More markets. More members. More growth.

A new name and a new leader at the helm have helped Arbor Financial Credit Union post double-digit growth in core performance areas. What’s next for the Michigan cooperative?

Four years ago, Arbor Financial Credit Union($652.M, Kalamazoo, MI) was a different financial institution —  both by brand and by plan.

Known then as Educational Community Credit Union, the cooperative had a community charter for 21 counties that allowed it to serve more than educators; however, its name created a marketing barrier that limited its growth potential. Between 2010 and 2015, the credit union increased assets 24%, compared with a statewide growth rate of 41% over the same period.

“We thought it would be good enough to say everyone could belong,” says Earle Shelner, the credit union’s chief financial officer. “But having the word ‘Educational’ prevented members from even looking at us.”

After a nationwide search to replace its retiring CEO, the credit union hired Julie Blitchok in March 2015. Blitchok previously worked for the state’s largest cooperative, Lake Michigan Credit Union($6.5B, Grand Rapids, MI), as its senior vice president of retail operations. There, she saw firsthand how a large branch footprint — again the state’s largest — could affect growth.


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