Editorial: Fed up with big banks? Join a credit union

So long, Washington Mutual, also known as WaMu. Over the past few weeks the familiar yellow and blue WaMu signs adorning neighborhood financial centers around the region have been coming down as workers install the unfamiliar blue logo of JPMorgan Chase, known to most of its customers as simply Chase. The changeover marks the visible end of one of the nation’s oldest financial institutions, fondly remembered by many of us as The Friend of the Family.

For more than 100 years, Washington Mutual stood strong as the financial pillar of our region. Founded after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, it survived 11 tumultuous decades, including the Great Depression … only to meet its end last September in what some folks are calling the Great Recession. Like so many of the nation’s most well known financial institutions, Washington Mutual was run into the ground by executives whose greed outweighed any commitment they might have had to sound business principles.

Former CEO Kerry Killinger now famously declared in 2003 that he hoped “to do to this industry what Wal-Mart did to theirs, Starbucks did to theirs, Costco did to theirs and Lowe’s-Home Depot did to their industry. And I think if we’ve done our job, five years from now you’re not going to call us a bank.”

That statement is rich in irony, but the ambition it represents has made WaMu’s customers, shareholders, and employees poorer. Over the course of its history, WaMu safeguarded the savings of countless children, including mine. As Chase converts WaMu branches into Chase branches, the loss of our region’s most widely recognized financial institution is becoming more apparent.

WaMu used to be that one bank on the street corner that was local, the one bank that wasn’t based in New York or Charlotte or someplace far, far away. Now the WaMu that many of us knew and loved is disappearing. Its name has been forsaken and its branches are now appendages of the huge financial behemoth that is JPMorgan Chase.

More and more Washingtonians are asking ourselves this question: Why do business with a giant, faceless corporation? Why trust Chase with our money? Because Chase is big?

Too big to fail, right? That can’t be a good reason. If what we value out of our banking relationships is a focus on serving people, not profit, we’d all move our money over to credit unions. I switched over to a credit union a while before WaMu imploded and have never looked back. Like hundreds of thousands of other Washingtonians, I enjoy better rates, lower fees, and superior customer service. When I need help, I call a telephone number with a 206 area code and a real person answers the telephone.

Credit unions have no reason to be greedy. They’re member-owned and community oriented. Although many credit unions have narrow fields of membership, there are a number in Washington state that are open to all who live, work, attend school, or even worship here. These include Watermark Credit Union, Boeing Employees Credit Union (BECU), Group Health Credit Union, and Qualstar Credit Union, among others.

Credit unions have been working hard in recent years to improve convenience. Many credit unions belong to what’s known as the Shared Branching Network. The network allows credit union members to make deposits, withdraw funds, and obtain services at branches of thousands of other credit union branches nationwide. All that’s needed is the name of the financial institution, account number, and a valid photo ID.

With banks eyeing their most responsible customers as perfect targets for fee hikes in the wake of a new law to curb abusive lending practices, there’s never been a better time to join a credit union. To learn more about the credit union difference, check out findacreditunion.com. Don’t be afraid to go bankless. You’ll be glad you did.

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, a Redmond-based grassroots organization. Contact him at andrew@nwprogressive.org.

In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Opinion

Robert Whale can be reached at rwhale@soundpublishing.com.
The growing disconnect between public servants and the press | Whale

As one small part of the often derided “legacy media,” I am… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Behind the scenes in the race for King County prosecutor | Roegner

Politically speaking, it was an exciting week recently when King County Prosecutor… Continue reading

Dr. Jayendrina Singha Ray’s research interests include postcolonial studies, spatial literary studies, British literature, and rhetoric and composition. Prior to teaching in the U.S., she worked as an editor with Routledge and taught English at colleges in India. She is a resident of Kirkland.
How chips define the evolving world order | Guest column

Semiconductor chips are the new oil that the world can go to war over.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
For some state lawmakers, short session is all about re-election | Roegner

The Washington state Legislature opened on Jan. 10 against a backdrop of… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
2022 will be a trial run for 2024 for conservatives | Roegner

Our democracy withstood an attempted coup last Jan. 6, but the planning… Continue reading

Robert Whale can be reached at rwhale@soundpublishing.com.
Good night, John Boy, from another generation | Whale

When I was growing up in the 1970s, like many others I… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
People do and say the darndest things | Roegner

The rich and famous frequently say and do some of the darndest… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Electricity shortfalls and Toyota’s dose of reality | Brunell

When Toyota speaks, car buyers listen. Hopefully, our elected officials will as… Continue reading

Most Read