The thing that initially fascinated me about credit unions in the context of the financial crisis was the fact that they were, on average, far less negatively impacted by it than for-profit banks. Sure, they struggled as the economy turned sour and a few failed, but their woes were nothing compared to the apocalyptic crisis that engulfed the for-profit banking sector.
After a fair amount of research, I came to the conclusion that this advantageous outcome can be largely attributed to credit unions' cooperative ownership structure. In a for-profit bank, the depositors and the shareholders are two different groups of people. The shareholders, who legally have an absolute say in the direction of the company, generally want their bank to take risks which have the potential to pay off in the short term. On the other hand, depositors generally prioritize safety over returns, but, because they have no say in a for-profit bank, the banks took on too much risk for their own good, which ultimately led to the massive Federal bailout.