With one branch and 17,000 members, Kern FCU here has made a decision to invest in technology rather than branches in order to provide additional service to members.
"We are very unique given our asset size and the number of members we serve," said Cathy Olague, marketing director for the $142-million credit union. "You don't often find a credit union our size with one branch location. We have managed to grow at a very good pace and still provide a high level of service to our members without having to do the brick and mortar."
Aiding the ability to serve members through one branch is the credit union's primary sponsor: Bakersfield county employees. The concentration of members in specific locations allows deployment of ATM networks in county facilities as a means of reaching the majority of members.
But serving 17,000 members with one branch requires constant striving to provide better access. That didn't mean Web-based technology-until now. Kern grew without home banking through its early introduction of Lending Solutions, Inc.'s 24/7 National Loan Processing Center.
The transparent-to-members service generated a spike in loan growth for the credit union, adding up to a 2001 year end loan-to-share ratio of 79%, and return-on-assets of 1.03%.
"We know that the 24/7 mentality is out there," Olague explained. "If the member is at an auto dealership and they decide to buy a car on the spot they can call in. Or if they are just sitting at home in the evening and they are reading our newsletter and decide they want to take out a personal loan, or apply for a credit card, or a home equity loan, they can pick up the phone and apply."
Adding The Internet
Still, it's time to embrace home banking and other Internet-based technology, Olague told The Credit Union Journal. The technology leap includes a core processor switch to ULTRADATA. The goal is to provide as many convenient access channels as possible.
"We will be able to add the loan piece to our website," Olague said. "We will be able to have the home banking and so we will really be complete."
Olague does not advocate abandoning phone access in favor of Internet access, instead choosing to tie the two together. "You should have all the different channels available to your members so that they can use what they feel most comfortable using," Olague observed. "Not everybody is comfortable providing personal financial information over the Internet."
Kern FCU partners with several local and national companies to provide additional services to members. They include Financial Network, formerly Financial Network Investment Corp (FNIC), for investment, retirement and general investment planning, and CU Insurance Services, a CUSO of Arrowhead CU, for auto and home insurance products.
Kern FCU also offers members a 20% discount on real estate fees when purchasing or selling a home by partnering with Karpe Real Estate Center in Bakersfield. Finally, KFCU uses American Financial Services for transparent first mortgage products through their loan officers at the branch.