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Robbie Thompson, president/CEO of the Credit Union Association of the Dakotas (CUAD) would like to be Michael Stipe, lead vocalist for R.E.M. “He’s creative and a little quirky, and I look a little bit like him,” Thompson says.
Thompson’s creativeness shows through in how he consistently champions new products and initiatives involving member education, awareness, and advocacy. He was the driving force behind CU Social Good (cusocialgood.com)—a website that provides an online accounting of credit unions’ community activities. He also helped launch the consumer awareness campaign CU on the Road that brings credit unions’ message to local community events. CUAD’s daily electronic newsletter, The Memo, gives readers quick updates of current credit union industry events. And social media enhances all CUAD communications.
All of these efforts and initiatives broaden and strengthen CUAD’s relationship with state and federal lawmakers.
He recognizes that success is a group effort, and he’s quick to credit his staff for any recognition he receives. “We built a collaborative and innovative environment where everyone’s voice matters,” he says.
Credit unions still don’t have the recognition they should, according to Thompson. “Credit unions are the right financial institutions for most Americans.”
Credit unions are community stewards, Thompson says, pointing to their dedication to member service rather than to profits. The CU Social Good website has more than 1,000 contributed stories discussing charitable activities, financial literacy, scholarships, volunteerism, and other individual and community support efforts. “Community involvement is built into our DNA,” he says.
Despite all of these efforts, overregulation and overlegislation remain threats.
“If credit unions were legislated or regulated out of existence, it would be a terrible blow to members and their communities,” Thompson says.
Cooperative spirit and community involvement separate credit unions from other financial institutions. That’s why he advises current and future leaders to embrace the cooperative philosophy.
“I’m passionate about protecting the credit union system,” says Thompson, who regularly attends local, state, and national legislative meetings to promote the credit union message. He also works with state credit union associations, credit unions, and other entities to advance the cause.
“When you believe in something, it makes your job a lot more fulfilling,” Thompson adds. “I enjoy fighting for credit unions. They do the right things. I enjoy telling people about the credit union difference."
Getting the credit union message out never ends in Thompson’s opinion. “We need to do a better job of telling our story. People need to understand credit union advantages. I’m stunned by the lack of knowledge of the credit union difference. Let’s change that.”