America’s Best Kept Secret


If you read through the comments we received, AlexM brought up a good question, one that I’ve wrestled with for years. In fact, one that I think warrants it’s own post. So AlexM, here goes…

Credit Unions are America’s best kept secret. I’ve said this for years. Why? Credit unions got their start in factories around America. They were hidden somewhere inside the four walls of the company and did not market at all. They were considered an employee fringe benefit and a great percentage of the time, the employees of the credit union worked for the company. Employees knew about the credit union because the personnel department included it along with other fringe benefits. In many cases the spouses or children of the company employee did not even belong to the credit union.

When I started my credit union career about 40 years ago, there were around 23,000 credit union in the country. That’s a lot. But today, there are about 9,000 credit unions. As more of the big companies went through mergers or went out of business- the number of credit unions followed. Our credit union was organized to serve the employees and families of the Newark Air Force Base. The Base closed in 1996 but our credit union continued as a community charter serving everyone who lives, works, goes to school, or worships in Licking County. Even though it has been twelve years since the Base closed and we became Hopewell Federal Credit Union, many area residents still think of us as the Air Force Base credit union.

Over the past 20 years, smaller credit unions have merged with larger credit unions. Even though the number of credit unions have declined, the number of members have increased and the average size of a credit union has grown greatly. But the same is true of the banks. There are less banks today than ten or twenty years ago, but the ones that are still here have all changed their name and the smaller ones have been bought up by the bigger ones. We have big, national banks today and fewer small community banks. Consolidation is a trend in many businesses today.

So if you want to own a piece of a financial institution, join a credit union. The more that members use their credit union for all their banking needs- the better the credit union is able to serve them and offer the latest and greatest in products and services. As with any cooperative, member usage is the best way to guarantee success.

So go ahead and join a credit union today and experience the credit union difference.



4 Responses

  1. Hi Al

    I’m a long time heath resident and credit union member-which one in the area-I will not say. However, here’s my question.

    Given your experience, in today’s economy and talk of recession-do you think not-for-profit credit unions are the answer to helping people get back on track?

  2. Hi Eric,

    I believe that credit unions are part of the solution but certainly not the entire solution. Credit unions can help their members through these tough economic times. History shows that when the economy struggles the most, credit unions have experienced good growth.

    I believe that the not-for-profit credit union will help. Banks are for-profit institutions and their main purpose is to make money for stockholders. And that’s what has happened over the past several years.

    I read an article that bank boards directed their CEO’s to generate a strong increase in stock value which they did in the short term. That short term growth is now backfiring. Asset quality was sacrificed as banks became more aggressive in their lending practices. Near prime and sub prime mortgages were profitable but now that the economic environment has changed these mortgages have become a major burden and real drag on bank profits.

    Credit unions have always looked out for the best interest of the member. We have not chased the dollar for short term gain at the expense of our members. We may not have all the answers members want to hear but we will provide them with advice that, with hard work on their part, will help them get ahead financially over time.

    Thanks for the questions and being a credit union member.


  3. Thanks for your quick response.

    I guess here’s another question-do you think any credit unions here locally in Licking County will catch up to the technology that’s out there like the big banks like Chase has?

    You know mobile banking, text your account, it texts you back-etc. I know you guys have those personal video teller units on North 21st street and I have to admit those are cool-and the wave of the future-no one has anything like those here in this neck of the woods-and I don’t know why someone doesn’t do more of a story on it-cause they’re really cool. But, I guess I don’t see little credit unions doing the same kind of high tech offerings that big banks do. Hopewell is probably the only real cutting-edge cu in our area short of Columbus.

    Could we see that in the future?

  4. Boy Eric,

    You sure have some good questions and yes, I see Hopewell as other larger credit unions- have some of the newest technology that is in place at the big banks. We have much of it right now in home banking and bill pay, ACH debit and credit origination, debit and credit cards, signature capture and photo capture for ID purposes and several other outlets. At Hopewell, we also utilize Check 21 and send deposited items electronically to our Corporate Credit Union and on to the FED for clearing.

    As I think of it, some credit unions actually do more than the biggest banks. Like Fiberglas Federal’s members can visit Hopewell Federal’s branch and make deposits or withdrawals. We use what we credit unions call “Shared Branching”. You’ll never see Park National send a member to Chase for convenience for transaction processing. They would be afraid of losing a customer to the competition. Hopewell Federal has over 2,400 branches available thoughtout the country.

    Credit unions also cooperate with each other to provide indirect auto lending to members. These indirect requests are processed quickly via an internet connection. A great convenience for our members. All four Licking County credit unions participate in this great member benefit program.

    So will we get there, I think so. Maybe not as quickly as we would like, but in time we’ll be there. Our core processor has mobile banking scheduled to be released later this year. When that happens it will all be related to price and affordability.

    And thanks for the nice comments about our 21st Street branch. We are very proud of it and took a chance by going to the video tellers but our members have embraced it very well. It also adds an additional layer of security for our employees.

    Have a great day.


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