‘Best kept secret in banking’ offers members outstanding services and additional benefits
By Barbara Allen, Contributing Writer
Region – Credit unions are the “best kept secret in banking,” according to David Kaiser, Vice President of Retail Services for Central One Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Shrewsbury.
The concept of this alternative to traditional banking, Kaiser explained, was born in Europe in the mid-1800s, taking root in the United States during the early 1900s. Originally designed to “serve the underserved,” it offered an opportunity to provide affordable banking services to those in need. These “financial cooperatives,” organized by a group of people who were seeking to obtain credit and had a common bond, such as an employer, occupation, religion, or community (hence, a “union” of common interest), became known as credit unions.
Although credit unions offer the same services and products as banks, they differ from banks in their structure and ownership. Banks are for-profit entities, traditionally formed by investors, who are owners but not necessarily customers, potentially creating a situation wherein conflicts of interest between the two could occur.
Credit unions, on the other hand, are not-for-profit. Customers are limited to member owners who belong to the occupation or community-based group as defined by the credit union’s charter. Any profits are reinvested into the credit union, resulting in better member rates for products and services.
“Since credit unions have only one group of members representing both owners and customers, the primary goal of a credit union is to provide the best banking services at the best cost,” said Kaiser. “We don’t have the investor versus customer conflict. I think common sense would indicate that an institution that is 100 percent owned, controlled, and focused on its customers would be better able to meet your needs than one that is controlled by profit-motivated investors.”
Central One Federal Credit Union, originally formed in 1952 as an occupational-based credit union for the employees of what is now National Grid, applied to change its charter to community-based in 1998. For membership, one needs to live, work, worship, attend school or own a business in one of the 25 Central Massachusetts communities served by Central One. Immediate family members are also eligible to join.
Regardless of the amount of money they have on deposit, each member has one equal share of ownership in the credit union. For membership, customers need only to deposit and maintain a balance of $5 into a savings account with Central One.
“Everyone is treated equally—whether you are a millionaire or have only pennies,” Kaiser asserted.
For members, that translates to better deposit and lending rates, fewer fees, and additional benefits not offered by traditional banks.
One popular member benefit is the Auto Advisor car shopping and buying service. Members contact the Auto Advisor with a description of the type of vehicle they are looking to purchase. The Auto Advisor then contacts dozens of dealerships in search of the best deal, then accompanies the member to the dealership at the time of purchase to expedite the sales process. It is a free service which works for the benefit of the member and is not dependent on them obtaining an auto loan through Central One.
Central One Federal Credit Union is not only dedicated to its members, but to the communities they serve. Their commitment to financial literacy has resulted in 25 years of in-school programs designed to build healthy financial habits, teaching students about spending, building credit, and budgeting.
“We tell children to study hard to get good grades, which will get them into a good college and then a good job to earn a good income, but we stop there,” said Kaiser. “We don’t teach them how to manage the money. Financial literacy education is critical to solve this problem.”
For more information about Central One Federal Credit Union, branch locations, membership, products, and services offered, visit their website at www.centralfcu.com or call 1-800-527-1017.