CU Mag: What have been your challenges in serving members and businesses?
MacNeil: We face competition from large national and regional banks as well as small local community financial institutions. The challenges we continue to face typically deal with convenience of both ATM networks and branch locations.
While we have 15 branches today, the requirements of serving the needs of one customer segment looking for branch locations, while at the same time dealing with the other electronic channels, continue to add an expense burden to the organization. Managing this transition from a generational standpoint is one we continue to deal with.
We’ve been in the commercial lending business for only 2½ years, but we’re now the No. 2 Small Business Administration (SBA) lender in the state (and the No. 1 credit union SBA lender in the state). The challenge we face is creating awareness that we’re in the commercial lending business and we’re in it for the long haul.
Bell: The majority of our members have never had a relationship with a financial institution. So staff must earn the community’s trust and educate members about the importance of integrating into the mainstream U.S. financial system.
We invest in a comprehensive financial education program to help move people along the financial competency continuum—from using basic transaction accounts to establishing and using credit, and finally to building wealth for themselves and their families. While education is a significant investment for the credit union, it yields positive results for our members, the credit union, and the entire community.
CU Mag: How have your members and communities been affected by the economic downturn?
Bell: As with many of us during this time, some of our members have been negatively affected. Fortunately, since the credit union always provided responsible loan products along with thorough counseling around affordability during the loan application process, our members continue to pay back their loans. Our delinquency rate, including our mortgage loan portfolio, is much lower than the national average. We focus on creating strong relationships with members to understand their changing needs. And we emphasize financial education to mitigate the effects of the economic downturn on them.
MacNeil: Brockton has one of the highest foreclosure rates in Massachusetts and its unemployment rate is over 10%. In 2005, 2006, and 2007, subprime lenders actively preyed on low- and moderate-income residents, minorities, and immigrants.
We’ve responded by working with members facing economic challenges and reaching out to the entire community by providing resources such as the MultiCultural Banking Center and HarborOne U. Our employee volunteers, the Caring Crew, also provide help for community organizations and their clients.