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Let's Talk Credit Unions: Defining the Players and Landscape

How It Started: A Historical Perspective

Credit unions have provided their financial services to their members in the United States for more than 100 years already. The history of credit unions can be traced back to Germany in 1849, when Friedrich Raiffeisen, the pioneer of rural credit unions, established the first credit society also known as a people’s bank. The original intent was to create a credit cooperative to address the credit needs of farmers. By 1864, it transformed into the first rural credit union. Almost 40 years later, in 1900, the idea of credit unions migrated to Canada, where Alphonse Desjardins co-founded Caisse d'épargne Desjardins in Lévis, Quebec. The organization served as a model for current North American credit unions.

During the following 30 years, laws regulating credit unions began to take shape. In June 1934, President Roosevelt signed the FCU Act, which authorized federally chartered credit unions in all states. On March 10, 1970 the regulator of credit unions - NCUA, National Credit Union Administration - was formed to supervise federal credit unions. The National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) was established to insure credit union deposits. By 1979, in less than 10 years, the assets managed by credit unions tripled. Up until 1980, the membership was possible only by belonging to a certain community or working for a certain organization. On August 7, 1988, The Credit Union Membership Access Act signed by President Clinton gave membership flexibility to credit unions. Today, credit unions continue to grow and fulfill the original intent of Roosevelt’s law, which is to create a system of not-for-profit cooperatives that operate in the interest of their members and provide superior financial services and ...

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