Luck and a classified ad brought Vickie Schmitzer to Frankenmuth (Mich.) Credit Union 38 years ago.
When she applied, “I didn’t even know what a credit union was,” she says. Hired as a part-time employee, she and two others did it all—from accounting to loans to cleaning the restrooms. Now the CEO, she still feels lucky to do what she “loves to do every day.”
When Schmitzer took over the helm 15 years ago, the credit union had $78 million in assets. Today, Frankenmuth has grown to $525 million. Under her leadership, the credit union formed Neighborhood Mortgage Solutions, a credit union service organization (CUSO), to provide members housing while allowing other credit unions access to the secondary mortgage market.
“At the time, due to the financial crisis, Fannie Mae tickets were at a premium,” she explains. “Rather than take one for ourselves, we formed a CUSO to help other credit unions make money and to help their members get competitive mortgages.”
That mortgage income enabled three credit unions to be saved, she says.
Last year, Frankenmuth received a $3.4 million Community Development Financial Institutions grant to offer low-income and credit-challenged members a mortgage product called MIHome as well as MIGrow, a small- business product that combats federally designated food deserts.
With MIHome, the only requirement is the ability to repay, Schmitzer says, because the grant funds can be used as an allowance for loan loss. Its MIGrow program offers very low interest rates for businesses providing services that improve access to food.
Frankenmuth sets itself apart from other financial institutions through its community involvement, Schmitzer says. The credit union’s foundation has funded a wide range of projects, including playground equipment, a fire truck, and warm blankets and clothing for homeless children.
The ability to make a difference in someone’s life drives Schmitzer, who serves on the Frankenmuth City Council and actively supports Relay for Life and the Global Women’s Leadership Network. And she’s always willing to try innovative ways to find solutions.
“If you do something for the right reason, you don’t have to worry about being wrong,” she says. “Giving is living.”