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HARRISBURG, Pa. – From the most rural parts of the state to bustling epicenters, Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union believes it has found a niche with a new way to meet its members’ investment needs. The $2.2 billion credit union, which prides itself on its virtual structure, rolled out a new mobile investment office this summer. The custom-built Freightliner Sprinter will crisscross the state to meet with members through a registered representative from CUSO Financial Services, L.P., PSECU’s broker/dealer. The van made its official debut at a local Labor Day festival which attracted more than 300,000 attendees. Amid the food and fanfare, it certainly stood out, said Steve Franke, PSECU program manager, who oversees the investment program. “We were surprised at the tremendous response we got,” Franke recalled. The rationale behind such a lofty venture sprang from PSECU’s heavy emphasis on doing most of their business online, Franke said. Offering loans, deposit accounts and CDs among other products and services via the Internet has worked to PSECU’s advantage because it is the state’s largest credit union serving more than 294,000 members. The van was another extension of PSECU’s innovative interaction but with a slight twist. “We found that in order to provide (investment) services, members preferred the face-to-face,” Franke said. “The question became how we would do it.” PSECU considered the idea of deploying regional representatives but the logistics of where members would meet raised privacy concerns among other issues. The idea of an “office on wheels” was met with a bit of skepticism, Franke admits, but as PSECU President Greg Smith and the board of directors saw the overall project, the doubt was soon replaced with another cog in the credit union’s “forward-thinking vision” wheel. The way it works is a member wanting to meet with a rep will contact the credit union and schedule an appointment. Franke said they try to see between three and four members each business day. Many of PSECU’s members live and work in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre – major metropolitan cities. But there are some who live in rural parts of the state. Franke said the van will travel to remote areas but to make the most of the visit, other appointments will try to be scheduled in the same area. The 260 in. by 102 in.-Freightliner Sprinter is manufactured by Mercedes-Benz but marketed by Freightliner, Franke said. It has a 158-inch wheel base; is tall enough for some one over six feet tall to stand in comfortably, is satellite and Internet equipped, and has a built-in generator. The van also has a DVD/VCR for educational sessions and a printer, copier and scanner. Members get the feel of walking into an investment advisor’s office complete with hardwood floors and Corian counter tops. There are tinted windows and pull-down shades if members desire privacy, Franke said. A refrigerator is also available to store refreshments. The van averages about 20-21 miles a gallon on diesel fuel. Discussions to roll out the van began nearly a year ago, Franke said. After a meeting with Smith and the board last November, Franke was given the green light to proceed. While it’s still early, PSECU is meeting with roughly six members each week. At press time, the van was on its way to meet with members in the Erie area and to host an investment seminar. So far, members’ meetings have centered on retirement planning. Typically, one rep will drive the van. The state of Pennsylvania does not require a special license for the custom vehicle. “We take a more holistic approach to investment planning – do you have a will, do you need power of attorney,” Franke said. Franke would not say how much PSECU paid for the van but was encouraged that the expense met its “break-even” projection. “One of our key concerns was how members would perceive it,” Franke said. “Times are changing. PSECU has a willingness to consider a lot of different ideas. So far, we’re very pleased with the response.” [email protected]

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