Two Small Corporates Say Relationships Are What Help Them To Prosper

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Size isn't a requirement for some small corporate credit unions to prosper. While smaller may mean fewer services, the shortfall can often be offset by building closer relationships, CEOs of two such corporates told The Credit Union Journal.

"As a small corporate, we may not offer what bigger corporates offer," said Charles Thomas, CEO of West Virginia Corporate, adding that it compensates through the relationship it has with its member credit unions. Thomas has been CEO here since 1987. West Virginia Corporate competes for business against two much larger corporate competitors, Ohio's dominant Corporate One CU, Inc. and Pennsylvania's Mid-Atlantic Corporate FCU.

Thomas, 49, said that a very slow rotation of staff at his $250-million, 120-member credit union "helps build member relationships." He noted that one of WVCFCU's vice presidents has been with it for 18 years, while another has been on board for a decade.

Trudy Wise, assistant vice president at $167-million, 69-member Midwest Corporate FCU in Bismarck, North Dakota, agrees.

"We are small enough to take the time to know managers and employees of our credit unions. We have a staff that has been here for a long time so we do have a comfort level with credit unions," she said.

Despite the closer relationships developed, coming up with competitive product offerings can pose challenges.

"One of the areas that we are looking at is forward check collection to take advantage of Check 21 opportunities. We are seeking a solution. Asset Liability Management consulting would be another," said West Virginia's Thomas.

Not having products readily available has prompted North Dakota's corporate to look for partnerships. "If we don't offer it directly it is provided through other partners," Wise said.

Thomas said that the Automatic Clearing House services, consulting and "aggressive lending pricing" helps keep members.

Wise said her credit union builds business and loyalty by monitoring to see if, for example, a member is borrowing overnight, every night, and could benefit from getting a cheaper term-loan.

Wire transfers and locating competitive bank rates are the main services at Midwest Corporate, she added. Efforts to visit members to build even closer relationships will increase, she said.

None of the two credit unions have plans to merge. While West Virginia's Thomas sees its number of members staying at the same level, North Dakota is working to add a couple of new members from South Dakota, Wise said.

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