When Carolina Trust Federal Credit Union opened its branch in Littler River, South Carolina, in 2014, it was just two miles away from Brunswick County, North Carolina. SECU, a SEG based credit union serving North Carolina state employees, was the only credit union serving the county, so Carolina Trust Federal Credit Union decided to expand its field of membership into the county. Prior to expanding its community charter into Brunswick County, Carolina Trust FCU served anyone who lives, works (or regularly conducts business in), worships, volunteers or attends school in Horry, Georgetown, Marion, Williamsburg or the southern part of Florence County (south of Lynches River), South Carolina.
CUCollaborate (which in full disclosure, does not work with Carolina Trust, but we like to celebrate everyone’s successes!) asked Tim Carlisle, CEO of the $248 million credit union about its decision-making process, how it went and the results since it converted in February of 2018.
Why did you decide to expand your community charter?
Brunswick County residents were wanting to do business with Carolina Trust, but we were having to turn them away from membership. We saw a need in the community and wanted to be a resource to the people who were looking for more financial options.
What was the role of the board? CEO? Others involved?
It was a joint decision between the Board and CEO to proceed with the expansion effort. Our VP of Strategic Initiatives worked closely with a third-party consulting firm to ensure our request to the NCUA was documented appropriately.
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How did you find the process with the NCUA?
Since our petition was based on Brunswick County being part of the Myrtle Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), we already had a well-defined community by NCUA standards. Therefore, the process went well once the request for expansion was submitted.
How have you communicated/marketed the expansion to existing and new potential members?
We shared the news across all our marketing channels, including direct email and billboard advertising. We maintain an active presence on social media and ran local cable ad placements.
Carolina Trust’s loan and membership growth (and delinquencies remain low) have been amazing. To what do you attribute it?
We invested a lot of time, effort and expense in our credit union brand and what it means to the communities we serve. We also focused on the needs of our members and revamped our vehicle and mortgage loan programs to be geared toward first-time borrowers and borrowers who needed more term options. Our members are at the heart of everything we do.
Anything unique/special that the CU does? Anything new?
We offer a First Time Homebuyer and First Time Auto buyer program and focus on serving the underserved with competitive rates, terms and lower fees. We are currently in the process of redeveloping our website to offer a more robust online end-user experience. We recently launched an updated mobile banking app and convenient mobile loan application option. We are always discovering ways to improve our services and technology to better serve our members.
The results have been tremendous. Carolina Trust Federal Credit Union’s loan growth ended 2018 at 18.51% and membership growth reached 6.11%, double the peer average, according to NCUA data. Average member loan balances increased by 20% to $12,125, in part due to a large increase in mortgage lending. Delinquencies, however, have held flat at a conservative 0.28%.
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