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SAN JOSE, Calif. – Residents of Dublin, Calif. will likely be doing a lot of double takes starting this month when they drive by and see the signage for Tech CU Mortgage. No, it won’t be a branch of San Jose, Calif.-based Technology Credit Union, but the first credit union-owned retail mortgage store in the Bay Area. The official opening date for the store is Nov. 1, but the genesis for Tech CU’s retail mortgage center actually started about five to seven years ago when the $1.1 billion credit union began focusing on its residential and commercial mortgage business and on finding ways “to make mortgage growth and convenience a key part of our overall strategy,” said Tech CU’s Kathleen Litman, VP of marketing, adding that, “Today, first mortgages and home equity lines of credit are the core of our lending program.” Tech CU’s mortgage portfolio is nearly $647 million. First mortgages and home equity lines of credit make up almost $586 million, and the CU’s commercial portfolio (apartment loans) is nearly $50 million. Tech CU also has slightly over $11 million in commercial loan participations. Until 2004, Tech CU’s field-of-membership was occupation based – anyone who worked for a technology company in California was eligible to join the CU, and all the CU’s branches were conveniently located near employer groups. That summer Tech CU was approved for a community charter to serve Santa Clara, San Mateo and Alameda counties and that changed the CU’s branch expansion strategy. “Prior to getting our community charter our strategy was focused on capital building and cost savings. When we got our community charter, we decided to drive our business differently and adopted a branch expansion strategy,” said Litman. Today, Tech CU has about 70,000 members. All but six of its seven branches are in Santa Clara, and the seventh is in the city of Freemont in Alameda County. With no physical branch in San Mateo County where Dublin is located, Litman said it has been hard for Tech CU to increase its membership in the area. Not having a brick and mortar facility in the area has also meant realtors in San Mateo county haven’t been referring business to Tech CU. With that in mind and realizing that some larger banks such as Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual have retail mortgage operations with high visibility, Tech CU AVP of Mortgage Operations Michelle Edwards came up with the idea for the CU to open a retail mortgage operation of its own. “We realized opening the retail mortgage store in Dublin is a great way to go into a community where we have a field of membership but where the residents don’t know us yet. The idea was to go in, put down roots and then leverage our presence in the community to expand their awareness of us,” said Litman. Tech CU anticipates opening a full service facility in Dublin within 18 months to two years. The 1,200 square foot space the Tech CU Mortgage store occupies is located in an office park that Litman says has high visibility from two major freeways. The leased space was previously occupied by a kitchen remodel store, which had already given their notice and moved out Sept. 1. Edwards found the available space on the Internet. Since the site isn’t operating as a full service branch, Litman said that’s allowed the credit union to open it quickly. Tech CU didn’t do any build up of the site, but just installed phones, computers, cubicles, desks and chairs in about a month. The store is staffed with one full-time person and two field people, and Tech CU’s plan is to have a full-time New Accounts Representative on-site also who can open memberships and also function in a business development capacity. At some point in the future, Litman said the CU also hopes to have a full-time investment representative working in the office developing business. While the mortgage store is set up to assist members’ mortgage needs, a large sign in the store makes members aware of Tech CU’s other product offerings including investments and discusses membership eligibility information as well. “We build our membership three ways, ” says Litman, “ through the community, by networking with realtors and getting them to bring their clients to us, and doing business with mortgage brokers. Our new retail mortgage store will let Tech CU grow throughout the Bay Area and penetrate the East Bay market specifically the Tri-Valley area,” which includes the cities of Dublin/Livermore, Pleasanton and San Ramon. Litman noted that the Dublin/Livermore area is one of the fastest growing residential areas in the East Bay and has been one of the more affordable areas for homebuyers. Litman said the new Tech CU Mortgage store complements the CU’s new retail branching strategy it launched this year with the opening of its newest branch in the south San Jose area. The branch is Tech CU’s first “retail” location and is located in a high trafficked shopping center. -

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