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BRIDGETON, Mo. – After a year’s worth of research from members and non-members which overwhelmingly revealed that Educational Employees Credit Union’s name was “not an accurate description” of its membership, the credit union has moved forward with a name change. Effective Oct. 1, the new name is Vantage Credit Union and is a reflection of the institution’s growing diverse membership outside of the educational field. Originally chartered in 1957 to serve teachers, administrators and school district employees, the credit union has since grown to include 300 select employee groups. Vantage serves 65,000 members and has $419 million in assets. The old name was “problematic” because it insinuated that the credit union only served educational employees, said Hubert Hoosman, Vantage president/CEO. “We have a great deal of history and roots in the educational community that we cherish,” Hoosman said. “Yet, in the end, one fact remained – many more people were able to take advantage of EECU membership but didn’t because they thought they had to work for a school to join.” Changing the credit union’s name involved much more than a new logo and “wasn’t cheap,” Hoosman said. A handful of focus groups were formed consisting of several demographics to garner feedback on new product and service suggestions as well as how widely recognized the credit union is in the community. Hoosman said the majority were very much aware of Vantage’s local outreach. One focus group was comprised of non-members and when asked why they had not joined the credit union, most replied it was because there were no safety deposit boxes there. Hoosman said Vantage will not pursue the boxes because the costs involved would not be economically prudent for the small number of members that might use them. To help ease the transition for members, Hoosman said Vantage’s busiest branch in North County here, has gone virtual remote. The seven teller employees were replaced with eight remote teller stations cutting the wait time in lines by 50% and increasing the number of transactions per member. None of the employees were laid off but there may be some attrition, Hoosman said. Since the official name change, transactions have increased from 24,000 to 26,000. Nearly 260 new accounts have opened since the name change with not a single existing member closing their accounts. Still, there was some initial trepidation with the high-tech branch, Hoosman admits, and the first few weeks involved a lot of handholding. “Technology scares some people off but our employees were patient and took the time to walk members through the process,” Hoosman said. “That made a difference.” Vantage’s remaining seven branches will receive facelifts by the spring with an additional branch opening occurring in third quarter of 2003 and two more in 2004. This is the third time Vantage has changed its name. It was originally chartered as St. Louis Suburban Teachers Credit Union in 1957. The name left out other school personnel such custodians and superintendents, and in 1978 the credit union became more inclusive with its new name, Educational Employees Credit Union. After a series of mergers with other credit unions, various parts of St. Louis were now eligible to join but the perception still remained that one had to work in the educational field to be a member. With a series of newspaper, radio and television advertisements including eight billboards announcing the new name and image spread across the city, Hoosman is confident that Vantage will be a viable financial alternative. “So far, it’s been extremely well received,” Hoosman said. “We’re very recognized in the community and we hope to continue that tradition.” -

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