Serving the Unbanked and Unemployed
“Our members live in areas that are considered the most unbanked and underbanked in the U.S.,” says Treina Lind, assistant vice president, business and community relations, St. Louis Community Credit Union, and a Merit Award winner in CUNA’s 2010 Community Credit Union competition in the under $250 million in assets category.
“But I think the economic downturn opened the door for a larger segment of the community to see what was ‘the norm’ for St. Louis Community,” she adds. “We’ve remained dedicated to serving them all.”
It’s a priority, but not always easy. The $192 million asset St. Louis Community must manage the risks of making loans to members who haven’t always had the opportunity to borrow. The credit union serves a very “hands on” group of members, so it becomes a balancing act to provide enough staff and locations, while holding down operating expenses.
In Medford, Ore., being viewed by the community as the local and trusted financial institution during these difficult times has contributed to 7% membership growth—more than three times the national average, notes Jeanne Pickens, director of marketing for $484 million asset Rogue Federal Credit Union, a Merit Award winner in the more than $250 million in assets category.
Challenges remain, however. Southern Oregon experiences some of the highest unemployment in the state—about 13.5%. Many businesses are struggling, and foreclosures are rising. In response, Rogue Federal developed Rogue Solutions—a program that analyzes members’ debt and helps them restructure payments. Another initiative is Building Hope—a foreclosure prevention program working in conjunction with a local housing association and media outlet.