More Than Money: How Fort Knox FCU Makes A Community Impact

Veterans programs, financial wellness, and food donation are three ways the Kentucky credit union serves its local citizens.

 
 

Top-Level Takeaways

  • Fort Knox FCU has programs that ease the transition of military veterans back into the civilian workforce as well as promote entrepreneurship.
  • One-third of the credit union’s members are military veterans; however, Fort Knox FCU also has a range of programs for the community at large.

It’s not all military life at Fort Knox Federal Credit Union ($1.5B, Radcliff, KY). Not all, but mostly.

According to CEO Ray Springsteen, of the credit union’s nearly 100,000 members, one-third are active duty military on-base personnel and another one-third are veterans. The final third claim membership to the credit union because they reside in one of 10 counties surrounding Fort Knox or are employees of a number of select employer groups.

“These community members have no affiliation with the military, but they still have a positive view of it and recognize the value of the military in Kentucky,” Springsteen says.

The credit union’s military roots run deep, but so do its community ties. Here, Springsteen dishes on how the Bluegrass State cooperative promotes entrepreneurship among veterans, connects physical health to financial health, and gives back to the hungry.

Ray Springsteen, CEO, Fort Knox Federal Credit Union

What does Fort Knox FCU do to promote entrepreneurship among veterans?

Ray Springsteen: We started ramping up our efforts in 2015 to help those transitioning out of the military start a business. We offer commercial lending, and as we’ve made more loans, we also have created a peer network of entrepreneurial veterans who share ideas.

We also run a veteran’s entrepreneur training program that provides information about business building. We bring in outside speakers, like Kentucky’s lieutenant governor or U.S. Representative Brett Guthrie. Each time we get 40 to 50 attendees.

 

 

 

Why is it important to provide this to members transitioning out of the military?

RS: Our community is not a destination point for young people — they are more likely to move to a large city. When we have members or local people who are retiring from the military, they want to stay local because they like it here. Many times, they want to create a business and find a way to hire people. This adds so much to our community, it just makes sense to partner and help veterans looking to do that.

Do you have any success stories you’re willing to share?

RS: We had a member who was transitioning out of the military after 28 years. He wanted to start a running store in Elizabethtown, KY, which is close to our main office. He needed an SBA loan to build up his inventory. It was a small loan, not something a bank would normally do, but we wanted to help him. A few years later he wanted to buy a building in downtown Elizabethtown to be a part of that area’s revitalization. We gave him a regular commercial loan at that point and he continues to be successful.

Today, he talks at our veteran’s entrepreneur training programs. We recently had a state representative in one of our branches, and our member came in that day and talked to the state representative about the impact credit unions have and what they are about.

These are small loans, but this is exactly the business we should be in to make a difference for our members.

CU QUICK FACTS

Fort Knox FCU
Data as of 12.31.17

HQ: Radcliff, KY
ASSETS: $1.5B
MEMBERS: 99,095
BRANCHES: 18
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 6.7%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 8.3%
ROA: 1.16%

How else does Fort Knox FCU connect with the community?

RS: We are always partnering with community groups to build connections in our area and to help make a difference.

We’ve partnered with a regional hospital group that runs hospitals in roughly the same markets where we have branches. We created a “Check Your Numbers” program with the group. It brought a bus to one of our branches so people could check their cholesterol and their credit at the same time.

We also connected with a group called Feeding America. We have a cash-back credit card program, and for a time we ran a co-branded promotion that gave 3.5% back on groceries. We also put into place a donation program that helped generate donations and communicated the value of our credit card.

We had a member who wanted to start a running store. It was a small loan, but we wanted to help him. A few years later he wanted to buy a building downtown to be a part of that area’s revitalization.

Ray Springsteen, CEO, Fort Knox FCU

How does Fort Knox FCU measure the success of its community efforts?

RS: We tend to look at financial performance measures. We are disbursing about $300 million per year in loans in our communities. We are donating another $50,000 each year directly to a veterans group. We regularly work on base to provide financial literacy training, which includes a special welcome program for new base personnel.

For how that results in success for the credit union, we look at market share in the three counties around Fort Knox [Bullitt, Hardin, and Meade], which are more concentrated with military members. We have a little more than 20% of the insured deposit market share in those counties, the highest market share of any local financial institution.

What advice or best practices have you gleaned from Fort Knox FCU’s community work?

RS: Our story isn’t just about what we do for our veterans, even though we do a ton. It’s more about the ways we try to connect local organizations to make the community a better place.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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May 1, 2018


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