Tristram Coffin, CEO of Alternatives FCU, Ithaca, N.Y. (left), and Mark Pfisterer, CEO of AmeriCU CU, Rome, N.Y., accept their Community CU of the Year Awards.
Upstate New York credit unions earned a clean sweep of the Community Credit Union of the Year awards, which CUNA presented Wednesday at the Community Credit Union and Growth Conference in Las Vegas.
Alternatives Federal Credit Union in Ithaca, N.Y., claimed first place among credit unions with less than $250 million in assets, while AmeriCU Credit Union in Rome, N.Y., took top honors among credit unions with more than $250 million in assets.
The award honors credit unions that consistently excel in the advancement of credit union ideals, are proactive in their communities, and meet the needs of their diverse membership bases. The annual judging process considers three aspects of each credit union applicant: member impact, community impact, and financial impact.
Alternatives Federal gives back to the community with financial education that prioritizes members’ needs. Among the credit union’s notable initiatives:
• Staff members use three hours of paid time each month to volunteer in the community, making a difference in schools and nonprofit organizations.
• A free tax preparation program helps members maximize their tax refunds and includes one-on-one counseling with members about the importance of credit scores, and how to improve them.
• Business CENTS, a member business lending program that provides a variety of services such as classes, coaching, and networking to promote and sustain small businesses.
AmeriCU has made a major operational and marketing push for 24/7 member access to its services and member education with these efforts:
• Widespread installation and increased use of “Big Blue” ATM kiosks, which can handle advanced transactions such as mortgage payments, and a marketing initiative that has greatly increased mobile banking use.
• “Ryan Buys a House,” which documents a real AmeriCU member going through the home-buying process. The credit union captured Ryan’s experiences and insights through videos and other resources to make the process less stressful for first-time buyers.
• “SwitchAgent,” a secure and automated tool that makes it easy for members to transfer accounts from other financial institutions.
Vermont State Employees Credit Union in Montpelier and Southwest 66 Federal Credit Union in Odessa, Texas, received honorable mention awards.