Just as it might feel in the beginning stages of any business, making a large investment of time and money to launch a new credit union can seem like a gamble for everyone involved. The founders of these five newbies have made it past that initial nerve-wracking period and are now watching their babies slowly grow, while continuing to work toward their goals for the institution. Click through the slideshow to read the stories of five credit unions chartered in the past five years.
ERDA Federal Credit Union ($700,000, Long Island City, N.Y.)
The East River Development Alliance, a non-profit organization in Long Island City, N.Y., created ERDA FCU opened in 2010 to serve low-income individuals living in Queens Districts 1 and 2 in New York City. The founder and president of both the credit union and ERDA, Bishop Mitchell G. Taylor, said ERDA FCU helps fulfill four key needs of these underserved Queens communities: employment services, financial education and counseling, access to a college education and community economic revitalization.
“We call the credit union an anchor of economic mobility in low-income neighborhoods, particularly in public housing areas,” Taylor said.
The credit union now serves around 1,000 members. It started out by offering regular share accounts then introduced several creative savings and loan products, Taylor said. For example, the credit builder loan, usually worth $1,000, is intended for people looking to repair or establish their credit, and custodial savings accounts (which are named “penny,” “quarter” and “dollar” accounts according to the account holder’s age) are available to children and teenagers.
ERDA FCU will soon offer small business loans, as well as naturalization loans, which are intended for immigrants. Taylor said the credit union is particularly excited about the naturalization loans and expects to make between 400 and 500 of them in the next year.
“We want to become strong enough to be able to offer all the services that we set out to provide,” said Taylor, senior pastor of Center of Hope International, a non-denominational church.
The credit union plays a key role in the mission of ERDA, which is to improve economic conditions in New York City’s public housing neighborhoods. ERDA’s services include college preparation programs, adult career education classes and financial counseling.
Internet Archive Federal Credit Union (New Brunswick, N.J.)
Chartered in the summer of 2012, Internet Archive Federal Credit Union has a unique back story — a former bank executive, Jordan Modell, and an engineer and Internet entrepreneur, Brewster Kahle, joined forces to form a credit union that would serve low-income and middle-class people in Highland Park, N.J. and New Brunswick, N.J., where the credit union is headquartered.
Potential members include a pool of around 11,000 to 12,000 Hispanics living in New Brunswick, Rutgers University students, and senior citizens in New Brunswick and Highland Park. Internet Archive FCU will offer auto loans, share certificates, share drafts, debit cards, ATM cards, online banking, bill payment, shared branching and a transfer service that allows members to send money to banks in Mexico.
An asset size and member count is not yet available for Internet Archive FCU — according to an Aug. 29 blog post by Modell, a soft opening is planned for the first week of October and a grand opening is scheduled for the last week of October.
Oak Cliff Christian Federal Credit Union ($3.5 million, Dallas)
Chartered in October 2008 to serve the members and employees and Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas, Oak Cliff Christian FCU now has more than 1,300 members. According to Sherman Roberson, manager for Oak Cliff Christian FCU, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church pastor Tony Evans had a vision to start a credit union that would provide loans at competitive rates, superior member service, and a place for members to confidently deposit their savings and investments. The credit union’s single branch is located on the campus of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church.
The first day Oak Cliff Christian FCU opened for business, Roberson said, 17 members deposited a total of $17,000. Initially, the credit union only offered savings products, and after nine months in business, it began offering auto and personal loans.
In the near future, Roberson said the credit union will introduce checking accounts, online banking, debit cards and bill pay services.
“There are nothing but great things in the future for Oak Cliff Christian Federal Credit Union,” Roberson said. “However, we will continue to take small steps and make sure we’re financially stable before we take the next steps in the evolution of our credit union.”
Chippewa Eagle Federal Credit Union ($2.7 million, Mt. Pleasant, Mich.)
Created to serve the approximately 7,800 members and employees of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe in Michigan, Chippewa Eagle FCU was chartered by the NCUA in May 2010. The tribe, which is also the credit union’s sponsor, has launched a variety of financial, educational and economic initiatives and views Chippewa Eagle FCU as an extension of those initiatives, according to the NCUA. The credit union got off the ground with help from CU*Answers, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based CUSO offering back-office and marketing services to credit unions including a number of start-up credit unions.
Initial services included savings accounts, regular shares, club accounts, money market shares, share certificates and share drafts. Now, the credit union offers checking accounts, Visa debit cards, direct deposit, a 24-hour drive-up ATM, and secured and unsecured loans, among other services. Chippewa Eagle FCU currently has around 1,200 members.
Stepping Stones Community Federal Credit Union ($1 million, Wilmington, Del.)
The NCUA chartered Stepping Stones Community FCU with a low-income designation in October 2011. The Wilmington, Del.-based credit union is sponsored by the Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, a Wilmington-based group working to ensure equal access to credit and capital for underserved populations in Delaware.
Rashmi Rangan, executive director for DCRAC, said the credit union is part of a sustainable plan to connect underserved communities with financial products and services that meet their needs.
“We explored chartering a credit union for several reasons,” Rangan said. “Our unbanked and underbanked community needed an institution where they could begin and nurture their financial relationship, and they also needed an alternative to high-cost, low-dollar loans. Most importantly, we needed to let our community know that we had great confidence in them, and lastly, we wanted financial institutions to know that serving the distressed community responsibly is the right thing to do, and that it’s profitable too.”
Since its grand opening in March, Stepping Stones Community FCU has expanded services from initial offerings of shares and share certificates to include a signature loan, which is secured against savings, and a small loan worth up to $500. The credit union has grown from $60,000 in assets in January to $1 million in assets today and currently serves 129 members.
Stepping Stones Community FCU also received start-up assistance from the back-office and marketing services CUSO CU*Answers.
Rangan added that she expects the credit union to become a household name in seven years – the same amount of time it took for DCRAC to become locally known.
“I am very optimistic about our growth,” she said. “The key to our success lies in our partners, volunteers and members.”