Financial service cooperatives are composed of credit unions, banks within the farm credit system, and a variety of financing organizations that lend to cooperative firms and banks. Here we will focus on the two most visible financial service cooperatives: credit unions and farm credit.
Credit unions are not-for-profit member-owned financial cooperatives that offer a full range of financial products and services. Credit unions serve a common field of membership based on characteristics like a geographical area, employee groups, or membership in an organization. Due to their special mission to serve consumers, credit unions are exempt from paying federal tax. Credit union members see earnings as higher savings returns, lower loan rates and lower, fewer fees.
In the United States, there are over 130 million credit union members, meaning that nearly one-third of all Americans use a credit union for financial services.
Examples of Credit Unions
UW Credit Union is a federally insured financial institution and a leading provider of a full range of consumer financial services. UW Credit Union serves the needs of more than 310,000 members, from lending and savings to checking and investments, through world-class technology systems, and a network of 31 branch locations. UW Credit Union operates as a not-for-profit, member-owned financial cooperative serving University of Wisconsin communities in the Madison, Milwaukee, Stevens Point, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Whitewater, and La Crosse areas.
Established in 1933 with only seven members, Navy Federal now serves over 8 million members globally and is the world’s largest credit union. Membership is open to all Department of Defense and Coast Guard Active Duty, veterans, civilian and contractor personnel, and their families. Dedicated to its mission of service, Navy Federal employs a workforce of over 18,000 and has a global network of 328 branches.
Inclusive Finance: Financial Performance and the Economic Impact of Community Development Credit Unions. Inclusiv, 2018.
Cooperation among Cooperatives: Quantifying the Business Case for Credit Unions and Other Cooperatives. Filene Research Institute, 2015.
Model Law for Credit Unions. World Council of Credit Unions, 2015.
International Lessons for Young Adult Membership Growth: Technical Guide. World Council of Credit Unions, 2015.
Co-op Power. Credit Union Magazine, January 2012.
Organizations Supporting Credit Unions
Credit Union National Association
Inclusiv (formerly known as National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions)
National Credit Union Administration
Farm Credit System
Created in the early 1900s, the farm credit system is comprised of consumer-owned financial service providers dedicated to supporting rural communities and agriculture. The farm credit system includes nearly 70 local and regional service providers and four regional wholesale banks. Farm credit institutions provide products tailored for the needs of agricultural producers, farmer-owned cooperatives and other agribusinesses, rural home buyers, and rural infrastructure providers.
Examples of Farm Credit Institutions
Compeer Financial is a member-owned, farm credit cooperative serving and supporting agriculture and rural communities. The co-op provides loans, leases, risk management and other financial services throughout 144 counties in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Based in the upper Midwest, Compeer Financial exists to champion the hopes and dreams of rural America. With 1,300 dedicated team members serving approximately 76,000 member-owners, they offer specialized expertise and personalized service regardless of the size of the farm, the type of crop grown or the livestock raised.
CoBank is a national cooperative bank serving vital industries across rural America. The bank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states.