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To be a force for good in banking, in the communities we serve, and in the lives of our members.
Clearwater was formed in 1956 when eight policemen, all struggling to access reasonably priced credit, pooled their resources, formed a cooperative, and began lending to one another. As the years passed, the credit union’s membership expanded to include railroad workers, municipal employees, university faculty and staff, and, eventually any resident living or working in our current market area in southwestern Montana. Today Clearwater is Montana’s second-largest credit union and its largest US Treasury Department certified Community Development Financial Institution. The credit union serves 48,000 member-owners or nearly 5% of the Montana population.
In 2016 Clearwater pivoted from the place-based strategy that had supported 60 years of growth to an explicit values-based strategy. Four core values now define the credit union, and our focus is on better aligning both business operations and balance sheet with those values. What are those values? The first is about our cooperative, member-owned structure. That is the foundation. Everything we do must be in our members’ best interest. The second is about being an inclusive, rather than exclusive, organization. The third is about empowerment. We work hard to ensure that everything we do empowers people – our employees and members. The fourth is about impact. We aim to make a positive difference in the world around us, by effecting social, economic and environmental change.
Clearwater is a member-owned, not-for-profit, and democratically-controlled, financial cooperative. The credit union is a regulated depository and its members enjoy regulatory supervision by the National Credit Union Administration and deposit insurance provided by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund. These things make it possible for the credit union to mobilize ample, low-cost funding from its members, in the form of insured deposits, to transform those savings into a wide variety of loan products, and to assist members in managing household and business spending.
Board of Management
Clearwater is owned by its 48,000 members, all depositors and users of the credit union’s products and services. Those same members elect the Board of Directors from within the credit union’s membership. Each of the 7 Directors serves as three-year term before facing re-election. Collectively this group represents the diversity, geography, and professional experience of membership. The Board of Directors hires and manages a President & CEO, who does not serve on the Board. The CEO leads a seven-person Executive Team to implement the strategy set forth by the Board of Directors.
- Don Creveling, Chair of the Board of Directors
- Jack Lawson, President & CEO
Clearwater’s greatest strength is its employees. The credit union actively encourages employees to innovate, improve services, and make a positive impact with the goal of building an organisation of people who feel and are empowered to improve the credit union’s operations and increase its impact.
Market Focus, Products and Services
Clearwater members access a range of financial products and services from the credit union. These products and services are delivered through six branches, on-line and mobile technologies. They are organized into three main business lines: Consumer, Homeownership, and Business.
Consumer products and services include traditional checking and saving accounts, personal loans, car loans, and credit cards. Non-traditional products and services such as solar loans, alternative educational loans, and a debit and credit card rewards program that incentivizes members to shop at locally owned businesses round out the consumer offerings. Wealth management services and financial counselling are also provided by staff working out of the credit union’s six branches.
Homeownership products and services include traditional, conforming 30 year fixed rate mortgage loans, non-conforming portfolio mortgage loans, and home equity loans and lines of credit. The credit union services all of its home loans internally, with staff located in the home market. Non-traditional home loan products like manufactured housing “chattel” loans round out the homeownership offerings. First-time homeowner preparatory classes are offered in partnership with a local non-profit.
Business products and services cover the full range of business lending facilities including SBA financing, equipment and vehicle loans, business credit cards, and operating lines of credit. The credit union tends to target smaller businesses (2-50 employees) than do most local and regional commercial banks. Non-profits and social enterprises are a growing part of the portfolio.
Benefits of Being a Part of the GABV
The benefits to Clearwater of GABV membership are many. First and foremost, Clearwater’s leadership team is able to draw inspiration, ideas and critical feedback from the network. We are not alone on this journey, we will make mistakes along the way, we are learning with the help of others. Second, the GABV Communities of Practice help us to drive the principles and culture of values-based banking deep into our organization, protecting against the possibility that they might only live on the surfaces. Third, our membership takes inspiration from the fact that their credit union is a part of a global movement that is changing the way banking is done. And finally, we gain strength, institutionally and politically, by being a part of a movement rather than an isolated actor.