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<p>ROCHESTER, N.Y. – On-time mail delivery might have always have been guaranteed, but unfortunately over the years the same could not have been said for the membership growth of Rochester Postal Employees CU. Nearly three-quarters of a century after it was chartered to serve employees of the city’s postal service and their families, Rochester Postal Employees CU converted to a community charter to serve all persons who live, work or attend school in Monroe County. As part of the move, RPECU, founded in 1931, changes its name to First Rochester Community Credit Union (FRCCU). It now has access to the 750,000 residents in Monroe County. According to Gary Schwingel, CEO, the merger was planned because future growth of postal employee membership, which stood at 4,000 prior to the change in charter, was expected to be extremely slow in light of a struggling postal service industry. “The area post offices employ some 2,000 workers. They weren’t going to be adding new employees at the rate they were before,” said Schwingel. Prior to RPECU’s charter conversion, Monroe County, whose northern border rests along Lake Ontario, did not have a community-chartered credit union serving the entire 663 square-mile region, though there are some credit unions that serve individual towns, such as Pittsford FCU. “We did a competitive analysis in terms of who all the other players were in the market and what strategies we would need to go forward,” explained Schwingel. Commercial banks have a large market share of area businesses in the county. These institutions include Citibank, Chase Manhattan, Charter One and M&T (Manufacturers & Traders Trust Company). “We want to now give residents a locally-owned alternative to these banks, which have headquarters located out of the area,” he said. Rochester and its local environs are also home to major corporation-sponsored credit unions such as Eastman Kodak’s ESL Federal Credit Union, which just completed a merger with Wegmans FCU and has a membership of 194,000. According to Schwingel, “We are not interested in taking in members from those credit unions.” He also adds to the list credit unions affiliated with Xerox and Bausch & Lomb. What makes the switch from a state occupational charter to a community charter interesting is that it is the first such change that the New York State Banking Department ever processed. “We met with the department in April of 2001 to discuss our needs and desires,” recalled Schwingel. “The biggest thing they wanted us to focus on was the fact that we were above the 300,000 resident population-limit that the NCUA looks at. We needed to show how Monroe County acted like a community.” The credit union found that even though there are 750,000 people in the county, the area is geographically small, with people easily traversing from one corner of the county to another. In one year’s time, First Rochester hopes to increase its membership by 1,000. It is undergoing a two-pronged marketing campaign that will include a name-recognition and branding strategy and a direct mail campaign to its new field of membership. The credit union, which had assets of $22.7 million prior to the change in charter, also forecasts assets of between $50 million and $70 million by 2005. It currently has two branch locations in the Rochester suburbs of Henrietta and Gates, but plans to open seven by the end of the decade. First Rochester has also increased its staff from 11 to 14. The credit union offers a broad array of services, including Internet banking, electronic bill paying, home equity, auto and recreational vehicle loans, credit cards, ATM service, certificates, IRA certificates and savings and checking accounts. “The change to a community charter doesn’t require us to add any additional services, but we are working on offering financial planning services,” explained Schwhingel. -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

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