TAMPA, Fla. – Roughly half or slightly more than half of Florida Central Credit Union’s 47,000 members come from among the Tampa, Florida’s lower income and poor areas, according to a recent case study published by the Fannie Mae Foundation. But that has not prevented the $194 million credit union from posting a return on average assets of 1.24% or almost 33 basis points over its peer group in March of this year, according to NCUA’s data. Ten years ago, the credit union established its first branch in the lower income Hillsborough area of Tampa, and opened another five years later, the study said. The older branch in the poorer area now makes money for the credit union and the younger branch is moving toward profitability, the study said. “At these branches, FCCU also offers a signature loan product as a payday loan alternative,” the study found. “The interest rates on these loans range from 14 to 18%, much lower than the triple-digit annual percentage rates (APRs) generally charged by payday lenders.” The credit union also uses risk-based pricing on its lending, which means that some loans from those branches cost more but generally cost far less than other loans from other institutions that frequently work with lower income people. The study credited Florida Central’s success with the levels of in-depth research the credit union had done into what the needs of the lower income area actually were. Florida Central’s research included familiar techniques like focus groups and surveys, but also included sending credit union employees into area check cashers and payday lenders to observe the terms of the loans and how the fringe financial service providers were serving customers.

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