Credit unions serve more than 130 million members nationwide, meaning every day the industry has more than 130 million ways to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.
Throughout the month of August, CreditUnions.com has highlighted some of the unique ways credit unios are doing that, from one-day-only loan promotions paired with financial counseling to moving into new markets where banks are closing up shop, and more.
No Banking Deserts
When Huntington Bank closed several West Michigan branches where it was the only financial institution available, Honor Credit Union ($1.5B, Berrien Springs, MI) stepped in and purchased many of those facilities in order to avoid seeing a banking desert develop in the area.
After several members reached out to CEO Scott McFarland and others in the community, Honor began testing the waters and has slowly begun opening new locations, adding new members in the process.
“This isn’t ‘Field of Dreams,'” McFarland says. “Just because you put a branch there, doesn’t mean they’ll come. Showcasing the community has brought us a lot of goodwill and been very effective.”
What Makes A Winning Credit Union
Clearwater Credit Union ($899.0M, Missoula, MT) has grown substantially in the past decade. Its assets have more than doubled since 2013, and its membership has grown to more than 55,000 across the state. According to CEO Jack Lawson, the secret to the credit union’s success has been its focus on values-based banking, including committing to financial inclusion, protecting the environment, and more.
“Montana is not under banked,” Lawson says. “There are  other good credit unions operating in the state and a lot of good locally owned and regionally owned community banks. It’s a competitive environment. We win on values-based banking while staying competitive on price. That and the ability to assemble good teams are what’s delivering our success today.”
Read more in Banking On Values In A Crowded Montana Market.
Where Green Means More Than Just Dollar Bills
Part of Clearwater’s focus has been an emphasis on the idea of doing well by doing good, and that has been particularly true with its embrace of sustainability initiatives. The credit union concentrates heavily on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the planet in ways that range from installing solar panels at the branch to ditching Styrofoam and outfitting member coffee stations with ceramic mugs purchased from a local nonprofit. Overseeing the entire operation is a former environmental scientist who now runs Clearwater’s sustainability programs.
Read more in Low Emissions, Big Impact.
Loans And Coaches
Personal loans are a bread-and-butter offering embraced by most credit unions, but Canopy Credit Union ($208.1M, Spokane, WA) has put its own spin on the product, running a single-day promotion on those loans and pairing it with financial counseling. The special is available twice per year in February, when loan demand is low, and in October, around International Credit Union Day and has become one of Canopy’s most successful offerings.
“We started one-day personal loan campaigns in 2019, right after we rebranded to Canopy Credit Union after being Spokane Federal Credit Union since 1956,” explains CEO Charlotte Nemec. “Our lending staff and financial coaches were seeing a lot of one-off situations with people who had multiple credit card balances and payday loans that were becoming unmanageable. They were basically looking for debt-consolidation loans.”
Staffers work with members to provide on-the-spot or more in-depth financial coaching as well as manage payoffs in instances where borrowers have multiple creditors.
Meritrust Teams Up With Some Of The Biggest Teams In Kansas
Meritrust Credit Union ($1.7B, Wichita, KS) has long had a relationship with Wichita State University, but as the credit union has grown and expanded beyond the Wichita metro area into other parts of the state, it has also established partnerships with the state’s two biggest colleges, the University of Kansas and Kansas State University. As part of that, Meritrust has teamed up with the athletics departments at all three universities to provide financial coaching for student athletes.
The vision of this program is to make a difference in the lives of our athletes, says Evan Wilson, Meritrust’s chief experience officer. Members in Kansas have a passion for athletics, so we thought we could combine those passions by investing in our student athletes. Their coaches are going to teach them to be a better athlete and they will earn a degree, but we are also going to teach them to be a better prepared for life.
But accommodating the busy schedules of student athletes isn’t easy, and in some instances Meritrust has even taken its education efforts in places sports fans don’t often see up close the locker room.
Read more in Meritrust Takes Financial Literacy To The Locker Room.
Summit Offers A Helping Hand
Summit Credit Union ($4.9B, Madison, WI) differentiates itself from much of the financial services market by having a strategic focus on women, with programs aimed at everything from helping women better manage money on day-to-day basis to narrowing the gender pay gap and increasing access to commercial lending for women.
We felt we could help women grow the businesses they own, says CEO Kim Sponem. The financial system is tilted in favor men.
Read more in Summit Credit Union Focuses On Women.
Happy Employees, Happy Members
Atomic Credit Union ($533M, Piketon, OH) has raised pay for all employees, including boosting its starting wage to $17 per hour. That move that not only helps employees dealing with rising prices and inflation, but has helped keep staff engaged and involved with the institution long term.
Approximately 90% of all job placements at the credit union are internal promotions, and a strong culture, plus extremely competitive pay and benefits have helped to make the credit union an employer of choice in its market. The real bonus, says CEO Tom Griffiths, is that shifting the pay scale only resulted in a 33 basis-point hit to ROA, allowing the credit union to stay well capitalized while improving how it serves staff, who then pass similar high levels of service on to members.