PHILADELPHIA -- Talk about faith in numbers and the local community, Bruce Foulke, president/CEO of American Heritage Federal Credit Union, is a true believer.
"Even though this is a low income area abandoned by banks, we never doubted for a minute that we could do well here," said Foulke in commenting on the CU's extraordinary and high-tech $2.7 million branch, which formally opened last month in Philadelphia's underbanked Hunting Park area.
The facility, opened with great fanfare complete with remarks by a Democratic candidate running for Philadelphia mayor, includes some of the latest interactive videos and high touch devices normally reserved for tonier neighborhoods.
"Look, we've always been there for the little guy and we've been in this community for 59 years so we're not turning our back on a neighborhood that other financial institutions turned their back on," said Foulke.
Since its opening in December, the CU facility, which replaced an old row house building, "has grown assets by 30% and is averaging nearly 160 members a month," said Foulke.
The American Heritage CEO is forecasting "200 to 300 members a month in a short time" adding the branch represents a "win-win for everyone involved, the credit union, members and the community."
The new branch, on Hunting Park Avenue, is located a quarter-mile away from the old branch that the CU first used when it was known as Budd Workers Federal Credit Union founded in 1948.
The CU currently has 85,000 members, serves more than 700 companies and has 17 branches in Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery counties.
At Feb. 14 ceremonies heralding the Hunting Park opening, mayoral candidate Michael Nutter said the American Heritage branch sends a powerful message to other companies that "business can work here and they can work in our low-income neighborhoods."
Nutter added, "Come and join us."
A news release pointed out that peers previously recognized American Heritage as a leader in community involvement, receiving the first-place prize in CUNA's Dora Maxwell Award for the past three consecutive years "and being named best in Pennsylvania 12 of the last 13 years."
As for the Hunting Park branch, American Heritage noted in 2005 it received NCUA's "underbanked" designation permitting the CU to broaden membership in the area. The facility includes an interactive video teller system, an Internet caf?, free counting machines and a surcharge-free ATM.
Foulke stressed that American Heritage "did not go into this as a charity" always expecting the Hunting Park facility to make money.
Based on the CU's experience so far, Foulke said he is telling other CUs that if "you do your homework and do it right, you will not lose money" with this kind of investment. --firstname.lastname@example.org