Desert Financial leads with heart to conquer new markets

The Arizona cooperative commits time and money to fundraising, grants, and activities that revolve around the idea of giving back.

Desert Financial Credit Union ($7.8B, Phoenix, AZ) knows how to make a good impression. So good, in fact, that the cooperative won a “best local financial institution” award for the Prescott, AZ, area before it even opened a branch there.

Desert Financial has served its Phoenix home base since 1939, first as Arizona Educational Association #1 FCU, then as Desert Schools Credit Union, and finally as Desert Financial since 2018. The Valley of the Sun cooperative secured a statewide charter in 2020 and opened a supermarket branch in the Prescott Valley community in September 2021.

The cooperative already employed a “Give and Grow” mindset to counter slowing growth as it contended with growing competition from local financial institutions and fintechs alike, and the new charter pushed the credit union to think deeply about where to expand next.

“We were growing membership at less than 1% a year,” says Cathy Graham, who has been with the credit union for 15 years, the past two as executive vice president. “We knew if we’re not growing, we’re going to decline.”


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