Albuquerque biz journal highlights N.M.'s CU culture

March 30, 2015
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (3/31/15)--Readers of Albuquerque Business First may nearly be experts on all things credit union, as the business publication recently dedicated wide swaths of print space to illustrate the relative state of credit unions in New Mexico.  

The coverage included Q-and-A profiles with the heads of two credit unions in New Mexico: Robert Chavez, president/CEO, Sandia Laboratory FCU, Albuquerque, and Winona Nava, president/CEO, Guadalupe CU, Santa Fe.

A third story covered recent branding changes that have been unveiled by a number credit unions in the state. The story also discussed the different ways credit unions are positioning themselves to grab the attention of younger consumers in order to stay relevant.

"Millennials definitely factor into rebranding," Hilary Reed, executive committee member of CUNA's Marketing and Business Development Council, told Albuquerque Business First (March 27). They don't want to be associated with the old, stodgy reputation of banks, she added.

Other ways credit unions separate themselves from banks is by eliminating the term credit union from their names, such as Erie (Pa.) General Electric FCU, which now operates under the name Widget Financial.

"Credit unions are more widely known than they were before the recession," Reed said. "...The ones that I'm seeing rebrand are very edgy, and banks don't necessarily have the ability to do that."

In his Q-and-A, Chavez spoke about the day-to-day operations of a credit union president/CEO, why Sandia Laboratory FCU has had such success in the state, and the general differences between credit unions and banks.

"Within the first six months I was at this credit union, I remember sitting in a meeting with our CEO and (chief financial officer), and we were talking about giving up revenue off of our credit cards," Chavez told Albuquerque Business First. "You don't have those conversations in a bank."

Nava spoke about the growth Guadalupe CU has seen over the last 24 years under her leadership, and about how the credit union serves the underbanked as a community development financial institution.

"There are a large number of our members who are underserved by the traditional banking system," Nava said, adding, "We do have members who are living in the financial mainstream, but 65% of our members are living below the designated poverty line."