The $255 million, 31,428-member Erie General Electric Credit Union in Erie, Pa., has changed its name to Widget Financial.
The name was selected for its tribute to GE Transportation (widGET) and to the Erie region, which has a strong and diverse manufacturing base that produces its share of “widgets.”
More than 10% of the nation’s plastic injection molding is produced in the region, according to the city of Erie. The name was also chosen for its familiarity in a variety of service industries including technology, manufacturing, education and health care, according to a prepared statement released after the credit union’s annual membership meeting April 20.
The credit union was established 77 years ago to serve employees at Erie’s General Electric Transportation plant, which is Erie’s largest employer. However, the credit union has opened its doors to offer financial services to all who live in Erie and Crawford counties in northwestern Pennsylvania. In recent years, the former Erie General Electric FCU has merged with 16 other credit unions in the region.
The credit union also had to change its name for legal reasons. In January, GE’s corporate attorneys in Fairfield, Conn., sent a letter to the credit union saying that it must discontinue all use of the GE mark and General Electric wording in its name.
“We’ve anticipated changing our name to better reflect the consumers who choose to do business with us and even those that don’t,” said Gail Cook, president/CEO of Widget Financial “We actually began the process to change our name about two years ago, so receiving this letter from GE was no surprise and only reinforced our name change announcement in 2013.”
She noted that other credit unions have shed their well-known corporate names such as John Deere Community Credit Union, which is now the $2.3 billion Veridian Credit Union in Waterloo, Iowa and several IBM credit unions such as the $2.1 billion Coastal Credit Union in Raleigh, N.C. and the $3.7 billion Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Cook also said other credit unions carrying the GE name – the $159 million GE Employees Federal Credit Union in Milford, Conn., and the $1.6 billion General Electric Credit Union in Cincinnati, Ohio – also received a letter from GE corporate attorneys directing the credit unions to drop their GE name.
Patrick Taylor, president/CEO for GECU, confirmed he received the letter from GE in January. However, there were a number of options outlined in the letter, but he could not discuss what those options are at this time because of legal reasons, he said.
“First of all, I got to say General Electric is a wonderful company. Needless to say, we want to keep the name,” said Taylor, who has worked at GECU for 55 years. “It’s a great name.”
Christopher Moran, president CEO of General Electric FCU, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
“When credit unions change their name, more people understand they can walk in the doors and open an account,” Cook said. “We are thrilled that more people will be able to realize how we can help them under our new banner: Widget Financial.”
In addition to announcing the name change, Widget Financial’s board of directors and the executive team said the credit union plans to lend $77 million to its communities in celebration of its 77 years of service.