Similar, But Different

Cooperative Trek Day 6 and 7: Vermont State Employees CU offers green products to its outdoorsy members, while Holy Rosary CU leverages its 50th Anniversary.


Vermont and New Hampshire have similar landscapes and are similarly sized and have similar markets. It’s hard to tell when you’re exiting one and entering another.

Vermont, with a population of 626,431, is the largest maple syrup producer in the U.S. It’s been a blue state in every election since 1992. It has a hip, laidback lifestyle, even in its small town capitol of Montpelier, which has about 7,855 residents.

Vermont State Employees Credit Union($589.5M, Montpelier, VT) is on Bailey Street. The cooperative also has several unconventional products that help it standout.

The Vermont Platinum card is a rewards card that helps the state economy by rewarding consumers who buy local with a discounted interest rate. The interest rate drops from 10.5% to 6.5% for products grown, developed, and/or manufactured within the state. Vermont State Employees started the program last August and has already had 25% increase in credit card balances lift and a 30% increase in lines of credit.

“It’s already engrained into Vermont,” says Yvonne Garand, vice president of marketing and business development at VSECU. “We rely on mom-and-pop shops here.”

The credit union also offers V-Green loans, to lend money to members wanting to remodel their homes to make them more energy efficient and environmentally conscientious. While the loans are still a new product, the cooperative created the co-op, VHeat Fuel Buying Program. The credit union buys oil, wood pellets, and propane from the merchants to offer at a lower price for members.

Vermont is an outdoorsy state that supports activism – traits young people are looking for in a company. But Garand says the state has trouble keeping young people from moving away after college.

New Hampshire’s youth, however, are doing the opposite. The Granite State, which prides itself on its sense of community, sees more younger people stay in the state.

New Hampshire is also known for holding the first U.S. presidential election primary. It’s a swing state, but has voted Conservative six out of 10 times since 1992.

Holy Rosary Credit Union($180.4M, Rochester, NH) recently demonstrated its neighborhood pride to mark its 50th anniversary. The credit union used the anniversary to design a new logo that hints at more history. Plus, the credit union works hard to get out into the community and work toward charitable efforts like raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Brian Hughes, president and CEO of Holy Rosary, commissioned a local writer during the anniversary to research the history of the credit union and write a book. He’d heard about the writer listening to his barber speak about the vast history the credit union has within the community, serving a primarily French population who was ousted from large banks within the U.S.

The book, “Comme D’Or,” meaning “it’s like gold” in French, contains over 30 interviews, including some from the original founders of the cooperative financial institution and their families.

While writing the book, local author, Michael Behrendt, found out just how golden Holy Rosary’s institution is and became a member after the book was published.

Vermont and New Hampshire both have charm and thickly wooded areas complete with moose crossing signs, but theyare very different. Like Vermont State Employees and Holy Rosary, credit unions must look at their own communities and decide what’s best for them.

Author Bailey Reutzel and multimedia producer Melissa Forsyth hit the road in August for a weeklong Cooperative Trek. They traveled from Washington, DC, to Portland, ME, stopping along the way at 11 credit unions and learning first-hand about successful strategies to share with our readers. Follow the 2012 Cooperative Trek on as we release stories from the road throughout the fall of 2012.


Aug. 26, 2012



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