Community Service

Serving Low-Income Populations Requires Innovation

‘We must be creative at applying the tools we have as effectively as possible.’

June 17, 2013
/ PRINT / ShareShare / Text Size +
Bill Bynum
Low-income communities need credit unions to be creative, says community development innovator William Bynum.
These hard-hit areas need relief from payday lenders, more public and private investment, and greater access to mainstream financial products and services, he says. But achieving these aims is "hard and it is getting harder.
"Let's not fool ourselves—it is really tough out there," says Bynum, CEO of $161 million asset Hope Credit Union, Jackson, Miss., and its sponsor, Hope Enterprise Corp.
The organizations provide commercial financing, mortgages, and technical assistance for businesses, entrepreneurs, home buyers, and community development projects in the economically distressed areas of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
"We really have to be creative at taking the relatively limited tools that we have at credit unions and applying them as effectively as possible," Bynum says.
He says credit unions seeking to serve low-income populations should focus on:
► Serving the unbanked and underbanked. A mass exodus of banks from low-income communities has occurred in recent years, followed by growth in payday lending outlets in these areas. Credit unions need to find ways to close the gap.
► Influencing investors. Credit unions should work with private investors as well as governments to bring resources into communities that need development.
“Credit unions are a drop in the bucket relative to the need that is out there,” Bynum says. “So we have got to influence the big buckets of resources.”
► Efficiencies. Investigate cooperative approaches—and mergers where they make sense—to keep services in the communities that need them and to manage expenses.
Microbranches and mobile services can be effective in serving low-income communities, he says.
“We think [mobile apps] will allow us to be in communities where we can’t have a physical presence,” Bynum says. People “can have the power of the branch in their hands.”
Since 1994, Hope Enterprise Corp. has generated more than $1.7 billion in financing for entrepreneurs, homebuyers, and community development projects, and assisted more than 130,000 individuals in low-income communities.
Bynum addressed the 2013 Annual Conference of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions in Baltimore.

Post a comment to this story


What's Popular

Popular Stories

Recent Discussion

Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

Your Say: Who should be Credit Union Magazine's 2014 CU Hero of the Year?

View Results Poll Archive