Successful Community CUs Must 'Be Involved'

Q&A with a Community CU of the Year Award-winner.

February 7, 2013

In October, CUNA presented the 2012 Community Credit Union of the Year Award to four credit unions for their exemplary displays of movement principles and positive influence in the field of service.

Among the four was 1st MidAmerica Credit Union, Bethalto, Ill., which received a honorable mention in the more than $250 million in assets category.

1st MidAmerica's Vice President of Marketing Amber Scott participated in a Q&A with Credit Union Magazine about what it takes to be a great community credit union.


CU Mag: To be successful, a community CU must...

Scott: Be involved. Find ways to reach families in your markets, support your local businesses, and work with your local governments. Don’t just be another financial institution in your town; be an active participant.

CU Mag: What about your CU are you most proud?

Scott: 1st MidAmerica has continued to thrive and grow through the recent down economy. In 2012, our membership growth was more than 4% and our loan growth was more than 5%.

We have evolved over the past few years into a sales and service culture that focuses on a long-term relationship with each member. We have focused on developing a full range of products that meet the needs of our members from a young age into their retirement years.

Our kids’ club features savings program that parents love, and our investment services program provides the tools that members need to manage their income and protect their assets through retirement. Our wide variety of e-services and checking account features help members to manage their everyday finances.

We also developed a business services portfolio that serves our local businesses with lower cost checking accounts and competitive loan pricing.

CU Mag: What's been the most effective way for you to reach out and understand your community audience?

Scott: Being present in our communities through participation and sponsorship has connected us to the local residents, neighbors, and businesses in each of our markets.

1st MidAmerica has programs in place that encourage our management team and employees to be active in our communities. Ongoing recognition for our volunteers keeps them engaged and looking forward to each opportunity to serve our local residents.

From school outreach programs to weekend fundraisers, our employees can be seen in our communities on a regular basis.

CU Mag: What's the biggest challenge the CU has had to overcome in the last few years?

Scott: In 2010, 1st MidAmerica went through a name change. Through an in-depth process of market research and community interaction, we consistently found that potential members were not aware of their eligibility to join the credit union.

Although we had been operating with a multiple county field-of-membership for more than 10 years, our name remained tied to our original sponsor. We had been promoting credit union membership through mass media, direct mail, and community participation, but membership growth was stagnant.

Within a year of our name change, our markets began recognizing 1st MidAmercia as an open door financial institution, supporting its community and providing services with better value to consumers.

 CU Mag: What's the best advice you can give other community CUs?

Scott: Get involved. Make connections. Know your members, your neighbors, your chamber, and key contacts in your communities. Find opportunities to support local groups that match your credit union’s values and leverage those opportunities for partnerships and growth. 

The winners of the Community Credit Union Award best advance the ideals of the credit union movement, provide products that meet the needs of diverse communities, and are active in their communities.

The other winners included First Community Credit Union, Jamestown, N.D., Gulf Coast Community Federal Credit Union, Gulfport, Miss., and Dakotaland Federal Credit Union, Huron, S.D. (honorable mention).

The 2013 Community Credit Union & Growth Conference will be held Oct. 8-11 in Uncasville, Conn.

1st MidAmerica Credit Union, Bethalto, Ill.