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For many small businesses, insurance probably ranks high on the list of most expensive costs, right next to health care expenses.The $1.8 billion Redwood Credit Union is hoping to provide some financial relief through the launch of its Premium Financing program. Offered through its CUSO, RCU Insurance Services, the new offering allows business owners to finance their insurance premiums over a nine to 12-month period. Members agree to pledge 10% to 20% of the premium payment up front and financing is available at various rates based on the term and the amount pledged. The current range is 8.00% to 9.75% annual percentage rate.“Insurance premiums can seem sizeable to many small businesses, so this program provides a manageable solution for small business owners who might otherwise struggle to make insurance premium payments,” said Traci Thylin Bocci, communications specialist at Redwood in Santa Rosa, Calif. “It also allows them to maintain better cash flow.”The credit union started offering small business services in 2004. Last April, it expanded its program to include Small Business Administration loans and was named the top SBA lender in Sonoma County for the quarter ending December 2008. RCU Insurance Services made its debut in 2003 providing home, life, auto, pet and other types of coverage as well as commercial line policies including business owner’s general liability errors and omissions, bonds and rental. According to the CUSO, members save an average of $500 annually by switching to the insurance division.California Preferred Credit Union, which merged with Redwood CU in 2008, initially offered Premium Financing. Bocci said the decision was made to continue the program that launched in April and is set to roll out with marketing and promotions.“[The credit union] works with a number of top-rated agencies to get our members the best deals on quality coverage to suit their individual needs,” Bocci said. “RCU members can enjoy one-stop shopping for all of their financial needs, including insurance, small business services, investments and more.”To extend its reach even further into California’s North Bay, Redwood has started offering free financial education programs to small business owners. Forty participants attended a recent seminar on business financing options. Because of the demand, Bocci said the credit union plans to expand the series to include other topics of interests to both small business owners and consumers.–[email protected]

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