Becoming a Virtual Credit Union

International Airline Employees Federal Credit Union has never operated a teller line, yet grew its loan portfolio 24% and share balances 18% over the past 12 months. With help, this $29M institution has transformed itself into a virtual credit union.


Over the past 12 months, International Airline Employees Federal Credit Union ($29M, Rosedale, NY) has grown its loan portfolio 24% and share balances 18%. Yet the credit union, founded in 1961, has never operated a teller line. Although physically headquartered near New York City with a counter for member access, they don't deal in cash and the majority of their business has been conducted over the phone, fax, and standard mail for much of their existence. Their member base is spread out across the United States and internationally, centered around major airport hubs. Six permanent credit union employees currently serve over 20 employer groups which share an international air traffic affiliation. This unique model has resulted in an operating expenses to average assets ratio of 2.7% as of June, allowing IAEFCU to distribute 39% of its income in dividends to members.

After their current CEO, John Gebhard, joined the organization in 2005, the credit union set out to re-evaluate their organization. They conducted an in-depth member survey to gather input on the future direction of the credit union. As a follow-up to the survey results, the credit union enlisted a third party to help channel a discussion as they crafted a strategic plan of action for the future. The resulting vision called for IAEFCU to make itself into a truly virtual credit union.

Becoming a Virtual Credit Union

To provide better service to their far-flung members, the IAEFCU committed to enhancing their virtual presence to create a true online ebranch experience. "We had a website before this process, but it was very static and offered nothing to engage our members" says Gebhard. After evaluating a partnership with several web design firms, Gebhard decided to collaborate with L9 for the project. He worked directly with Jason Powell, L9's Design Director, on the development.

"We wanted to create something professional that is easy to use and provide an online member experience that rivals that of any major financial institution," says Gebhard. The resulting project was nothing less than a complete re-launch of the credit union's brand. Powell and the L9 team led the credit union through this process. IAEFCU requested that they begin the design process with some basic broad guidelines: an airplane in the logo, incorporate the color blue, de-emphasize the length of the credit union name. Over several weeks, Powell and Gebhard went back and forth until they hammered out the look and feel of the new credit union brand.

To learn more about IAEFCU's two year transformation into a truly virtual financial institution, click here.