Improvements to digital customer services and a bricks and mortar expansion are the centerpieces of the University of Virginia Community Credit Union’s growth strategy.
Officials recently shared their vision at the credit union’s annual meeting, which marked the start of the organization’s 60th year. Founded in 1954 to serve UVa hospital employees, today the credit union has expanded its membership to anyone who lives or works in Charlottesville or Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson or Orange counties.
“All the decisions that are done are for the membership as a whole, not what’s best for someone who has stock in the company,” said credit union spokeswoman Janine Williams. “That’s our overall philosophy of people helping people, because that is the concept of how we’re formed.”
Williams said today’s customers pose a bit of a paradox in that they not only expect top-notch digital access and services, but they also still appreciate and want the opportunity to do business face to face.
To meet those needs, a full revamp is planned for the credit union’s website and mobile digital offerings, and a new full-service branch is slated to open in Orange, although Williams declined to offer more details, saying the specifics have not yet been confirmed and finalized.
“As a not-for-profit financial institution, we have a special responsibility to the people we serve,” Alison DeTuncq, the credit union’s president and CEO, said in a 60th anniversary announcement. “We’re part of this community, and this community is part of us. That means putting our members’ best interest first, supporting local education and being part of a strong, sustainable local economy.”
A not-for-profit, member-owned cooperative, the credit union has more than 62,000 members and more than $655 million in total assets. In 2013, Williams said, the credit union had $285 million in net loans to members.
Amidst the financial tumult of the last decade, “credit unions, so far, have done well as a group,” said Bill Sihler, a professor at UVa’s Darden Graduate School of Business Administration.
“There were very few or no bankruptcies when high interest rates put the [savings and loan institutions] out of business during the 1970s and 1980s,” Sihler said in an email. The reason, he said, is that credit unions made few mortgage loans and they sold off most of those they did make.
“As a result, they were able more quickly to up the rates they charged for funds to meet the rates they had to pay their members, and thus avoid the losses long-term mortgages imposed on the S&Ls,” Sihler said.
In addition, Sihler said, all credit unions benefit in that they do not pay income taxes.
“They thus often offer slightly higher rates to depositors than banks and lower rates to borrowers.
Last month, another local financial marquee became history when Richmond-based Union First Market Bank absorbed Charlottesville-based StellarOne.
Although the overall number of local banks has dwindled, “There is enough business for everybody,” and compared with traditional banks, “we are a viable alternative, and many of our members are realizing we have everything they need,” Williams said.
Looking ahead, DeTuncq said the credit union’s focus will remain community oriented.
“We believe in being part of something greater than ourselves,” DeTuncq said. “We’re thankful to all our members for letting us be part of their lives, and we’re excited to see what the next 60 years will bring for Central Virginia.”