Credit Union acronyms totally harsh my mellow

The seeds for this blog post were sown by Christopher Morris, based in Madison, Wisconsin, who tweeted that he was incredulous that not everyone knew about the difference between CUNA and CUNA Mutual.

For those of you not knee-deep in credit union world, you probably didn’t even know that these two organizations even existed. And by some chance you have heard of CUNA, you most definitely didn’t know that there are two distinct organizations with different buildings, purposes, and personnel, located in Madison. (The buildings are located about two feet from each other in the same corporate park, but they are separate buildings, and both very large.) CUNA is the national trade organization for credit unions in the United States, and its primary goal is to advance the credit union movement, primarily through political advocacy. CUNA Mutual, now CUNA Mutual Group, or CMG for short (as if that is less confusing), is an insurance company, which provides insurance to credit unions and credit union members nationwide.

With names like CUNA and CUNA Mutual, you can understand why people might not have realized these two organizations are distinct. It’s really a bummer that the term “credit union” is two words, because it means that virtually any names that derive from it are going to be lengthy long. (Lengthy long is much longer than ordinary long and even longer than very, very long.) Because these names end up being a mouthful, insiders tend to reduce them down to their initialisms or acronyms. (Here’s the difference between these two terms, which I had not realized until yesterday.)

Because there are SO many of these credit union organizations, one MUST NOT give in to the temptation to shorten them. ESPECIALLY NOT TO THE PUBLIC, who has no clue what you are talking about, and is therefore easily confused by them. See which of this jumble of alphabet soup you are familiar with:

CUNA – Credit Union National Association
CUSO – Credit Union Service Organization
CUES – Credit Union Executives’ Society
CULAC – Credit Union Legislative Action Committee
CURIA – Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act
CUMIS – CUNA Mutual Insurance Society
CUMAA – Credit Union Membership Access Act
CUSC – Credit Union Service Centers
CCUE – Certified Credit Union Executive
CCACU – Combined Council of Automotive Credit Unions (presumably CACU is already taken, or too confusing with California Credit Unions?)
CUIAA – Credit Union Internal Auditors Association
CUSIP – Committee on Uniform Security Identification Procedures (Did we not already have enough acronyms with CU in them that we had to invent some more THAT DON’T EVEN STAND FOR CREDIT UNION? yeeeeesh.)
CLIC – CUIS Loan Insurance Components (CUIS is CUMIS minus Mutual?)
NCUA – National Credit Union Administration
NCUF – National Credit Union Foundation
NACUSO – National Association of Credit Union Service Organizationss
NASCUS -National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors
NACUSAC – National Association of Credit Union Supervisory & Auditing Committees
NACUC – National Association of Credit Union Chairmen
NCUIS – National Credit Union Income Services
NAFCU – National Association of Federal Credit Union
NCUSIF – National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund
NARCUP – National Association of Retired Credit Union People (I did NOT make that up!)
NASCCU – National Association of State Chartered Credit Unions
ITCUA – Information Technologies Credit Union Association
ACCU – Association of Corporate Credit Unions
ACUCE – America’s Credit Union Conference and Exposition
AACUL – American Association of Credit Union Leagues
ACUMA – American Credit Union Mortgage Association
OCCU – Office of Corporate Credit Unions
WOCCU – World Council of Credit Unions

Have your eyes glazed over yet? That’s not even getting into state credit union leagues, which nearly always use their initialisms to give us:

And all of this doesn’t even factor in that many, if not most, credit unions like to shorten their names as well. And in some cases, that has led to even more bizarre abbreviations such as DFCU Financial Credit Union (which if in turn were initialized would be DFCUFCU) and SOFCU Community Credit Union (which, if initialized would become SOFCUCCU). There are more than 8,000 credit unions in the United States. That’s 8,000 more abbreviations that use the letters C and U:

BECU • BCU • DCU • PSECU • UCU • USFCU • LCU • RCU • TFCU • VCU • KSFCU • TCCU • CCCU (there are 9!) • CCFCU • CCU (there are 14!) • ACU • AFCU • AHCU • BFCU • UMFCFCU and on and on and on and on and on…

By the way, you will never catch me referring to EverythingCU as ECU. Ever.

So while I adore you, Alphonse Desjardins, Edward Filene, Joseph Boivin, Monsignor Hevey, and the other founders of the movement, a curse on you for not figuring out a better name than “credit union” before it was too late to change it. But at least it’s better than Bank of the People, or else we’d be doomed with BOPs everywhere and in everything. And that’s much worse.

And thank you to TexasT for the Austin-hippy headline inspiration.


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11 Responses to “Credit Union acronyms totally harsh my mellow”

  1. Ginny Brady Says:

    Hi Morriss, I’m lakeside at my camp in the Adirondacks chuckling at your post and remembering that it took me at least 8 years as a credit union board member to get the difference between NCUA, CUNA and the League straight in my mind. It seems to me that the only group that might have us beat for acronyms is the US Government.

  2. Tim McAlpine Says:

    WAGPM (what a great post Morriss)

  3. Christopher Says:

    Ha! Great post Morriss – for the record, It was less incredulous and more stupefying that people don’t know the difference. Yes, CUNA and CUNA Mutual sound similar, but if you’ve been around long enough and do business with both, I would think people would know the difference….but they don’t apparently.

    Here is what gets me: I’ve met many people that have been in the credit union world for a long time. Years even. And are are in prominent positions at their CU. And they still don’t know the difference. Isn’t that part of being a well-rounded CU exec? If I was in charge, part of orientation for every CU staffer and CU organization would include a system overview. To include info on credit unions, leagues, corporates, CUNA, CUNA Mutual, WOCCU, and Filene among others.

    That’s all I’m saying.

    But if one more person comes up to me at a conference and starts chatting me up about a CUNA Mutual product…

  4. Jeffry Pilcher Says:

    Novices in the naming game love acronyms because they sound so “serious” and “official.” IBM. AT&T. So they go with something like DPE Landscaping. They don’t realize that it take years and years and years and millions upon millions of dollars to create meaning behind an acronym. For starters, these big TLA’s (that’s Three Letter Acronyms, for short) had to build a big brand up BEFORE they tried using acronyms.

  5. Ashli Moore Says:

    Great post. I enjoy the listing. As a CUSO employee and vendor in the CU Lending arena, I have had to familiarize myself with most of these over the last several years, but I find that I can’t really remember them by the acronym alone….I always find myself talking the words out in my head…

  6. Anthony Demangone Says:

    Great post. You’d be amazed how many people confuse NAFCU with NCUA. We get quite a few consumer compliants. If I had a dollar for every time I had to say…”we’re a trade association, sir. I think you want the credit union regulator.”

  7. Mike Templeton Says:

    You’ve said everything there is to say about acronyms. It most cases, it’s just not a good idea. Like Jeffry mentioned, what most people don’t realize is that brands like IBM and AT&T have only been acronyms for a small period of their entire existence.

    I think it’s ok to use acronyms internally to shorten things up, but when you are out there promoting your brand as a credit union, you’ve got to go out with everything you have.

    Industrial Credit Union just doesn’t have any spark when you are telling people you are ICU. In fact, most people probably think you’re advertising the intensive care unit at the local hospital.

  8. The Financial Brand » Blog Archive » The do’s and don’ts of CU acronyms Says:

    […] Credit Union acronyms totally harsh my mellow […]

  9. Credit Union acronyms still harsh my mellow « World 2.0 Adventure Says:

    […] Based on a previous blog post: […]

  10. Bryan Says:

    Haha. Credit Union acronyms harsh my mellow too!

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