Welcome to the Billionaires' Club: Workers' Credit Union
The Fitchburg, Mass.-based credit union reached the $1 billion asset milestone during the third quarter last year, according to financial performance reports posted on the NCUA’s website.
This year, the party continues as WCU celebrates its 100th anniversary.
And, WCU gave back more than $2 million to its members, the first such payout in the credit union’s history. The credit union created a microsite promoting and explaining the payout. (Click on the screen shot at left to expand.)
Money was deposited into member’s accounts Feb. 13. The payout included 30 basis points for checking accounts, 20 basis points for savings, consumer loans and checking account lines of credit, and 10 basis points for mortgages, refinances, home equity loans and equity lines, and CDs.
President/CEO Doug Petersen said as far as he knows, it’s the first such dividend paid by a credit union in Central Massachusetts.
“The credit union has always had good financial results,” Petersen said. “We have a very strong capital ratio: 12.3%. At this point we looked ahead three, four, five years. We thought rather than building capital the money would be of better use in our members’ hands than it would be in our hands. This gives them an opportunity to benefit from one of our strategic advantages.”
So what has put the credit union in such a solid position?
Petersen immediately credited the many employees who, he emphasized, do a very, very good job.
But it’s not just one thing, he continued.
The Great Recession presented issues, but didn’t hurt the credit union too much.
Mergers have played a role in the credit union’s growth, and the cooperative has always operated under a community charter.
Mortgages have been another factor fueling success. Petersen indicated credit unions in the Northeast have been more involved in mortgage lending than in many other regions. He believes WCU has a solid reputation in its market area, prompting members to turn to the credit union when they buy a home.
The credit union has also expanded its external sales staff to boost visibility in the community and meet with real estate agents. Given the number of large banks in cities like Boston, it’s easy to assume WCU would face strong mortgage competition.
But Petersen sketches a positive picture.
“We’re headquartered in Fitchburg, and they call Fitchburg-Leominster the twin cities. They both have about 45,000 residents. So we’re in a lot of smaller towns. We have great market share in those towns and that helps our visibility,” he said.
Even so, the large banks are indeed competitors. There’s also a roster of non-traditional lenders such as Quicken Loans, which is one of the top five mortgage producers in the area. Petersen considers that significant, since Quicken has no brick-and-mortar locations to establish and reinforce identity.
“Today you compete with everyone,” Petersen declared. “The hyper-competition is always a concern. That forces us to be true to our roots and be very, very focused. We want to improve the daily lives of our members, and that’s what we live by. It’s all about execution, and it goes back to our people.”
Read more about Workers' Credit Union and how it's found success in the April 2 print issue of CU Times.