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The grateful credit union borrower who became an influential director

Sep 20, 2021

By  Ken McCarthy September 20, 2021, 2:17 p.m. EDT 3 Min Read REGISTER NOW When the opportunity to get actively involved in a local credit union came in 2003, Anthony Taylor jumped at the chance. The reason? Lasting gratitude for a break he had caught as a consumer three decades earlier from a predecessor of that very credit union. In the early 1970s, it was challenging for people of color to obtain traditional bank loans in middle Tennessee. “Banks wouldn’t touch you without giving away your first child,” said Taylor, who is Black. “But the credit union was different. It treated me as equal as anybody else.” Taylor said he and members of his community often had to go to finance companies to get loans that carried “exorbitant” interest rates. But credit unions were way ahead of their time in terms of focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion in hiring and in membership recruitment, he said. He joined AEDC Federal Credit Union in 1972 and became a firm believer in the mission-oriented nature of credit unions, which he says distinguishes them from banks. That’s why years later he eagerly accepted an offer to join the board of that Tullahoma, Tennessee, credit union, which by then had become Ascend Federal Credit Union. Today it has $3.4 billion of assets. His efforts of the past 18 years were rewarded this month when Taylor was named volunteer of the year by the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions. The national award given to Ascend Federal Credit Union board member Anthony Taylor (pictured) “reflects his exemplary service and symbolizes the profound effect he has on everyone fortunate enough to work with him,” CEO Caren Gabriel says. He was recognized for nearly two decades of contributions to Ascend’s leadership team as well as his service to the credit union’s members and the communities in which it operates. “I was absolutely shocked,” he said of winning the award. “I knew that my name had been turned in, but I did not think I would win.” Taylor was quick to deflect praise and to say that the award was earned by and for the entire Ascend board. He retired in 2018 from his career in human resources but now serves as a county commissioner in Lincoln County, Tennessee, and is active in his parish with St. Paul AME Church. Taylor disagrees with the notion that credit unions continue to become more banklike. He said the most crucial difference may be that the credit unions’ board members are unpaid volunteers while bank directors receive compensation. “So they have a self-interest,” he said of bank boards. “That’s a major, major difference.” He said credit unions also place a much higher priority on providing financial counseling to their members than banks do for their clients. The NAFCU volunteer of the year award honors an individual who demonstrates exemplary leadership qualities, dedication to serving the credit union’s members, commitment to the development of professionalism, expertise and service as well as participation in credit union and community activities. That description fits Taylor to a T, said Ascend’s president and CEO, Caren Gabriel. “Anthony’s dedicated efforts are reflected in the continued success of Ascend Federal Credit Union, demonstrating thoughtful leadership skills and developing new ideas that allow our organization to better serve our members,” Gabriel said in a press release. “This award reflects his exemplary service and symbolizes the profound effect he has on everyone fortunate enough to work with him.” Since 2003 when he was appointed to Ascend’s board development committee, Taylor has been a driving force to build the credit union into the largest credit union in Middle Tennessee and one of the largest in the Volunteer State, Gabriel said. Taylor has served as chairman, vice chairman, treasurer and currently as a member of the supervisory committee. He said the COVID-19 pandemic has forced credit unions to think outside the box and create new products and services that members need today and will for years to come. “Although it’s been a tragic situation, it has also opened a lot of opportunities for credit unions to continue to be forward-thinking,” he said. Sandra Thompson, who has been acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency since June, has won backing from the mortgage industry and community groups for the experience she brings to the role. The push comes as the administration is said to be considering Mike Calhoun of the Center for Responsible Lending. The U.S. subsidiary of Japanese banking giant Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group has entered into a consent order with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency that requires it to improve its information security protocols, hire more IT staff and create a board-level committee to monitor its progress. Anthony Taylor was recently honored for his hard work in helping build Ascend into one of the largest credit unions in Tennessee. Taylor says he jumped at the opportunity to give back to the credit union that decades earlier welcomed him and other Black consumers when they struggled to find affordable credit elsewhere. Sandra Thompson, who has been acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency since June, has won backing from the mortgage industry and community groups for the experience she brings to the role. The push comes as the administration is said to be considering Mike Calhoun of the Center for Responsible Lending. The U.S. subsidiary of Japanese banking giant Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group has entered into a consent order with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency that requires it to improve its information security protocols, hire more IT staff and create a board-level committee to monitor its progress. Anthony Taylor was recently honored for his hard work in helping build Ascend into one of the largest credit unions in Tennessee. Taylor says he jumped at the opportunity to give back to the credit union that decades earlier welcomed him and other Black consumers when they struggled to find affordable credit elsewhere.

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