NorthPark Community CU goes 100% virtual to better serve members
CEO discusses leveraging technology to serve the underserved
GREENVILLE, SC (November 19, 2021) — NorthPark Community Credit Union is the first fully virtual credit union in the nation– both employees and members – to better serve its low-income community. NorthPark has retained Your Marketing Co. to ensure regular and appropriate communication with members during and following the transition to virtual.
“We serve low-income individuals, and when we spoke to our members they were saying, ‘we can’t take off work to come to the credit union,’” Carma Parrish, CEO of the $46.6 million credit union, said in explaining the move to virtual. “They work the same hours as us, and they don’t get a long enough lunch break to be able to come in, so that’s really hard for them.”
She continued, “They also do not like to apply for a loan in person, because they’re so afraid of being rejected and the embarrassment of having to walk out after being denied. They are used to applying online because it’s easier and faster.” Many don’t have cars, Parrish added, which also causes transportation issues for visiting NorthPark in person.
She concluded, “This is a good strategy that makes sense for who we serve.”
NorthPark began its journey of transitioning to being virtual in 2015 when Parrish came to the credit union. “Every piece of hardware we purchased we made sure was compatible for virtual,” she stated. In 2018, the Board agreed to transition the membership to virtual, as well as the staff, to position the credit union for growth. “As a small credit union, we can’t add staff easily, so we needed a way to reallocate our most expensive resources,” Parrish added. Plain and simple, they started educating and encouraging members who came into their physical branches to do their transactions virtually. By the time the pandemic hit in March of 2020, NorthPark was far ahead of the demand to switch everything virtual. It had shut down the first of three branches and were planning to shut down the second. The third branch, with a significant amount of traffic, only began the remote transition mid-year 2019 and within 6 months was able to reduce branch traffic by 25%. As of March 17, 2020, NorthPark was fully virtual, and all staff transitioned to other areas of the credit union with a focus on growth.
The switch to virtual has been beneficial for both members and the credit union. In the 20 months since NorthPark has been fully virtual, the credit union saved more than $100,000 in operating expenses, increased direct new loan volume by 80% and has hired employees for quality without being confined by geography. Those loan figures demonstrate the convenience members are experiencing with the move to virtual, and members also received a $50,000 bonus dividend the credit union was able to offer because of the cost savings. Plus, the credit union has extended its service hours to better suit the members’ needs.
“We are very excited to start working with Carma and her team at NorthPark,” Your Marketing Co. CEO Bo McDonald said. “Her credit union has seen the future and taken the bold and necessary steps to preserve the future of the credit union for its members. Moving fully remote is only proving its relevance to its members and that’s what we like to see from all credit unions, but especially smaller ones like NorthPark.”
NorthPark is a designated Community Development Financial Institution through the U.S. Treasury Department and low-income designated. The credit union serves the Indianapolis, Ind., area, which has an average income of less than $30,000 annually according to the 2019 US census data, significantly below the national average of $36,000. This remote approach to banking is ideal for serving low-income members and areas.
About Your Marketing Co.
Your Marketing Co., is a full-service strategic planning, branding and marketing firm serving credit unions that are not content with the status quo. Since 2008, YMC has helped dozens of credit unions grow their potential through strategy, execution and accountability. And we give a damn!