How Credit Unions are Different from Banks

You have probably heard SMCU referred to as a “financial co-operative” or a “co-op.” Seattle has a large variety of co-ops, like PCC, Madison Market and REI, just to name a few. But what is a co-op, exactly, and what do we all have in common?

A cooperative is an independent group of people who come together to address a common need through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.

Members of the co-op own and control the business together with one vote per member, unlike companies run by stockholders who can increase the weight of their vote relative to the number of shares they own. It is this co-operative autonomy and local control that has kept Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union sound and secure in good times and bad.

We are Guided by the Seven Co-operative Principles

These principles date back to some of the earliest co-ops that formed in England in the 1800s. To this day they still form the foundation on which co-operatives around the world operate. Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union has adapted these principles to the financial needs and goals of our members and they guide us in everything we do. Read more about each of our Seven Principles below, and click on any of them for more information about how Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union continually supports each one.

Principle #1

Membership Should Be Open To All

Membership at Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union is open to all who live or work in the State of Washington, without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination. It is the mission of the credit union movement to offer financial alternatives to underbanked and credit-challenged members of our communities.

Principle #2

Members Should Call The Shots

Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union is a democratically run organization, controlled by our members. Our Board of directors is composed of volunteers from our membership, and each representative is democratically elected by our members.

Principle #3

Member participation leads to rates, fees and services that benefit the entire credit union.

Surpluses are returned to members in the form of fewer fees, more services, lower interest on loans and higher dividends on deposits. The more members participate, the more there is to go around.

Principle #4

Autonomy & Independence Set Us Apart

As a financial cooperative, Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union is autonomous and independent because we are controlled by our members, not outside shareholders. If SMCU seeks to enter into agreements with other organizations it must be done in ways that ensure cooperative autonomy and continued control by members only.

Principle #5

Financial Education Should Be Free & Available To All

Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union believes that education is important. SMCU provides free education to members, elected representatives, management and employees so that all can prosper and contribute to the growth and wellbeing of the cooperative. SMCU provides financial information via seminars, workshops, newsletters and our Web site. We support programs and organizations that promote financial literacy, such as Washington CASH, Washington Business Week, and Credit University, to name a few.

Principle #6

Cooperation Among Cooperatives Is Vital

As a not-for-profit financial cooperative, Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union serves its members best and contributes to the cooperative movement by working with other cooperatives through local, state, regional, national and international organizations.

Principle #7

Giving Back To The Community Is An Obligation

Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union believes it is a priority to give back to the communities where we do business while focusing on our members and their needs. Through programs like our Green Loans and Feel Good Checking non-profit partnerships, SMCU seeks to achieve a greater good through responsible corporate citizenship.