Disterhoft is president and CEO of the University of Iowa Community Credit Union.

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