Community Service

Calling the Central City Home 'Bass'

'Don't assume you can't profitably serve working poor and modest income households.'

November 15, 2013
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The Beatles’ breakthrough in the early 1960s inspired Jim Schrimpf to set aside his accordion and play rock ’n’ roll.

But he wasn’t sure which instrument to play. A friend told him that his band always had a hard time finding a bass player.

“Even at 12 years old, I understood supply-and demand,” Schrimpf recalls. “So, bass it was.”

Nearly five decades later, Schrimpf still channels his Fab Four idol, Paul McCartney, at Milwaukee-area gigs with his band, The Boomers. But even during a 30-year hiatus from music to raise three sons, Schrimpf found his groove in the credit union movement as a champion of services for people of modest means.

Schrimpf became CEO of Brewery Credit Union in Milwaukee in 1999 when it was at a crossroads. Two decades had passed since the credit union expanded its field of membership after the demise of some of the city’s major brewers—Schlitz, Pabst, and Blatz.

Brewery posted losses for three straight years before Schrimpf’s arrival. The board directed him to restore the credit union’s profitability or find a merger partner.

Schrimpf decided to concentrate the credit union’s efforts on the central city. Traditional financial institutions had largely abandoned the area and its low- to moderate-income residents. To Schrimpf, that meant less competition and a great opportunity.

Since refocusing on the central city, Brewery has doubled its asset size to $36 million and its membership to 7,645 while obtaining 17% capital.

“Don’t assume you can’t profitably serve working poor and modest income households,” Schrimpf says. “With the right product mix, competitive pricing, and risk controls, you most certainly can.”

Brewery offers payday lending alternatives, creditbuilder accounts, mobile and text banking, mortgage loans under $25,000, individual development accounts that match up to $2,500 for a down payment on a house; sells bus passes and stamps in its lobby; and conducts financial seminars. Its Fresh Start Checking provides a second chance for consumers locked out of the mainstream banking system.

In the past 13 months, Brewery claimed the Wisconsin CU League’s Louise Herring Award, the Spirit of CU*Answers Award, and the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Central City Business Award for serving the underserved.

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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.

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