Wescom Gains International Reach With A New UCLA Partnership

A relationship with the university’s Dashew Center will help the California credit union reach incoming international students, some of whom have already joined the cooperative.

Top-Level Takeaways

  • A 2015 partnership with UCLA Athletics and the Rose Bowl Stadium grew into a larger relationship that helps the entire university community build healthy financial futures.
  • In August 2022, Wescom was named the official banking partner of the UCLA Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars.

A new relationship with the UCLA Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars will provide Wescom Credit Union ($6.0B, Pasadena, CA) with a massive new market for membership and strategic marketing.

Based on the credit union’s research, international students are a key group on college campuses. As they arrive on campus, establishing a deposit account in the United States is a high priority on their to-do list; so is understanding the U.S. banking system and learning how to manage their money effectively. To do this, international students are actively evaluating financial institutions to find the best partner to meet their needs.

“For many students, this is their first time making their own financial decisions,” says Ashley White, vice president, partner development for Wescom Credit Union. “We want to be there to help guide them.”

The Partnership

The credit union’s long-term focus on serving the UCLA community includes a custom UCLA product suite with perks like 5% cash back on UCLA and Rose Bowl Stadium purchases and 0% tech loans for students and alumni.

As part of its custom UCLA product suite, Wescom offers loans — including credit cards, technology loans, and private student loans — built just for Bruins. Visit wescom.org/ucla.

Wescom initially learned of the Dashew Center through its official banking partnership with UCLA’s Campus Life and Recreation group. Both campus organizations are housed under the same umbrella. Even during early conversations, it was clear there was alignment between Wescom and the Dashew Center and plenty of opportunities for the credit union to be a resource for international students.

The three-year partnership with the Dashew Center officially kicked off with the start of the current academic year and includes a variety of multi-media channels, including direct digital marketing and opportunities to connect in-person with students.

The early results are proving the partnership successful with more growth anticipated, according to White.

“We’ve had 100 international students join Wescom in just the past month and are looking to grow that membership throughout the academic year through our partnership with the Dashew Center,” the VP says.
Beyond promoting its products and services, Wescom is sponsoring social events to ensure international students feel welcome on campus with credit union team members being on-site for “move-in week” and other important milestones.

Financial Literacy Needs

Wescom is also working closely with the Dashew Center to identify financial literacy needs and tailor its educational content for international students.

“We plan to provide in-person and virtual financial literacy seminars with intermediate and advanced level options, based on the feedback from the Dashew Center’s staff as they are hearing the questions from students firsthand,” White says.

Currently, the credit union anticipates having at least two touchpoints from a financial literacy standpoint each academic year but will adjust as needed for the new collaboration. And Wescom already knows one hot topic for international students is investments.

“With outlets like Robinhood and others, international students want to know how to get started and better understand their investment options,” White says.

The Credit Union Difference

To explain the difference between credit unions and banks to an international audience, Wescom leverages the same key messages used with its local audience.

“We want to keep it simple, yet informative,” White says.

Credit union representatives start by explaining that Wescom is not for profit and owned by its members, whereas banks are driven by profit and owned by their shareholders. When an international student opens an account, it’s important for them to understand they are becoming a member-owner, not just a customer. They’ll benefit from the credit union’s earnings through better rates and services.

Although it is not a bank, Wescom emphasizes that is does offer full-service banking. Its more than 200,000 members, including the international students who join, have access to the same products and services banks offer.

“We’ve had 100 international students join Wescom in just the past month and are looking to grow that membership throughout the academic year through our partnership with the Dashew Center.” — Ashley White, VP of Partner Development, Wescom Credit Union

For international students specifically, Wescom promotes free checking with e-statements, direct deposits two days sooner, and accessibility via six ATMs on campus, 30,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide, online and mobile banking, and even a branch on campus.

Advice For Others

When it comes to partnering with colleges, White advises other credit unions to be clear about their goals.

“Understand the why,” she says. “What are you looking to do on campus? Who are you specifically targeting?”


DATA AS OF 06.30.22

HQ: Pasadena, CA
MEMBERS: 211,101
Employees 812
ROA: 1.50%

For example, if you want to serve alumni, begin with the alumni association and grow your partnership from there. According to White, a lot of on-campus entities have their own business development goals and are looking for partners.

“It also helps to have buy-in from senior leadership on campus,” White adds.

When it comes to international student centers, White says it’s best for credit unions to understand their own compliance, policies, and procedures specific to opening accounts for international members. She also encourages others to make the process clear and as easy as possible for both the front-line staff who will be opening the accounts and the students becoming members.

“Whatever you can do to make it straightforward, easy to understand, and personalized will help ensure the student feels welcome,” White says.

And perhaps most importantly, White says credit unions of all sizes can have a positive impact on college campuses, even without the budget for a strategic marketing partnership or exclusivity as an official banking partner.

“Go in as a service and ask what the credit union can do to make students’ lives easier,” White says, adding that offering free financial literacy courses is a great first step.

October 24, 2022

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