An Island Branch Surpasses "Wildest Dreams"

Residents of Vashon Island, WA, partnered with a credit union to open a branch that drew 16% of the local population in its first year.

Rebecca McClay


A year ago, the roughly 11,000 residents of Vashon, WA, could either bank with JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, or U.S. National Bank Association if they wanted a local branch, according to Callahan & Associates’ Branch Analyzer.

Since then, at least 16% of the island’s population has put their money – more than $17 million total – in the island’s newest institution: a Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union ($75.3M, Bellevue, WA) branch. The credit union location is the result of a grassroots effort by Move Your Money activists in Vashon who successfully partnered with Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union to leverage the movement against large institutions, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“What surprised me about it was how rapidly the community embraced the credit union,” Rob Harmon, an organizer, told the Los Angeles Times. “We had wild dreams that in the first year, $10 million would move. ... And in the first year, $17.5 million moved. So we're 70% above our wildest dreams.”

The credit union’s organizers in Vashon said the key to their success was the partnership with the regional credit union instead of working to try to build their own, new credit union from the ground up, which would have required up to $1 million up front. They wanted their model – in which Puget Sound Cooperative CU agree to forfeit some of its control to receive the new members and deposits – to serve as a model for other communities in need of a local credit union branch.

So far, Puget Sound Cooperative has written about $6.5 million in home loans through the island branch, and has issued about $2 million in other kinds of loans, which is a smaller loan-to-share ratio than the credit union's executives say they want.

"It's easier to move deposits than debt, frankly," Chief Executive Kevin Ellisen says in the article. "We understood that would be the case. But we're seeing growth in first mortgage loans, in energy efficiency loans on the island, so we're comfortable with the mix right now."


May 8, 2012



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