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<p>BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. – T&C FCU’s roots are in Oakland County where the credit union got its start serving employees of GM’s Truck and Coach plant in the working-class, blue-collar city of Pontiac. Recently the credit union has used a multiple group charter to add SEGs. Now it will be reaching out to the entire county, following NCUA’s approval of a community charter for the $356-million credit union. T&C President/CEO Diane Addington sees the new charter as a natural progression for the credit union. Less than half of Oakland County residents are a member of a credit union, she said. “T&C intends to provide the credit union alternative to Oakland County residents that currently do business with non-credit union financial institutions.” Before pursuing the community charter possibility, the credit union explored other options. The list included converting to a state charter, a mutual savings association, merging with another credit union with a like field of membership, or just staying status quo and adding small SEGs one at a time. But adding and servicing SEGs was seen as a labor intensive approach which didn’t provide Oakland County residents the option to open a credit union account when they wanted and needed one. “T&C has for years been very active in our community. Our name and reputation is well known. With all the small community banks now gone through merger or purchase, T&C has gained a place in our community as a `local’ financial institution,” Addington said. As for a state charter, “While we liked the greater flexibility of the state charter for adding SEGs, we decided to pursue a community charter while retaining our federal charter largely because of the state sales tax exemption we enjoy as a federally chartered credit union.” Although T&C’s charter has changed, the name won’t. Addington believes T&C’s name is well known in Oakland County, and the credit union has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past years to promote the brand. She doesn’t see the name as limiting. Service, rather than the name, will be the key, she emphasized. She’s confident the credit union will be able to confirm whether service levels remain high. “We have measured with a formal member survey satisfaction levels prior to going to a community charter. We also have professional shoppers who shop all of our facilities on a monthly basis. Third, we also do in-office member surveys on a periodic basis,” Addington said. “So we have a standard established,” she said. It’s still too early to gauge member reaction, Addington said. She figures as long as service levels do not diminish, members will not become unhappy. She believes members from the primary sponsor – General Motors employees working in Pontiac, Mich. – have been through enough layoffs and strikes over the years they realize the value diversity through SEGs brought to their credit union. Oakland County has changed since the days when T&C FCU began operating there. The county has grown, and a number of very upscale suburbs such as Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham have blossomed. That has attracted a number of major banks, and the county has turned into a highly competitive market. Oakland County, in fact, is one of the wealthiest in the U.S. “Oakland County has some impressive statistics, but it has its challenges as well,” Addington says. “Our largest branch is located in an underserved area and has been since 1962. We have three additional branches located throughout Oakland County. T&C was chartered in 1936 in Oakland County. That’s where we’ve been for 66 years. We only have one branch outside of Oakland County.” “Because of Oakland County’s impressive statistics, it has drawn many large banks and there are numerous branches of these banks all over Oakland County. Some of these banks are open seven days a week. Some are open 12 hours a day. The attraction we have lies in being able to serve people who know T&C’s reputation, people who have worked with T&C on numerous community projects and people who need credit union service.” Addington hopes the credit union will attract a very diverse group of new members. It’s a “super challenge” to attract new business, especially people at higher income levels, she says, because they pretty much must be unhappy with their current financial institution in order for them to move to another one. T&C FCU will promote its community charter status through a wide range of media. Radio probably won’t be used because it would be more difficult to limit radio to the appropriate audience. Although Addington won’t reveal specific goals, there is a specific growth timetable, with additional membership targets expects by certain dates. “Most single sponsors are not growing, they are getting smaller. It would be a great disservice to the founding members and current members if credit unions do not place their credit union in a position to continue to gain new members. Strength in numbers helps assure a strong viable cooperative for existing members and new members,” Addington said. -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

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