When Stepping Stones Community Federal Credit Union was exploring ways to grow membership, it took to the streets in a converted van that became a branch on wheels.
“We are in the city. While people can’t travel because of the pandemic or because they don’t have the income to do so, we go into the community and provide the service they need,” says Blanche Jackson, CEO of the $4.5 million asset credit union in Wilmington, Del.
The credit union began exploring the “Bank on Wheels” van in 2017 as a way to spread its message. After completing a core conversion, Jackson says they realized they could also open accounts and print ATM cards because of their new core platform.
With the assistance of Discover and Barclay Banks, the van—a retrofitted Dodge Ram cargo van wrapped in credit union branding—debuted in 2018. The credit union has tripled its membership since, Jackson says, growing from 414 members and $1.7 million in assets in 2018 to 1,068 members and $4.5 million in assets today.
When COVID struck, Jackson says Stepping Stones Community Federal found another use.
With its one location in a converted row house, Jackson says the credit union needed to find a way to continue to serve members while ensuring safety and social distancing. The solution was to park the van in a church parking lot across the street from the credit union where staff could conduct transactions, open accounts, and print ATM cards using a wireless connection, firewall, and a router in the van.
Those who needed additional assistance could make an appointment at the physical branch, Jackson says.
“Our members, especially during the pandemic, appreciated the fact that they were safe,” Jackson says. “They were outside and no one had to compromise anyone’s safety.”
Stepping Stones Community Federal continues to use the van at community events. It also uses the vehicle to travel to various housing authority units or apartment complexes and open accounts for people who can’t travel to the branch.
“We’re in the community, for the community, and by the community,” Jackson says. “There’s no reason we can’t get to them.
“We’re the smallest financial institution in Delaware,” she continues. “We have to maximize our time as best as possible. With the van, we can go to apartment complexes and meet all of the tenants, be out there however long we need, and make sure they get service.”