By day, they’re professional communicators for the credit union movement. By night, they’re literally credit union rock stars.
In their spare time, Christopher Morris from the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) and Chad Helminak from the Wisconsin Credit Union League travel the country singing the movement’s praises as musicians with a mission, known as The Disclosures.
“People think we’re crazy sometimes because we finish our day jobs and then go work on credit union music, but it’s something we love and have a passion to do,” says Morris, NCUF’s director of communications. “It might seem a little weird, but we have a niche and it’s great.”
The duo embarked on the unique musical journey in 2009, releasing an album of credit union-themed songs “(Hey, We’re) The Disclosures,” in 2011.
A follow-up children’s album—aiming to make the band “the School House Rock/Wiggles of financial education”—is slated for release later this year.
“It’s our way of helping consumers understand credit unions, but also letting credit union people, especially young professionals, know they’re part of this amazing movement,” says Helminak, the league’s vice president of development.
The band was an outgrowth of NCUF’s Development Education (DE) training program—which has been providing lessons in cooperative principles, credit union philosophy, and member-centric business models for more than 30 years. Both went through the training. Both were inspired.
“Suddenly, it turns your credit union job into a career you believe in, where you’re working toward a greater good,” Helminak says.
The two struck up a friendship when Helminak was going through training in 2009 and Morris was serving as a mentor, having gone through the program years earlier. They discovered they both played guitar, lived in Madison, Wis., and had an unbridled passion for credit unions.
For fun, the pair started playing covers of classic rock tunes at local open mic shows. But it wasn’t until their participation in an innocent credit union-themed song contest that they honed their thrift rock sound.
The band’s entry, “Movin’ on With My Money,” was an immediate success. Shortly a?fter its release, it blew up on the Web in credit union circles and landed on The Huffington Post.
"The response was great,” Morris says. “Music and humor proved to be a unique and effective way of communicating messages.”
Since then, the band has released tunes for International Credit Union Day, Bank Transfer Day, National Credit Union Youth Week, as well as a legislation-specific advocacy song. It has performed at staff training sessions, league meetings, vendor meetings, and CUNA conferences, including one at the historic Estes Park.
“I think what we’ve been able to prove is that if you give young people a chance and some room to think big—like Chris and I have in our workplaces—good things will come out of that organically,” Helminak says. “No one told us to start a credit union band, but somewhere along the way people encouraged us to be creative and that happened.”
While their nights, weekends, and vacation day gigs have the cachet, Morris and Helminak have been known to rock their day jobs, too.
Helminak started in the league’s communications department but advanced into development and outreach. He’s been in?fluential in organizing a strong network of about 300 young credit union professionals.
“It’s really energizing to help other people get fired up about credit unions,” Helminak says.
Morris got his credit union start as a temp at NCUF while he was trying to find a high-school teaching gig.
“Then I went through DE and it changed my life,” Morris says. “One thing DE does is that it ties the movement together and helps you realize
the powerful, global impact of credit unions.”
Ever since, Morris has been involved with the program in various capacities.
Together, Morris and Helminak are a potent combination of passion, creativity, and intelligence. And they complement each other well.
Helminak says of Morris: “A lot of ideas float in the ether sometimes. He has this ability to package it and put it into something that’s actionable. He has creativity, but also a groundedness about him that allows that creativity to come alive.”
Meanwhile, Helminak, jumps where many others might not, Morris says of his bandmate.
“Chad is one of those people who always has the spark to take it to the next step. He’s always willing to go for it,” Morris says.
Both are thrilled to share their passions with each other and the world. It’s brought them to places and given them experiences they never imagined.
“We’re so lucky and honored to do this,” Morris says.