|Research conducted by Cornell University in a report commissioned by the Filene Research Institute finds that "The REAL Solutions initiative illustrates the type of strategy credit unions could adopt to successfully engage the underserved financial market."|
REAL Solutions® is the signature program of the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF). "REAL" stands for "Relevant, Effective, Asset-building, Loyalty-producing" Solutions. REAL Solutions® helps credit unions offer a wide range of financial services that have proven successful in serving working families with low wealth and modest means.
Researchers at Cornell University's Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise emphasized that "This is important because underserved households -- while at the bottom of the economic pyramid now -- represent future savers, future car-buyers, future homeowners, and future generations of credit union members."
This report -- titled Back to the Future: Integrating Sustainability into Credit Union Strategy -- touches on much of what NCUF has learned so far about why and how credit unions can provide affordable services to the underserved financial market. Several of the strategies detailed in the report are based on REAL Solutions’ practical experience.
“The most successful services are not only affordable for consumers, but also sustainable for credit unions,” explains REAL Solutions® National Program Director Lois Kitsch. “Sustainable services can become a permanent part of credit unions’ business plans – as opposed to ‘loss leaders’ that must be limited in volume or subsidized by other parts of the credit unions’ operations.”
Report co-author Monica Touesnard, Managing Director of Learning Labs at Cornell University’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise, agreed. In a thank you letter to NCUF Executive Director Steve Delfin, whom she interviewed for the report, Touesnard wrote, “This report gives credit unions a reliable working definition of sustainability providing a variety of models to consider for integrating sustainability into credit union strategic plans.”
“The opportunities identified in this report suggest that financial institutions are just beginning to experiment with programs and initiatives related to sustainability,” concluded Filene’s Chief Research Officer George Hofheimer. “As a result, we have yet to realize the challenges and opportunities implicit in sustainability strategies.”