As Prepared for Delivery on September 17, 2020
Thank you very much for that kind introduction, Gregg. It’s my pleasure to join you all this evening, though I’ll confess, I’m disappointed we are unable to gather in person. I certainly hope to have the opportunity to visit Chicago to meet with you all soon.
As the Chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, I’m pleased to congratulate the Faith-Based Credit Union Alliance on 10 years of service. Yours is a record of service that reflects the proud tradition of the credit union movement, which from its beginning, was based on the principle of “people helping people.”
More importantly, I’m here to offer more than congratulations – I also want to offer a message of encouragement, because the work you all are doing is vitally important.
By way of introduction, I’d like to share some of my own background, because my route into the financial services industry and government service was not typical. Like some of you, I didn’t have a career plan mapped out when I was 20 years old that I would go to work in banking or end up leading a federal regulatory agency.
In fact, my earliest career plan was altogether different: my first aspiration, which originated from my time spent working as a church missionary in Africa, was to enter the ministry. I could imagine no higher calling than providing pastoral and spiritual leadership to a community, and that was where I initially set my sights for my life’s mission.
Well, my life took a different direction. But I never lost that urge to service—an urge that was fortified by my faith—which led me to my future path. So when I entered the financial services industry, I wanted to be sure I put the emphasis on that middle word: “service.” And that was how I started working in community banking, providing services to, and advocating for, the needs of underserved communities.
I probably don’t need to tell you, but that’s not necessarily the area you should be working in if your ambition is to rise to the corner office and the heights of the financial industry. But I understood early on that, for me, it was the right path to be on. I wasn’t too involved with the credit union industry at that time, but I realize now that, even then, the work I was doing was fundamentally about “people helping people.”
It took time, but I came to understand there was a connection between my earlier missionary work and the mission of finance. I came to see how both enterprises could be directed toward helping others and building stronger, more resilient communities.
And when I look at the important work that the Faith-Based Credit Union Alliance is engaged in, I see that you all have understood that same connection.
The work that the alliance and your institutions are doing to provide affordable financial products to your members; assist low-income families; promote financial literacy and inclusion; encourage entrepreneurship; combat predatory lending; and invest in your communities is just as essential. That’s only a partial list, but it reflects a strong commitment to your members, strong relationships with partner organizations, and a strong focus on the future. You are truly doing God’s work.
I don’t need to tell you that 2020 has been a year of tremendous difficulty and trial for all of us. We struggle still with the COVID-19 pandemic. The sharp and sudden economic slowdown and the death of George Floyd have put a tremendous strain on your institutions and members. Because of this, I have challenged the staff at the NCUA to look at ways that we can do more to support minority depository institutions.
Yet we will persevere, following the path of faith, confronting our fears by embracing an ethic of humility, integrity, and hard work, and lending a hand in compassion to those most in need. And I believe strongly that organizations like the Faith-Based Credit Union Alliance will play the most critical role in facing down these tremendous challenges and building a better future.
I believe the Faith-Based Credit Union Alliance is working in the best spirit of those words to lift up others and to build something better — by looking beyond yourselves and reaching outward toward your communities, our country, and our world.
Congratulations once again on your 10 years of service, and thank you for allowing me to be part of this celebration.