History & Philosophy
People Helping People Since 1909
People helping people. That’s the philosophy behind credit unions, which were originally formed because average hard-working people needed access to fairly priced credit.
In the early 1900s, thousands of immigrants seeking work and a better life traveled to the largest textile-manufacturing center in the nation – Manchester, New Hampshire. While finally earning a paycheck, these hardworking citizens were denied the ability to safely save their money or obtain credit. A group of forward-thinking New Hampshire residents vowed to establish an organization that would serve as “the people’s bank.”
The modern credit union movement grew out of the idea that people could work together, creating solutions to meet their financial needs. New Hampshire was the birthplace of the credit union, and the concept spread throughout New England and then the rest of the United States.
Credit unions were formed on three basic principles: member ownership, democratic operation, and not-for-profit cooperative character.
Credit unions are operated democratically, with each member having equal ownership and an equal vote in its elections, regardless of the size of their accounts.
As a non-profit cooperative, credit unions return all of the income they generate to their members in the form of lower rates on loans, higher rates on savings, or better account fees.
Financial stability is essential to the mission of credit unions, which are carefully regulated, well-capitalized and extremely stable financial institutions.
Today, there are 23 credit unions in New Hampshire, with more than $4 billion in assets and nearly half a million members statewide. Nationally, there are more than 8,500 credit unions, representing 95 million members.
As the birthplace of the credit union movement in the US, the New Hampshire-based Credit Union Museum is an interesting and valuable resource about the history of credit unions.