What’s in a name? Credit Union’s LGBTQ Program Finds a Wider Audience | Credit Union Journal

Credit unions that tailor their services to members of the LGBTQ community may also find an unmet need among other demographic groups.

Michigan State University Federal Credit Union in East Lansing, Michigan is nearing the finish line of developing a feature within its digital banking platforms and card offerings that will allow members to define a name and a set of preferred pronouns. The program, which should go live before the end of the third quarter, is like many others that allow credit card users, for example, to put their favorite name on the card.

While these services are developed with transgender and non-binary audiences in mind, they also appeal to other marginalized groups such as international students or Indigenous people, said Amanda Denney, director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the $6.8 billion MSUFCU, which serves students. and university staff, as well as state employees.

“We have a lot of international students who come in and choose Americanized names, and they do that for a number of reasons, but this project helps that group of people as well,” Denney said. “When we hear favorite names and pronouns, people automatically jump to LGBTQ+, but there’s such a huge impact [with this project] at all levels with really anyone.

The credit union first explored the concept internally in 2020 with including pronouns in staff email signatures and editing employment documents wherever the law allowed it to register a new name. selected. He has also incorporated educational materials into his Diversity, Equity and Inclusion trainings to explain the importance of MSUFCU’s change.

Banks and credit unions that provide such products should also ensure that their staff are properly briefed on the use of preferred names and pronouns in every interaction with customers.

“Our goal is to empower everyone to be fully and authentically themselves and that’s really hard to do if you’re constantly dealing with micro-aggressions by being gender-bad. [and] mislabeled,” Denney said. “Very specifically for the LGBTQ+ community, particularly non-binary or transgender people, this can be a very important tool for them.

Organizations such as Day lighta New York-based digital banking service provider for the LGBTQ community, and MasterCard also launched Preferred Names Projects in an effort to better serve transgender and non-binary consumers who experience negative encounters due to a difference between their legal and preferred names.

Some credit unions that have already implemented similar initiatives are working to now offer more tailored loan services to consumers who wish to gender affirmation proceduresas well as other LGTBQ funding needs.

Linda Bodie, managing director and innovator of the $44 million Element Federal Credit Union in Charleston, West Virginia, said she has worked alongside local pride organizations to better understand the needs of its LGBTQ members. and identify the most underserved areas.

“We have specialized loans for adoption, marriages, surgery [and really] anything related to the LGBTQ+ community… We work closely with our local pride organization, Rainbow Pride of West Virginia, to identify the needs of our community,” Bodie said.

Element plans to continue its commitment to helping local members through collaborative housing and employment partnerships with local real estate agents, pride organizations and other groups to address instances of discrimination during the search for accommodation.

In addition to his 24-year tenure as CEO of Element, Bodie helped organize and launch the LGBTQ Credit Union Support Association CU Pride in June 2020, which now has over 1,200 members nationwide and is dedicated to advancing inclusivity within the industry and providing educational toolkits and opportunities for collaboration.

“With our principles, which are to create educational opportunities for the credit union system…It gives them the opportunity to understand the community and really push toward our mission, which is to bring the whole of ‘industry to embrace LGBTQ+,” said Zach Christensen, co-founder of CU Pride and director of diversity, equity and inclusion and communications at Mitchell Stankovic.

“Organizationally, credit unions are not queer or LGBTQ, but credit unions can be organizational allies,” through better education, he said.

A Pew Research Center investigation of 10,188 American adults in May found that 5.1% of those under 30 said they identified as transgender or non-binary, with the share of adults who knew a transgender or non-binary person rising from 37% in 2017 to 44 % in 2022.

Experts from trade organizations such as the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions and the Credit Union National Association say institutions need to carefully analyze research and feedback from the data collected or new programs risk becoming ineffective. .

“One of the things we’re doing is becoming more intentional in this work and listening to our communities,” said Samira Salem, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion for CUNA, who is a supporting organization of CU Pride.

Better serving LGBTQ communities means developing products and services specific to their needs, Salem said. “It’s in the DNA of credit unions to serve the underserved [and] the marginalized, and that is our value system.

But beyond ensuring the success of new services, credit unions aiming to position themselves as allies to those in the LGBTQ community must also ensure that their efforts go beyond marketing campaigns and lead also to changes within organizations.

“It’s not just about marketing and sort of an outward-facing message about who you are as an organization [and] what you represent; you have to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak…and demonstrate that you have diversity, for example, within your board and within your leadership,” said Ann Petros (formerly Kosachev) , who works as Vice President of Regulatory Affairs for NAFCU.