Low-in­come? No prob­lem

The $277 mil­lion credit union’s goal is ‘to serve ev­ery mem­ber that walks through the doors,’ ac­cord­ing to CEO Jeff Ben­son. That some­times re­quires cre­ative solutions.

Credit Union Journal - - Front Page - BY NATHAN DICAMILLO

MAN­AGE­MENT AT CASE CREDIT UNION wants em­ploy­ees to step away from a list of check­boxes when work­ing with mem­bers.

“All of our staff go through a se­ries of mem­ber loy­alty train­ings,” said VP of Lend­ing Brett Pacek. “We want them to lis­ten to each in­di­vid­ual mem­ber’s story. Then, by virtue of look­ing at their credit re­port, their story, their pay­ment his­to­ries and ask­ing the right ques­tions, to qual­ify them for the loan prod­uct or service to suit their in­di­vid­ual needs.”

The Lans­ing, Mich.-based CU was re­cently rec­og­nized for ex­em­plary lend­ing prac­tices at the 23rd CUNA Lend­ing Coun­cil An­nual Con­fer­ence with an Ex­cel­lence in Lend­ing Award for low-to-mod­est means lend­ing at credit unions with as­sets more than $250 mil­lion.

As a Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Fi­nan­cial In­sti­tu­tion, the ma­jor­ity of CASE Credit Union’s mem­bers are low-to-mod­est means and ap­prox­i­mately a quar­ter of the CU’S mem­ber­ship is low-in­come.

“Our goal is to serve ev­ery mem­ber that walks through the doors,” said Pres­i­dent and CEO Jeff Ben­son. “Re­gard­less if they’re un­banked or if they are banked but their credit is al­ready chal­lenged, we can get them a good prod­uct.”

The credit union was high­lighted for three of its pro­grams specif­i­cally aimed at serv­ing its low-in­come mem­bers.

Its Bor­row and Save Loan Launch helps bor­row­ers de­velop a sav­ings habit by pro­vid­ing 50 per­cent of the loan amount up front and set­ting the rest aside in a sav­ings ac­count that is re­leased when the loan is paid off.

The Re­spon­si­ble Ride Auto Loan pro­gram re­moves ve­hi­cle year and mileage guide­lines so mem­bers can ob­tain fi­nanc­ing for lower-cost ve­hi­cles. Most guide­lines won’t fi­nance any ve­hi­cle older than 2012 or has more than 150,000 miles on it, Pacek said. So long as the ve­hi­cle is un­der $7,500, CASE CU will fi­nance the car through this pro­gram.

The new­est of these ini­tia­tives, the Prop­erty Tax Fore­clo­sure Home Eq­uity pi­lot pro­gram, of­fers fi­nan­cial coun­sel­ing and loans for mem­bers who own homes out­right but are in dan­ger of fore­clo­sure for fail­ure to pay prop­erty taxes.

“We came across in­di­vid­u­als in our com­mu­nity through one of our part­ner or­ga­ni­za­tions that iden­ti­fied folks that had homes owned free and clear … but for what­ever rea­son had just stopped pay­ing their taxes,” Pacek said. CASE CU gives them a HELOC and es­crows the ac­count so the mem­ber pays the taxes on time and avoids fore­clo­sure.

For these pro­grams, fi­nan­cial per­for­mance is closely mon­i­tored, but the board and ex­ec­u­tive team have agreed to ac­cept higher delin­quency rates to serve mem­bers of low-to-mod­est means.

“We’ve been sur­prised be­cause [the rate of delin­quen­cies] has been pretty much flat,” Ben­son said. “We ac­tu­ally got board ap­proval to re­ceive more delin­quen­cies, but we found out that they pay, and they pay them on time.”

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