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October 12, 2015 Q&A

Windsor Locks credit union evolves over 75-year history

John Franco

Q&A talks with John Franco, CEO of Windsor Locks Federal Credit Union, which is marking its 75th year in business.

Q: The Windsor Locks Federal Credit Union is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. What have been some of the biggest changes over the years for the credit union?

A: When the credit union was founded in 1940 it was open for membership to the parishioners of St. Mary Church. Business was conducted after mass on Sundays and accounts were limited to regular share savings and small loans. The manager conducted loan business in his home and made loans literally based on a promise to repay and a handshake.

Over the years membership grew, the staff grew and a full-time office was opened in 1975. In 1987 the name was officially changed to Windsor Locks Federal Credit Union and the membership was broadened to employees of various local businesses and organizations. By 2003, the credit union moved from serving specific sponsor groups to a community charter serving the needs of people throughout Hartford County. Today, the credit union has evolved into a full-service financial institution serving the needs of both consumer and business members.

Q: How have you been able to maintain yourself as a single branch credit union? Why haven't you expanded as other credit unions have?

A: People come to our credit union because of the personalized service they receive and the fact that most are recognized by name. We have a very loyal membership base. But banking in general has evolved over the years. Today, many people like the personalized service when they open their accounts or get a loan but they don't come into the branch on a regular basis. In fact, we have seen the number of individuals that come into the branch decline, yet our credit union continues to grow.

Most individuals transact business through home banking on their computers or cell phones, apply for membership or loans online, have their paychecks directly deposited and loans paid automatically, pay bills online and get cash from an ATM. With all of these services available we can serve our members without them having to come to a branch. We also participate in shared branching that allows our members to transact business at these other credit union locations. We may expand in the future as the need and opportunity warrants.

Q: What are some of the stiffest challenges and opportunities you face as a small credit union?

A: Over the years the competition has grown dramatically. For years banks and credit unions competed for business. Now, everyone is in the financial services business from Wal-Mart to American Express to mortgage brokers, etc. The day-to-day operations of the credit union are more demanding and more costly than ever before. Complying with ever increasing regulations is expensive and time consuming. Opening a new account or processing a mortgage is increasingly more complicated. Cybersecurity is costly and with the breaches at Target, Anthem, etc. the regulators are scrutinizing everyone's security and how it is being monitored and tested.

Q: As the demographics of Windsor Locks have changed, how has the credit union had to change? A trend among credit unions is to focus on low-income communities. Has Windsor Locks Federal Credit Union targeted low-income groups?

A: Windsor Locks Federal Credit Union is a low-income designated credit union. We feel that our products and services are tailored to these individuals. Our membership fee is $25 and is deposited into a shared-savings account. We offer a free checking account with no minimum balances and no monthly fees.

In order to attract the unbanked we are offering a new account this year called Save to Win that allows members to save. Every time they deposit $25 they become eligible for an entry into a monthly or quarterly drawing for cash prizes. We hope that this will encourage people to save. Even though the demographics of Windsor Locks have changed over the years, our core values have not. 

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