The protesters occupying Wall Street are on to something. In fact, they are reacting to some of the same impulses that gave birth to our industry and are the key to its continued vitality.
Just so you know where this is coming from, I have been accused of being a man of the 90s…..the 1890s. Finance certainly has a vital role to play in the American economy and I’m glad that talented people choose to work in and around Wall Street. But that doesn’t mean the protesters should be written off as students panicked about loans or mimicking protests half a world away. After all, student loans and government upheaval are nothing new, but the occupation of Wall Street is.
What the protesters are reacting to is a visceral sense that fairness and accountability have taken a back seat to greed and obfuscation. The simple truth is that over the last four years, they have seen an American economy crippled by gross financial mismanagement and a political system incapable or unwilling to hold any institutions to account. In contrast to banks, credit unions have a structural commitment to fairness, consensus building and accountability, precisely the values that Americans of all political stripes are yearning to see reflected in their institutions. The Great Depression led to the federal charter and the Great Recession has people finding out that we are more than just smaller banks.