Murray Fulton, director, Centre for the Study of Co-operatives
The Role of Co-operatives in the Economy
In a StarPhoenix/Leader Post op-ed piece published on 7 December 2016, Brett Fairbairn, Dionne Pohler, and I outlined why a mix of business types is required for a well-functioning market. As we said,
Achieving the correct balance of different types of business forms is critical.… Just as biological environments benefit from a rich mix of different organisms, so, too, do markets benefit from a diversity of business types. Consumer interests and a desire for local control can be met with co-operatives; niche markets can be served by entrepreneurs; and employment opportunities can be generated through employee ownership. Established chains have a role to play, given their brand identification and experience.
While we were commenting specifically on the privatization of liquor stores in Saskatchewan, the argument is a general one and applies to all markets in the economy. It is particularly relevant for co-operatives and credit unions. Continue reading
The Future of Credit Union Branches in a Digital World
A conference recently made me think about the future of credit unions as connecting points between the real world and the digital world. The conference was in Luzern, Switzerland, where mainly German-speaking co-op leaders and academics came together to discuss co-op identity and growth. One of the working groups was on co-operative banking and digitization, and it was their report that got me thinking.
Co-operative banking is one of the most mobile and digital lines of business any co-op could be in. We have come to understand that money, deposits, loans, and so on — many of the “products” credit unions deliver — are essentially information. They are numbers in databases — numbers that can be transferred or changed at computer speed. Today, the digital world is the real world of banking commodities.
Only occasionally does the virtual world of banking services take material expression. An automated banking machine (ABM), when you think about it, is a machine that converts information into physical monetary bills when you need them. An ABM is a small, specialized material outpost of an unseen digital world.
Which brings me to credit unions, especially their distributed physical facilities. What is a credit union branch? What will it be in the future? In an increasingly digital world, such branches could go at least two ways. Continue reading