An Internet trailblazer and former banking executive are the unusual pair behind the chartering and eventual launch of the newest federal credit union.
The NCUA announced the chartering of the Internet Archive Federal Credit Union on Aug. 24. It will be headquartered in New Brunswick, N.J.
Jordan Modell has experience working with Citibank, American Express and the Bank of New York. Brewster Kahle is an Internet pioneer who helped develop precursors to the World Wide Web and Amazon.com and sold them for millions of dollars that he has used to form a foundation that supports the Internet Archive, an effort to digitally record everything that has been on the Internet since 1996.
Modell declined to say how much Kahle was putting forward to capitalize the credit union.
The pair decided to found a credit union after coming to the conviction that the existing financial services industry has largely stopped working for low-income and middle-class people and that a bank was not the best vehicle to meet the needs of those populations.
A credit union “is not for profit, so it has no motive to see you fail and cannot be bought. It does not need to pad its balance sheets with risky investments,” Modell wrote on a weblog that he has used to document the effort. “Thanks to my friend Brewster Kahle, I have been given an opportunity to help right my country by starting a totally transparent credit union.”
Modell, who is CEO of the new credit union, said he received help and encouragement from credit union leaders such as Clifford Rosenthal, former CEO at the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, Paul Gentile, CEO of the New Jersey Credit Union League, and Debbie Matz, chairman of the NCUA board. The new credit union is also receiving full back-office support from CU Answers and its furniture, carpeting and an older ATM from the Affinity Federal Credit Union in Basking Ridge.
Modell reported that some well known credit union executives and leaders are also on the board of the new institution. In addition to Brewster Kahle, the board has Carla Decker, CEO of the District Government Employees FCU and former nominee to the NCUA board, Carmen Perez Simon, former CEO of ERDA Credit Union and Jill Peterson, a former CEO responsible for helping three other New Jersey credit unions return to financial stability.
The new credit union will serve people living, working, worshiping, attending school or participating in associations headquartered in New Brunswick, N.J., and Highland Park, N.J., as well as individuals participating in programs to alleviate poverty or distress that are located in the approved area.
In practice, that means the credit union faces a community with three distinctly different populations, Modell said. Roughly 11,000 to 12,000 Hispanics, primarily with a Mexican background, live in New Brunswick, with an additional population of students from Rutgers University, which is located there, and a population of older residents from both New Brunswick and Highland Park. This has proved a challenge when trying to craft an identity that will please all three, he explained.
The name “Internet Archive” came about in part as a way to try to satisfy all these groups as well as the NCUA, which, Modell said, had objected to other names the pair had proposed. Modell said that enough time had passed that he did not remember those rejected names. But he denied that one of them was the first name he proposed on his weblog for the new credit union: We Don’t Suck FCU.
“I expect we may have our name and then a marketing name which we use in the primarily Spanish-speaking community,” Modell said, adding that many of the credit union’s Spanish-speaking neighbors have begun calling it the Caja de Oro, or Golden Credit Union.
In keeping with the population, Modell said the new credit union will offer auto loans, share certificates, share drafts, debit cards, ATM cards, online banking, bill payment and shared branching during its first year as well as fund transfers to banks in Mexico through Directo a México, a payment system established jointly by the Federal Reserve Bank and Banco de México.