Best of the Best

These award-winning CUs are taking service and innovation to the next level.

September 1, 2012

Credit unions frequently pop up on “best of” lists in communities across the U.S. They receive awards for a host of different attributes. Despite their diversity of awards, they all share a common theme—exceptional service to members, employees, and their communities.

This is our first annual compilation of award-winning credit unions. We hope this will grow in years to come in our print edition and on our website.


Grow Financial Federal Credit Union, Tampa, Fla. Employees at Grow Financial Federal give it high marks for corporate direction, working conditions, career opportunities, quality of decision making, managers, pay, and benefits. Employees enjoy a friendly atmosphere and a commitment to family, growth, and general excellence. Employees also say senior management listens to them and promotes diversity. (Named one of the best places to work by Tampa Bay Times)

★ Rogue Federal Credit Union, Medford, Ore. Rogue Credit Union has been recognized for excellence in its work environment, management, communication, decision making, career development, learning, benefits, and compensation. (Ranked No. 14 in the large employers category of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon, presented by Oregon Business Magazine)

★ Redwood Credit Union, San Francisco, Calif. Redwood Credit Union has been honored as one of the best places to work in its community for seven consecutive years. The credit union is one of only eight local companies to receive the recognition every year since the award's inception. (North Bay Business Journal)


★ Desert Schools Federal Credit Union, Phoenix. Desert Schools Federal is heavily involved in philanthropic activities throughout Arizona. Nearly half of the credit union’s employees were involved in nearly 130 community projects in 2011 and volunteered 2,902 hours. Last year, the credit union coordinated fund-raising efforts with employees, vendors, and partners to give back more than $770,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network, the United Way, and community grants. (Awarded by Toastmasters International for community service and leadership)

★ Pelican State Credit Union, Baton Rouge, La. Pelican State has been recognized for leadership and excellence for its efforts in making its community a better place to live and work. It’s heavily involved in the community and sponsors numerous community events. (Named “Business of the Year” in the medium-size category by the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce)

★ Workers’ Credit Union, Fitchburg, Mass. This credit union has been recognized in its community for participating in a work-based learning program. The credit union’s information technology department offers four-week internships to high- school students. The free education and training program allows eligible youth to learn skills, earn high-school diplomas or GEDs, and find and keep good jobs. (Named Business Partner of the Year by Shriver Job Corps)

★ Redwood Credit Union, San Francisco, Calif. Redwood Credit Union is one of the best in service throughout its region. It’s been rated a great company to do business with (North Bay Business Journal), the best credit union (Press Democrat), the best local financial institution (Petaluma People’s Choice Awards), and the best in customer care (Sonoma Valley Sun) in the area.


Spokane (Wash.) Teachers Credit Union. Membership at this credit union has increased 50% from September 2011 to April 2012 and a branding campaign translated into membership growth of 8% last year, pushing the credit union above the 100,000-member mark. The credit union’s branding campaign paid off significantly during Bank Transfer Day last year. (A Crystal Performance Award winner from Raddon Financial Group)

Credit Union of Texas, Dallas. This credit union made itself attractive to families and future members with perks offered to children under age 12, older students, and their families. The perks include prepaid credit-card options to help teens spend wisely, kids’ savings accounts, and student checking accounts. (Named “Best for Families” by Dallas Child magazine)


★ Maps Credit Union, Salem, Ore. Maps gained notice for its Buy Local program. The goal of the program was to increase the credit union’s relationships with local businesses, drive additional traffic to existing businesses, and engage the community with the idea of buying local. The program led to a 10% increase in participating businesses in 2011, a 95% renewal rate for 2012, and increased website traffic on the Buy Local page. It infused approximately $2,500 into the local business community. (A CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council Best Practices Award winner)

Truliant Federal Credit Union, Winston-Salem, N.C. This credit union distinguished itself with training in entrepreneurship. Through its Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning (REAL) program, the credit union provides participants with networking opportunities, small-business education, financial literacy, and counseling to build participants’ financial strength and business skills. A total of 126 people have graduated from the REAL program, with eight individuals opening new businesses and 22 people planning to open businesses within the next five years. (A CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council Best Practices Award winner)

Fort Worth Community Credit Union, Bedford, Texas. Fort Worth Community turned heads by creating a virtual spokeswoman named “Gabby.” Through social media tools including Facebook, Twitter, a blog, Pinterest, and a website (, Gabby engaged and interacted with a target audience of women ages 28 to 55. The campaign was designed to develop relationships that would lead to membership growth and increased product/service usage. It resulted in 8.4% membership growth in less than 10 months and a 17.1% increase in loan growth over the previous year.
(A CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council Best Practices Award winner)

★ Arizona State Credit Union, Phoenix. The credit union’s “I Don’t Bank, I Credit Union” home and auto campaign earned high praise. The campaign was introduced to raise awareness of local financial cooperatives. The campaign proved so successful that it became the theme of the credit union’s television commercials, which aired in northern Arizona. (A recipient of multiple Hermes Creative Awards)

American Heritage Federal Credit Union, Pa. American Heritage Federal showed creativity, innovation, relevance, and superb execution in its 2011 marketing campaign “American Heritage: Helping You Achieve Your American Dream.” The branding campaign was made up of television and radio media as well as print and website publications. (A CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council Diamond Award winner)


University of Kentucky Federal Credit Union, Lexington. This credit union successfully grew its indirect business and recently introduced student loans. Its lending success is rooted in its strategy for gaining market share, member awareness, and branding consistency across its lending channels. The credit union’s marketing approach uses social media to connect with members on their level. A panel of Generation Y students also helps the credit union design better products and services for members. (A CUNA Mutual Group/CUNA Lending Council Excellence in Lending Award winner for consumer lending in credit unions with more than $250 million in assets)

Texell Credit Union, Temple, Texas. This credit union discovered its lending weaknesses and addressed them. Under the direction of new CEO Tony Hale, the transformation included a switch from an order-taker culture to a sales culture. Before 2008, nearly 50% of the credit union’s loan portfolio was concentrated in indirect loans. Now the indirect channel accounts for less than 20% of the portfolio. The credit union rewards existing members for financing directly through the credit union. Texell also improved its lending processes by bringing much of its loan decision making down to the branch level. Phone and Internet loan applications were brought in-house. (A CUNA Mutual Group/CUNA Lending Council Excellence in Lending Award winner for consumer lending in credit unions with less than $250 million in assets)

Charter Oak Federal Credit Union, Groton, Conn. This credit union was committed to auto loans but successfully changed gears when the economy and auto industry faltered in 2009. Its strategy to diversify its lending business to mortgages paid off. By adding staff, streamlining, and adding innovative products, Charter Oak Federal became a regional leader in mortgage lending. Those new products catered to borrowers looking to free up income or pay down debt. Not only did the credit union’s loan portfolio increase nearly 5%, its member-service ratings increased dramatically. (A CUNA Mutual Group/CUNA Lending Council Excellence in Lending Award winner for mortgage lending in credit unions with more than $250 million in assets)

Latino Community Credit Union, Durham, N.C. This credit union understands its purpose and delivers affordable and accessible mortgages to low-income members. The credit union provides share-secured loans as the first “traditional” credit to potential home buyers. The credit union also uses alternative underwriting options, including the use of payment histories from rent and utilities, and it doesn’t require private mortgage insurance. Latino Community has experienced loan growth of approximately 20%, an overall loan yield of close to 7%, while limiting loan losses to less than 1%. The credit union minimizes its mortgage program costs by partnering with State Employees’ Credit Union of North Carolina for back office and IT platform support. (A CUNA Mutual Group/CUNA Lending Council Excellence in Lending Award winner for mortgage lending in credit unions with less than $250 million in assets)

This credit union also has been recognized for its service to its low-income, mostly Latino members that have come to trust it as their primary financial institution. The credit union’s products and services are developed with input from members. The credit union’s CreditBuilder loans, which are secured by members’ shares and help develop credit histories, are just one example of the many loan products members have available to them. (A CUNA Mutual Group/CUNA Lending Council Excellence in Lending Award winner for credit unions lending to members of modest means)

Black Hills Federal Credit Union, Rapid City, S.D. This credit union did its homework before deciding to offer business services. In addition to hiring experienced lenders, the credit union bolstered its support staff with highly trained underwriting and servicing employees. It found a niche in providing commercial real estate construction financing—an offering that was lacking in its marketplace. (A CUNA Mutual Group/CUNA Lending Council Excellence in Lending Award winner for business lending)


★ Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union, St. Paul, Minn. This credit union is a leader for creating and implementing an e-contract workflow process that allows for business contracts to be easily located, accessed, and stored. (A CUNA Technology Council Best Practices Award winner)

Pen Air Federal Credit Union, Pensacola, Fla. Pen Air Federal was recognized for its business continuity plans. With a minimal investment it was able to offer its members greater security and the assurance of knowing its systems would be available when needed. (A CUNA Technology Council Best Practices Award winner)

Pioneer West Virginia Federal Credit Union, Charleston, W.Va. Pioneer West Virginia Federal earned honors for developing a daily dashboard with key metrics that proactively identify potential business risks and opportunities. (A CUNA Technology Council Best Practices Award winner)


★ Montana Credit Union Network, Helena, Mont. The Network was recognized for its “Healthy You” wellness program. Implemented in 2009, the Montana Credit Union League Group Benefit Trust now provides health insurance to 27 credit union organizations across the state of Montana. Its wellness program for participants has been a key solution to reducing claims and slowing the rising costs of health care. (A CUNA Human Resources/Training & Development Council Excellence Award winner for employee engagement)

 The Montana Credit Union Network also has been recognized for its “Smart Moves” program. The effort, which is offered to credit union organizations in Montana, breaks down typical educational barriers by providing regional, low-cost training that minimizes volunteers’ time commitments while maximizing the benefit of time spent on credit union business. (A CUNA HR/TD Council Excellence Award winner for strategic leadership)

Red Canoe Credit Union, Longview, Wash. Red Canoe received high marks for its employee engagement program, which uses a creative approach to reward and encourage staff through specialized training, internal promotions, and celebrations. (A CUNA HR/TD Council Excellence Award winner for employee engagement)

Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union, Albuquerque, N.M. Sandia Laboratory Federal stands out for its Management Bytes program—a newsletter for the credit union’s management team that covers topics such as salary, interviewing, sexual harassment, and employee-performance issues. (A CUNA HR/TD Council Excellence Award winner for employee engagement)

Mountain America Credit Union, West Jordan, Utah. This credit union was recognized for its “8 Pillars Personal Finance” program that increased employees’ confidence in their abilities to handle personal financial matters. This higher level of confidence improved employees’ abilities to serve and advise members who were looking for financial assistance. (A CUNA HR/TD Council Excellence Award winner for employee engagement)

Mountain America also was recognized for its “Online Branch Member Training Tutorials,” providing training for members and employees on the credit union’s new online banking system. These tools remain a resource for employees as they teach new and existing members about the online branch. (A CUNA HR/TD Council Excellence Award winner for management practices)

Patelco Credit Union, Pleasanton, Calif. This credit union stands out for its “Change Management Initiative—Corporate Relocation from San Francisco to the Burbs.” In addition to a cross-functional team of employees to communicate to staff the vision and need for change, Patelco also developed a microsite as a resource for employees to learn about its new location. (A CUNA HR/TD Council Excellence Award winner for strategic leadership)

UW Credit Union, Madison, Wis. UW Credit Union stepped up its game on lending through a program called “Far From Average—UW Credit Union’s Extreme Lending Initiative.” By increasing its focus on skills, programs, and the infrastructure necessary to become experts at inviting members’ loan business, UW Credit Union increased loan growth 5.5% with existing staff and resources. (A CUNA HR/TD Council Excellence Award winner for strategic leadership)


Red Canoe Credit Union, Longview, Wash., Ken Kelly, Matt Milligan, Rod Snyder, and Michelle Trekas. This credit union’s staff received the Catalyst Award at CUNA’s Experience Learning Live! The award recognizes a person or department that gives energy to another employee or program, helping them become better, too.

Sioux Falls (S.D.) Credit Union, Don Vaughn. Don Vaughn of Sioux Falls Credit Union won the Training Professional of the Year Award from CUNA’s Experience Learning Live! This award recognizes achievements of a visionary credit union training professional or department for exceptional contributions to the learning and performance development of credit union staff.

Seattle (Wash.) Metropolitan Credit Union, Tiffany Goodman and Tiffanie Walls.Seattle Metropolitan took home the WOW award at CUNA’s Experience Learning Live! This award is presented to the credit union with the best overall training curriculum or event—one that inspires learning, teaches skills that go beyond the classroom, and empowers participants.


The Louise Herring Philosophy-in-Action Member Service Award recognizes credit unions that demonstrate the internal application of credit union philosophy to help improve members’ financial lives and increase financial education.

Recent first-place winners were:

Communicating ArtsCredit Union, Detroit

St. Louis(Mo.) Community Credit Union

★ Credit Union 1, Anchorage, Alaska

★ Eastman Credit Union, Kingsport, Tenn.


Award recognizes credit union efforts to strengthen local institutions and materially improve the lives of nonmembers through community outreach programs (other than personal finance education). The Dora Maxwell Award recent first-place winners include:

Marinette(Wis.) County Employees Credit Union

★ Joplin(Mo.) Metro Credit Union

★ General Credit Union, Fort Wayne, Ind.

★ Space AgeFederal Credit Union, Aurora, Colo.

★ AlabamaCredit Union, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

★ Marine Federal Credit Union, Jacksonville, N.C.

★ StateEmployees’ Credit Union, Raleigh, N.C.

★ Western Chapter of the North Carolina Credit Union League


The National Credit Union Foundation presents national awards recognizing lifetime achievement, individual achievement, and outstanding programs. The latest honorees include:

Bill Eckhardt, president/CEO of Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, Anchorage, and Tom Dorety, president/CEO, Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union, Tampa, Fla. (co-recipients, Lifetime Achievement Award); and

Invest in America (Outstanding Organization Award).


The following credit unions best advance the ideals of the credit union movement, provide products that meet the needs of diverse communities, and are active in their communities. Both were named 2011 Community Credit Unions of the Year at the CUNA Community Credit Union and Growth Conference.

★ Streator (Ill.) Onized Credit Union (Less than $250 million in assets)

 Knoxville (Tenn.) TVA Employees Credit Union (More than $250 million in assets)


CUNA’s Desjardins Financial Education Awards program recognizes leadership within the credit union movement on behalf of financial literacy for all ages. The program considers all activities supporting the personal finance education of members and nonmembers. The program also formally recognizes a state lawmaker who displays leadership on behalf of youth financial education. Recent winners include:

Youth Category

Credit Union Associationof New York, Albany

A+ FederalCredit Union, Austin, Texas

CommunityCredit Union, Lewiston, Maine

COREFederal Credit Union, East Syracuse, N.Y.

Service 1stFederal Credit Union, Danville, Pa.

Adult Category

CommunityAmericaCredit Union, Kansas City, Mo.

Community Credit Union, Lewiston, Maine

★ Financial Fitness Greater Austin (Texas) Credit Union Facilitators: A+ Federal Credit Union, Greater TEXAS Federal Credit Union, University Federal Credit Union, and Velocity Credit Union

Greater MinnesotaCredit Union, Mora

Latino CommunityCredit Union, Durham, N.C.

State Lawmaker

Rep. Mark Longietti, District 7, Pa.


Credit Union Magazine presents its CU Hero Award to individuals in the movement promoting credit union philosophy and making a difference in their communities.

Ron Kase, president/CEO of Landmark Credit Union, led his credit union to remarkable growth, including the creation of 450 jobs in southeastern Wisconsin. Kase says he’s proud of his credit union’s first-time home buyer program, rescue refinance program, credit counseling seminars, and Hispanic initiatives.


The American Association of Credit Union Leagues presents the annual Farley League Leadership Award. It’s named in honor of Gene Farley, former CEO of the Virginia Credit Union League, in recognition of his longtime leadership in the credit union movement.

Scott Earl, CEO of the Mountain West Credit Union Association, received the 2012 Farley Award. 


Travis Credit Union, Vacaville, Calif. Travis Credit Union was recognized for creating, cultivating, and sustaining a sales and service culture. Its strategy was to create the position of retail sales manager to ensure service-standards accountability, development of a formal sales training program, and the creation of Travis Intelligence to analyze sales efforts. Success can be seen in the number of new members and the increase in wallet share among existing members—both of which are expected to exceed goals. (A CUNA Operations, Sales & Service Council Best Practices Award winner)

Oregon Community Credit Union, Eugene. This credit union is known for its “360 Training: Excelling in a Sales Culture” program that includes organizationwide training, product knowledge workshops, and an incentives program. As a result of the credit union’s efforts, loan growth increased 8.5% and deposit growth grew 3.15%, exceeding goals. (A CUNA OpSS Council Best Practices Award winner)

SouthPoint Federal Credit Union, Sleepyeye, Minn. SouthPoint turned heads with its “Service Points of Excellence” program that includes biweekly coaching sessions and member and staff surveys. In addition to positive feedback from member surveys, the credit union increased overall cross sales. (A CUNA OpSS Council Best Practices Award winner)

WestStar Credit Union, Las Vegas. WestStar was recognized for hosting two job fairs for its members. Its strategy was to hold fairs in areas that were hit hard by the recession, such as Las Vegas and Reno. The fairs were open to employers with open positions and gave priority entry to WestStar members. With 4,300 job seekers, 23 employers, and more than 1,000 jobs, the fairs helped more than 70 people gain employment and garnered the credit union local and national attention. (A CUNA OpSS Council Best Practices Award winner)

FedChoice Federal Credit Union, Lanham, Nev. This credit union drew attention by creating member councils to gain insight on financial pain points, preferred communication methods, and product and service awareness. The credit union held nine meetings during a three-month period. FedChoice implemented numerous suggestions made during these meetings with additional changes in progress.
(A CUNA OpSS Council Best Practices Award winner)


The CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council annually recognizes top credit union marketing professionals. These three award winners made an impact in their areas of expertise:

Anne Legg, vice president of marketing for Financial Partners Credit Union, Downey, Calif. (Marketing Professional of the Year);

John Godwin, vice president of business development/strategic alliances for MECU of Baltimore (Business Development Professional of the Year Award); and

Kim Wall, community development director for Georgia United Credit Union in Duluth (Hall of Fame inductee).