Making Your Credit Union Resilient Through Effective Leadership

By B. Dan Berger, NAFCU President and CEO

B. Dan Berger, NAFCU President and CEO

Credit unions serve a unique purpose to the financial services industry. Specifically, credit unions’ not-for-profit status helps you to stay focused on what’s most important—the needs of your members and providing superior member service—all while promoting thrift and offering access to provident credit and financial products to members, even when times are tough.

These past two and a half years have been difficult to say the least; with the pandemic causing hardship for everyone’s finances and the world losing access to the in-person connections we have always known. However, with credit unions, this connection never truly got lost in the mix. Through one of the most unprecedented events in the history of the world, credit unions were able to maintain and even improve service to their members—all 130 million of them.

So, as we look ahead, how should you lead your credit union to become even more resilient? The answer is simple: empathy. By continuing to understand the problems that your members face daily, and addressing them with both empathy and solution, you will become the most effective institution by meeting those needs with a clear and purposeful solution.

Most Americans want to feel a connection with and trust in their financial institution, which is why credit unions remain so successful—you consistently provide a real-life, empathetic devotion to your membership. Now is the time to do the same with your credit union employees.

According to research, empathy also promotes quantitative benefits for your business. In a recent post on my Berger Leadership Blog, I referenced a Tracy Bower article on Forbes that uses research to show that a leader’s use of empathy drives significant business results. According to a Catalyst study in the article, empathy has significant constructive effects with employee innovation, engagement, and inclusivity. By understanding your employees in the same way you strive to understand your members, you help them feel more included and engaged, creating a healthy and transparent working environment. Your employees are your credit union voice throughout your community—potential members will notice that your business has something inimitable and will want to be included.

At NAFCU, we recognize the evolving “new normal” our employees are in and encourage them to be creative and bring new strategies to the table. Our continued investment in them has led us to better serve you through open forums, such as the recently created NAFCU Networks, to discuss current pressing legislative, regulatory, and compliance issues. This feedback from you is crucial for our organizational growth and allows our team to organically feel connected to the goals and mission of NAFCU and the credit union industry.

Outsiders may think the credit union industry is small, but we are trailblazers on many, many fronts. We have strong connections with our employees and our members because we deeply care for them, right to the very core. That right there is irreplaceable, and the credit union difference.

As always, NAFCU’s doors are always open to serve you in any way you may need. As the pandemic loosens its grip on our everyday lives, credit unions and the members you serve will undoubtably remain resilient—a feat that, while not surprising, should make us all proud. 

Connect with B. Dan Berger on Twitter, @BDanBerger, and on his blog at