MOUNTLAKE TERRACE, Wash. - The big shiny red Ford Windstar van with the wavy American flag on the side is hard to miss as it drives through the streets of western Washington. But it's more than patriotic fervor that prompted the red, white and blue design on the vehicle. It's all part of a new look - as well as a new name and a new charter - for what until recently had been known as Washington Credit Union. With the addition of an apostrophe and the letter "s," the credit union has become Washington's Credit Union, with a statewide charter granted earlier this year allowing it to serve members from Seattle to Spokane. Despite the changes, things have remained pretty much the same at the credit union, which primarily serves the greater Puget Sound area with 14 branches. "It's business as usual," said Wendy Townsend, vice president of marketing. "We just changed the name to more accurately reflect that we could serve anyone in the state." The van, with the credit union's name, telephone number and Web site address prominently displayed, is used for promotional purposes and to attract select employee groups (SEGs). Membership is open to anyone who lives or works in the state or who has a relative who lives or works in the state. Employees of participating SEGs are also eligible, as well as anyone who works for, or is a volunteer, at a state or federal credit union in Washington. The credit union, however, doesn't have any plans - at least right now - to expand outside of western Washington. "We haven't actively gone out and recruited people from across the state," Townsend said. What prompted the name and charter change was driven primarily by the credit union's successful loan program. "We felt the name change better identifies who we are and what we are," Townsend explained. "It wasn't primarily to expand. . . we weren't going to go have promotions in eastern cities or expand branches there. It was to respond specifically to dealers who wanted us to take in members from the eastern side of the state." Those dealers are companies such as home improvement firms or motorcycle shops that want to offer financing to their customers. Since the beginning of this year, Washington's CU's loan portfolio has increased from $208 million to $222 million, Townsend reported. Since obtaining its statewide charter in March, membership and asset growth has remained fairly stable. Today, the credit union serves approximately 63,702 members, up slightly from the 63,469 on record at the end of last year. Assets at the end of June were $269.32 million, up from $258.89 million at the end of 2001. During 2001, the credit union grew 30 percent, which Townsend was attributed in large part to two mergers. "In fact, during 2000 and 2001, members of three credit unions voted to merge with us," she noted. "These include The Federal Credit Union in 2000, United Sound Community Credit Union and Credit Union of Puget Sound in 2001." Begun in 1936 as Washington Central Credit Union, the financial institution served staff and volunteers of credit unions. "We were originally set up as a credit union for credit unions," Townsend said. Washington Central CU also took in credit unions that needed to dissolve or merge. In 1981, the credit union split into two entities, Washington Corporate Central CU and Washington CU. -email@example.com
For Washington's Credit Union, it's business as usual despite name change, statewide charter
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