Credit unions that face a waning select employee group seem to have one of two choices: preserve their identity and continue catering to the specific member group or change strategies and open to the broader community.
Credit unions serving U.S. Postal Service employees have been especially vulnerable to membership declines recently as the USPS has slashed its workforce by offering buyouts to thousands of workers.
The Postal Service lost more than $5.5 billion last year and more than $3 million in the first quarter of 2012 and expects to lose more if its proposed cuts are not made, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said at the PostalVision 2020 conference in Washington D.C., according to news reports. The agency, which does not receive taxpayer money, is closing 252 processing centers and up to 3,700 post offices, many of which house credit unions.
BluCurrent Credit Union ($138.5M, Springfield, MO), formerly Postal Federal Community Credit Union, is among the credit unions connected to USPS that’s increasing efforts to reach a broader field of membership. The credit union was founded by postal workers in 1929 for just federal and postal employees but opened to anyone living within a 10-county area in 1994. Now, about 15% of its members are employees of the Postal Service.
Recently, it changed its name to BluCurrent CU to better reflect its wider field of membership and has started using the slogan “Building Better Lives Together.” CEO Steve Pierson says the move was planned right before USPS announced its significant cutbacks, giving the change “really good timing.”
“The Post Office hasn’t been hiring for years,” Pierson says. “I’m sure there are many credit unions asking, ‘What are we going to do to survive?’ Opening to the community is what made sense to us.”
While BluCurrent’s membership slipped about 3.0% the past year, according to Callahan & Associates’ data, it secured 17.4% 12-month loan growth and 5.6% share growth in the first quarter. Pierson says its memberbase continues to benefit from non-Postal Service members as the credit union has other approached businesses, offering to serve their employees as a sort of unofficial SEG.
Atlanta Postal Credit Union’s ($2.0B, Atlanta, GA) is still successfully catering to specifically U.S. Postal Service employees and CEO Don DeCinque says he thinks there is still ample opportunity for credit unions to snag more USPS employee members. Its membership grew 0.44% in the first quarter of 2011 from the same quarter a year prior, according to Callahan & Associates’ Peer-to-Peer data.
“There’s still a lot of potential out there for postal employees,” DeCinque says. “It’s not all gloom and doom. The Postal Service is still a large entity with a large potential membership…All postal credit unions need to do a better job of getting postal employees to become members of postal credit unions.”
Atlanta Postal CU now can take in Postal employees in the country, which DeCinque describes as a great opportunity, but one that’s difficult to take advantage of because the credit union can’t connect through employees through the USPS’s human resources department. Instead, it must attend Postal Service meetings across the country to shore up membership.
However, Atlanta Postal CU is soon acquiring Human Services Employees’ Credit Union ($24.1M, Atlanta, GA), and at that time will become a credit union with a wider field of membership. Acquisition, which will be complete by June 30, will open the credit union up to all state employees in Georgia.
“But we are still true to the Postal Service – that’s our main focus,” DeCinque said.