or, rather, Why We Chose a Credit Union. This morning I was listening to the Brian Lehrer show on NPR and he was talking about why you'd choose a credit union, and it made me reflect on this very decision that Wayne and I had to make for our business a few weeks ago. After the economic collapse in 2008, the rising bank fees and finding out what the banks do with the money you give them, we were very uneasy about putting our money with a "big" bank like Chase or Bank of America.
The services that big banks offer sound great on the surface - ATMs and branches everywhere, fancy online bank sites. But what you really get is high fees and nothing in the way of supporting small businesses. We've been told time and again by other small business owners that these banks won't even consider talking to you for financing if you don't already have two years of revenue on the books, especially for restaurants.
So we started looking for alternatives. I had heard about credit unions before, but I didn't know much about them. Credit unions are made up of members who have a common bond, whether it's geographical and focused on a local neighborhood or through an employer like a university. The members own the credit union, so it's focused on lending money within that particular community. This really piqued our interest, so we looked around and found the Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union.
We thought BCFCU's mission aligned with our goals very well:
As your community development credit union, our mission is to support the economic development of our neighborhoods through consumer, business, and home loans and core financial services. Today Brooklyn Cooperative is helping to revitalize Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant, two of the most under-banked neighborhoods in New York City.
We had a great chat with their business counselor and we met some of the people who worked there. Although they only have two branches and neither is overly convenient to where we live, we see this as more of advantage. We'll see the people who work and bank there on a regular basis and actually develop relationships with them. We are getting more transparency in the process, we know where our money is going and we're supporting other individuals and small businesses like us.
A great teacher of mine once told me that we should "think about money more as energy than money". Maybe this sounds hokey and George Bailey-eqsue, but I really believe in the power of banking at the small-scale, community level, and this is something that I think we need to reconsider especially after everything that's happened in the past few years.