First Community Adding More Walmart Branches
St. Louis' largest credit union, the $1.6 billion First Community, is on a Walmart roll.
The CU said it saw a big spike in 2010 loans, is getting favorable name recognition, 1 million transactions and is negotiating agreements for two more in-store branches, one each in Illinois and Missouri.
"In my view, you have to be aggressive and play the game," said Glenn Barks, president/CEO, in describing First Community's strategy in actively marketing the CU in Walmart's St. Louis area facilities. "We feel our own branches have a better chance of success in a Walmart than just being in the grocery stores alone," he added. "That is where everybody shops."
First Community currently has 35 branches in metro St. Louis serving 200,000 members and of these 11 are in Walmarts with plans to open a 12th in High Ridge, Mo., later this year and a 13th in Granite City, Ill.
Like many other CUs with Walmart branches, First Community keeps its facilities open seven days a week. The branches close at 7 p.m. Monday-Friday. Each office has a staff of only six employees which includes a manager. The staff works a four-day work week and "everyone does their share of weekends," said Laura Alfeldt, vice president of marketing.
Working with Financial Supermarkets Inc., the Cornelia, Ga., firm servicing banks and CUs, First Community opened its first Walmart branch in 2004 in Maplewood, a St. Louis suburb. At first, the branch had less than 500 square feet of office space and a few thousand transactions "and now fast forward to 2010 and the combined Walmarts did nearly a million financial transactions," Alfeldt said.
First Community, she added, saw more than $500 million in closed loans "with Walmart offices playing a strong role in that. Transaction volume was up 4% but the Walmart offices themselves had an impressive 20% increase in transaction volume."