I am the CEO of the Fourth Corner Credit Union, or as some jokesters call it, the “Pot” Credit Union. I have to chuckle when people refer to the credit union by that name, because it triggers many stereotypes that could not be farther from the truth, for the credit union or for the cannabis and hemp industries. In my 20 plus years of financial services experience, I have never seen a financial institution, whether it be a bank or a credit union, so vigilantly focused on compliance. Also, I have never seen an industry work so hard to meet exceedingly high regulatory standards, while simultaneously being denied basic financial services.
For the credit union, the architect of our compliance protocols, Martin Kenney, won the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (“ACFE”) 2014 Cressy Award, their highest honor. Mr. Kenney was honored with this lifetime achievement award from ACFE, the largest BSA/AML trade association group with over 75,000 members in 160 countries, beating out the former FBI Director who was also up for the award that year. To put this into simple terms, this guy knows compliance. He makes bad guys pay for BSA/AML related fraud and crimes. Who better to construct the compliance protocols for a credit union working to make sure bad actors stay out of the banking and payment system?
In addition to the rigorous compliance, TFCCU has partnered with industry leaders in financial services, technology, law, government affairs, forensic accounting, cannabis regulation and others to create a credit union with over 500 years of collective experience. One comment we get regularly is that the credit union poses a concentration risk as a CU chartered to service the legalized cannabis and hemp industries. Our business model is constructed on the basis that the majority of our membership will be non-cannabis businesses and individuals who believe in states’ rights, personal liberty, and the medical applications of this plant. Although TFCCU plans to specialize in cannabis and hemp, just like credit unions who have come before us that service defined communities or industries, we understand the importance of portfolio diversification to help ensure the long-term financial viability of the CU.
The lack of understanding about TFFCU has plagued the credit union from the start. Thankfully, the Colorado Division of Financial Services took the time and effort to understand our multiple association common bond and mission to be a regulatory partner to both state and federal agencies. Unfortunately, TFCCU does not believe we were given this fair and impartial review of our applications by the NCUA or the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The way the final decisions were issued to TFCCU, all internal appeals were denied; therefore the only way to reopen a dialog was to file suit in Federal court. We are a credit union working to provide transparent financial services to members who have not been given banking access or whose banking relationships are currently tenuous at best. The credit union charter provides us the mandate and the responsibly to do this right—by the institutional legacy of credit unions and by the industry we are hoping to serve. I hope you join me in trying to solve this important public safety issue by supporting TFCCU’s efforts.
Deirdra A. O'Gorman is the CEO of the Fourth Corners Credit Union. She is a definitive, results-driven financial executive with more than 20 years of experience leading both senior and junior professionals, organizing and executing new initiatives, and building profitability.