Wished We Had A Winnebago

Cooperative Trek, Day 4: Waterbury Connecticut Teachers FCU in scenic Connecticut has welcomed member and loan growth as it serves teachers.


Wrapping up the mid-Atlantic section of our trip, we left Philadelphia and drove toward Vermont through wooded stretches of highway, admiring the clouds sharply defined and against the smog-free, pale blue sky. We passed many RVs and wished we were traveling in one instead of in our compact rental.

But we were getting out of the big cities and relaxing into an outdoorsy New England mindset.

We stopped in the quaint Connecticut town of Waterbury to speak with Waterbury Connecticut Teachers Federal Credit Union ($237.3M) about its loan growth and its strategies for capturing new members. Nicknamed the “Brass City,” Waterbury was once the brass capital of the world, making most of the casings used by the military in World War II. The area is now trying to be more of an Internet-based community.

WCTFCU serves teachers in a 900-square-mile radius surrounding Waterbury and its members are more affluent than most teachers’ credit unions. Connecticut is a great state for teachers with the salaries some of the highest in the country, the credit union’s president and CEO, George MacDonald, told us.

In the 80s, then-Governor William O’Neill successfully pushed to improve teachers’ pay and now teachers there are not affected as much by the struggling economy. In fact, WCTFCU’s membership has continued to grow as more new teachers are hired each year in the area. And WCTFCU works to capture new members through daily school visits to the local schools.

MacDonald says the new teacher members provide excellent opportunities for cross-sell products and services. Teachers feel comfortable in a WCTFCU branch, with its nostalgic schoolhouse design and red and gold faux apples perched on every employee’s desk.

The credit union’s loan growth has also been strong. It’s reported more than 8% growth in first quarter 2012 from the same quarter a year prior, which is about four times the national average, according to Callahan & Associates’ Peer-to-Peer data.

The credit union achieved the loan growth in part by running a promotion for a no-fee mortgage product for terms of 15 years or less. Now, WCTFCU is focusing on car loans – specifically low payments instead of competitive interest rates. And like other credit unions throughout the country, WCTFCU is seeing more used car loans than new, about four used auto loans for every new auto loan. MacDonald says the credit union continues to run specials to keep the credit union on the forefront of members’ minds.

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 CreditUnions.com as we release stories from the road throughout the fall of 2012.