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How SCE Credit Union Focuses on Service Over Profit in Southern California and Southern Nevada

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How SCE Credit Union Focuses on Service Over Profit in Southern California and Southern Nevada

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Americans have two main options when it comes to core financial services – banks and credit unions. Banks have a reputation for being larger and offering more services, but in the 21st century, that’s only half true. Yes, many banks tend to have a larger footprint than credit unions, but most credit unions today offer just as many, if not more, services than banks.

And speaking of service, credit unions often go above and beyond to offer high-quality customer service to its members as well as providing strong support for the communities they serve.

That certainly holds true for SCE Credit Union.

SCE Credit Union was founded in 1952 and today has $825 million in assets and boasts more than 60,000 members across 10 branches in Southern California and Southern Nevada. The credit union also maintains thousands of shared branch locations across the country and nearly 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs available to its members.

SCE Credit Union also demonstrates a strong commitment to volunteerism, with its team members donating hundreds of hours to local community causes each year. The credit union also educates and empowers its communities in numerous ways.

We recently spoke with Kitty Hunter, SCE Credit Union’s Chief Lending Officer, to learn more about the credit union’s products and services, its impact on the community, and how it’s responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A range of financial products and services built for any income level

SCE Credit Union bills itself as a “not for profit, but for service” institution. And that bears out in the products and services it makes available to its members.

“We offer a full range of financial services to our members, from basic savings and checking accounts to mortgage loans and complex investment planning,” according to the credit union website. “Our members are our owners and each member has one vote and equal ownership in the Credit Union.”

Accessing the full range of financial services isn’t always available for those in lower income brackets. Lack of credit history, low credit scores, annual incomes, and other considerations can stand in the way of loans and sometimes even checking accounts at some financial institutions.

But SCE Credit Union aims to help not hinder its members, Hunter said. That’s why it offers options such as its Credit Builder loan.

“We developed our Credit Builder loan program because in lower-income communities they have a difficult time with (accessing) credit,” she said. “And that causes them to go to alternative sources like payday lenders and other high interest sources of loans.”

Turning to those kinds of alternative lenders can result in borrowers who are already in a tough financial position paying much higher interest rates than they need to, Hunter said.

SCE Credit Union allows these consumers to not only access credit but to build it as well, and help improve their future financial outlook.

“We get it, life happens. And sometimes that means your credit score might need a little help,” according to the institution website. “We want to get you on the road to financial success and our credit building loan is one of the best ways to build credit… and save.”

The program also helps borrowers develop healthy savings habits.

SCE FCU’s nonprofit strengthens the community through financial education initiatives

Hunter also leads the credit union’s efforts that directly impact the community a mission she and the organization are very passionate about, she said.

In fact, the  credit union’s stated mission is “to improve the lives of our members, our communities and our team.” This includes providing numerous financial education programs geared toward various segments of the community.

The credit union’s nonprofit, the Center for Financial Empowerment (CFE), leads the charge on many of these efforts.

“Making healthy financial choices involves understanding the difference between needs and wants, as well as the concept of opportunity costs,” according to the credit union website. “While it may be important foundational knowledge for teens, everyone can benefit from a reminder of the basics from time to time.”

That’s why the CFE facilitates educational workshops and activities for high school students and young adults to empower them and teach real-life financial lessons.

Hunter said the credit union also helps make positive impacts in the areas it serves through partnerships with community-based organizations.

She recalled one story in particular where a workshop ended with an attendee making big financial changes in her life almost immediately. The workshop attendee stayed after the class was over to discuss her finances because she was having a hard time keeping up and had recently taken out some loans simply to get by.

The instructor took out his laptop and sat down to help her.

“They started working through her credit reports and found out she had some old collections accounts, and at the end of their meeting, the instructor was able to work with her to consolidate her loans and have the collections removed,” Hunter said. “We brought her payments down from $1,100 to $425 a month.”

The credit union website also hosts a range of financial education modules to help people get back on healthy financial footing. The institution offers financial counseling as well.

Helping out during the COVID-19 pandemic

SCE Credit Union, as so many businesses of all kinds, has grappled with how to best serve its customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. But with its service-focused mission, the credit union continues to do its very best to help its members through this challenging time.

“As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to impact our primary markets of Southern California and Southern Nevada, and throughout the nation, we’re here to serve you,” according to the credit union website.

The institution had initially limited its branch hours and allowed only select transactions to occur inside the branches. Although branch hours and the ability to perform in-branch transactions have normalized, the credit union still welcomes its members to take advantage of its many online services.

“We’re closely monitoring information from local, state, and federal health officials to ensure we’re acting consistently with recommendations and guidelines from those agencies,” according to the institution.

 It’s also offering remote work options for its team members to have fewer people occupying the branches at any given time. The credit union is also diligently sanitizing surfaces and has removed cookies, water, coffee, candy, magazines, and toys from branch lobbies.

Hunter said SCE Credit Union has also been able to shift many of its financial education workshops online.

“When COVID broke out and people weren’t being able to meet, we had to figure out how to still provide this information to our members,” she said.

The credit union worked quickly to shift its in-person workshops to online portals like Zoom and Facebook Live.

“This year, we’ve done 65 workshops, and we’ve had 971 attendees, so I’m feeling pretty good about that,” Hunter said.

If you’re a Southern California or Southern Nevada resident – whether you’re seeking a loan to help rebuild your credit or simply need an educational booster shot – SCE Credit Union can help.