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Credit union emphasizes
dignity over profit
T WEN T Y-T WO DOLLARS TOSSED into a hat
in 1964 launched the faith-based financial
institution Mennonite Savings and Credit
Union (MSCU) in Waterloo.
“In the 1960s it was hard to get credit,” says
MSCU CEO Brent Zorgdrager. “But Waterloo
County was a hotbed of activity then for faith
and social justice. This group of Mennonites,
looking to live out their faith, decided to
financially help people in their churches.”
“A bank exists to serve its customers and to
delight its shareholders,” explains Zorgdrager.
“In a credit union, though, customers are the
same people as the shareholders, so it’s not
about satisfying customers in order to deliver
a maximum return.”
MSCU’s faith perspective affects everything
from how it invests to how it lends. “We follow
the biblical principle of helping people maintain
their dignity and value,” Zorgdrager says.
The credit union’s investment arm offers
socially responsible investments (SRIs).
These have three components – screening
to determine which companies are ethically
aligned and follow best practices for their
sector, shareholder advocacy to ensure
those companies will improve practices, and
investing in community development.
As Zorgdrager points out, no company is
perfect when it comes to ethics, and there’s
always room for improvement. It’s finding the
companies that are open to change.
Through its Meritas arm, MSCU exerts
influence on global child labour practices, and
works with companies “to nurture the soil for
change,” Zorgdrager says.
MSCU puts its money to work closer to
home as well. Members investing in GICs
can choose to donate 0.05 per cent annually
to their church. In 2014, the church builder
investment cut cheques for $50,000 and since
its inception a total of $300,000, Zorgdrager
says. –ALEX NE WMAN
Visit www.faithtoday.ca/KingdomMatters for more.
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