When Educational Systems Federal Credit Union was approached by CarCo Federal Credit Union about a merger, field of membership was a primary consideration in agreeing to the combination. As the name suggests, Educational Systems FCU is heavily vested in branding itself as the credit union for education employees, from administrators to teachers to support staff.
“In the age of online services, geography is less of a barrier than it used to be,” Educational Systems FCU President/CEO Chris Conway explained. “We’re just passionate about serving the education community.”
And because CarCo served the education employees in Caroline County, Md., the fit was right. The existing CEO at CarCo planned to retire, and the board determined a merger was the best way to continue serving its members and expand its service offerings. The $1.07 billion credit union was already serving public school systems in Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s and Talbot Counties in Maryland, plus a handful of community colleges and their alumni associations, contractors of any of these organizations or individuals who live or work in St. Mary’s County and their immediate family members.
The $5.7 million CarCo had just one office, no cash services and one part-time employee in addition to the outgoing CEO. Educational Systems FCU kept the office and part-timer, and also plans to add a local branch in the next year or so.
Although Conway stressed that mergers are not the primary growth strategy for the credit union, if an education-related credit union approaches them – no matter the location – Educational Systems FCU is likely to at least consider it. The credit union’s federal multiple common bond charter allows great flexibility in that way. “The federal multiple common bond charter provides us the benefit of charting our own destiny and our own brand,” Conway said. He acknowledged competing theories on that statement exist, but he feels it’s more flexible than a TIP or community charter for Educational Systems FCU’s purposes.
Conway explained that the credit union’s ability to serve its members is rooted in deep knowledge of education employee needs and less so where they are located. “I don’t want education credit unions to lose their identity, their specialness,” he said in explaining the merger deal, only the second during his 12-year tenure as CEO. “Being a passionate credit union person, providing personalized service to a particular group is important. We’re not trying to be all things to all people.”
Educational Systems FCU offers a number of programs with 10-month employees, such as teachers, in mind. One such service allows these employees to skip their summer loan payments, while another establishes a savings account to hold 10-month employees over financially for the summer.
Intimately understanding education employees’ needs and progressing through its digital transformation have been key factors in Educational Systems FCU’s strategy. “It’s one of the reasons we’re less concerned about geography and less worried about branches; we are more worried about our value proposition for our members.”
Setting digital transformation in motion has taken a lot of planning and work to get Educational Systems FCU to where it is now. Additionally, in 2020, Educational Systems FCU will be converting its core processor to Corelation and digital banking to Malauzai to further its progress in serving education employees, no matter where they are.