ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Members of ESL FCU received their seventh consecutive year of bonus distributions, but this year’s bonus was bittersweet since the credit union’s president/CEO David Vigren, who’s been in the corner office for nearly nine years, retired on March 1. The dividend was paid to members with any ESL product on which they paid interest or earned dividends. In determining the payout, the total dividends earned on share accounts added to the total interest paid on ESL loans throughout the year were multiplied by the dividend percentage factor determined by the credit union’s board of directors each year. For 2002, the factor was 3.23%. In total, 157,000 members of ESL Federal Credit Union received their share of a $5 million `owners dividend.’ With 231,000 members and $2.3 billion in assets, credit is given to ESL’s credo of “member-focus” for its robust growth, said outgoing president/CEO Vigren. Succeeding Vigren will be ESL executive vice president and marketplace manager David Fiedler who has been with the credit union since 1996. “There’s no question in my mind that the evaluation for long-term success is to focus on members,” Vigren emphasized. “If the charters allow them to do so, credit unions should strive to be the primary financial institution. They ought to do everything they can to satisfy member’s wide variety of financial needs.” ESL’s history is rather unique in that it was initially chartered in 1920 as Eastman Savings and Loan Association by George Eastman, the founder of Eastman Kodak Co. Eastman’s intent was to provide his employees with a financial institution that served their financial needs, particularly with mortgages, Vigren said. While the S&L operated much like a credit union throughout its 75-year history, on February 1, 1996, Eastman changed its charter to expand its field of membership beyond Kodak, which still remains its largest select employee group. ESL FCU is the largest locally-owned financial institution in the Rochester area. In January 2002, Wegmans Federal Credit Union merged with ESL. Wegmans was chartered in 1986 to serve employees of Wegmans Food Markets, ESL’s second largest SEG. At the time of the merger, Wegmans had more than 15,000 members and $62.4 million in assets. The merger brought over a younger member base to ESL, with the average age being 36, according to an ESL press release. The average age of an ESL member is 51 which “already provides the deposit base that Wegmans had trouble obtaining.” “The younger WFCU members will provide an appetite for all types of loans, which we will need to fuel future growth,” the release noted That unprecedented growth during Vigren’s tenure – from 200 to 500 employees, 115,000 members to more than 230,000 and $1.1 billion in assets to $2.3 billion – fueled ESL’s ability to reward members with owners dividends each year since 1996. In 2002, ESL’s household growth grew from 100,000 in the area to more than 130,000. Yet, with the expansion comes the familiar industry growing pains and the determinants to keep development from spiraling out of control. “We have a ten percent capital asset ratio target so we try to balance our capital assets with returning dividends to members,” said Roger Rassman, ESL’s spokesperson. “As fast as our assets our growing, we’re growing capital at the same rate – we would like for it to be higher.” Incoming ESL President/CEO Fiedler said the key to the credit union’s continued momentum will not only be putting members’ needs first but providing employees with the training and equipment to fulfill those financial necessities. “From a member standpoint, they expect their financial institutions to be perfect, so there is an important trust issue going forward,” Fiedler said. “Another priority for us will be to continue good internal processes.” Specifically, ESL plans to have in place 20 drive-up automated teller machines in the Rochester area by the end of the year. With 20 branches throughout the county, more branches are also expected to increase accessibility, Fiedler said. In addition, ESL plans to continue its strong ties to community partnerships including several charitable organizations and sports and theatrical arenas. Vigren, who plans to spend more time with family and grandchildren and remain active with the United Way and other causes, is confident that he’s leaving ESL in capable hands, praising its “excellent management team” with Fiedler at the helm. “Everything we do – whether for frontline employees or meeting the satisfaction of our members, a personal touch is important,” Vigren said. “We do that better than anyone else in our marketplace.” -

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