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Soon after I had encountered the idea of student-run financial services, I started typing a brief to describe the idea, the benefits, the process and some of the information needed to realize the plan.

Even now, just months later, we know so much more. For example, I no longer think it feasible to pay the student staff members. At Georgetown, as Justin would soon tell me, they are all students and all volunteer.

Here is an early draft of the idea for a student-run credit union at Waterloo.
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After deciding to pursue the idea of a student-run credit union at Waterloo, it makes sense to learn more about other schools where they have already achieved one.

Early on, I learned how much control students have at the Georgetown credit union.
guasfcu website
In March, I had e-mailed the faculty advisor on the board and he downplayed the role he played and suggested that I direct my questions to the students.

We are very proud of what the alumni and student credit union has achieved at Georgetown. Please know that the students lead the effort and a few of us serve as advisors with whom they can brainstorm about current issues.

So, I contacted the student CEO, Justin.

He told me how they had recently done a round of hiring for 16 positions and received 230 applications. Though the staff are not paid during the school year, most of them stay with it throughout their time at Georgetown. Just told me that they retain almost 100% of their tellers.

Among other questions, I asked him for advice in founding a credit union at a university.

Starting a Credit Union as this time considering the current banking environment is very capital intensive.
That being said I think it is also very attainable if you present your university with a detailed plan. Your first steps would be to do focus groups of the current banking environment on your campus to determine the needs of your potential member base. This will also help you determine one of the most critical questions when establishing a credit union, who your charter will be serving.
For instance, GUASFCU’s charter allows all Georgetown Students and Alumni and their immediate family members to open accounts with our financial institution. You and your colleagues will have to determine, which member base your credit will most adept at servicing.

When some people hear about the Waterloo Banking Propject and our idea they question whether students can really run a financial institution.

I tell them that students already do, just not at Waterloo.

At least not yet.


“You. Really?” Larry Smith feigned surprise when I told him I had a bit of an interest in entrepreneurship. A few months after I encountered the idea, I was explaining to the enterprising professor why I was pursuing this project.

I also have an affinity for the University of Waterloo and its students. Student-run financial services could benefit Waterloo students in many important ways. It may be an audacious project, but I think it is possible and it is surely worthwhile.

In the Winter term I was researching for another project and I started looking at businesses operated by university students that have a big impact on those that run them and those they serve.

Those I found included Harvard Student Agencies, which publishes the Let’s Go travel guides; Queen’s University bookstore, which is the main textbook supplier to students at the university in Kingston; and University Venture Funds, where students do research and make venture capital decisions.

Then I found a reference to Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union.

Since 1983 students at Georgetown in Washington D.C. have provided financial services to their fellow students. Now over 100 student volunteers run the credit union, which has about $10 million dollars in assets.

Students provide the customers service, they make the investment and loan decisions, file the regulatory forms and everything else in between.

There are other student-run credit unions. Students at Miami University in Ohio can become members at First Miami University Student Credit Union and the University of Pennsylvania has the Student Federal Credit Union.

Students at these schools can get better student-focused services, they can learn to manage their finances better, and can get amazing experience operating a financial institution.

That leads to the question: Why not at Waterloo?

We have begun working on a plan to start a student-run credit union at Waterloo under the organizational name Waterloo Banking Project. It will be a lot of work and we will need a lot of advice and assistance, but it will be worth it.

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