The Future of Home-Based CUs

Many home-based CUs face an uncertain future in the wake of an NCUA proposed rule.

June 26, 2014
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Jonelle McMillen knows precisely when her work day begins. “Either after breakfast or whenever the phone rings,” she says. “Sometimes that’s before 7 a.m.”

McMillen “commutes” from her kitchen to a spare bedroom that has served as the headquarters of the Beaver Falls (Pa.) Teachers Federal Credit Union for the past 13 years. She manages the credit union’s operations out of this space, but certainly doesn’t confine herself to it. McMillen makes regular visits to the school district’s four schools to meet with members. She has been known to meet with them at high-school football and basketball games, and even the mall.

“I have been referred to as the credit union on wheels,” she says.

Beaver Falls Teachers Federal, with $2.5 million in assets and a healthy net worth, celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. The 520-member credit union offers auto and personal loans, online banking, and soon will launch automated clearinghouse (ACH) services, as well as debit and credit cards.

But it’s also one of about 74 federally insured credit unions facing an uncertain future. That’s because NCUA issued a proposed rule in December that would require home-based credit unions to move into commercial office space within two years of a final rule. If NCUA’s proposal passes in its current form, home-based credit unions would immediately be required to schedule any meetings (including examinations) with NCUA staff in public places (“CUNA: Proposed rule too broad”).

“When our board members were first told of the proposed rule, they were very upset, and said we probably didn’t have any choice but to merge, and I tend to agree,” McMillen says. “But for now, we’re playing wait-and-see.”

‘High-touch’ service

For 17 years, Rick Frey has managed $702,000 asset Eagle Can Employees Federal Credit Union from his home in Wellsburg, W.Va. Frey retired from Eagle Manufacturing Co. about 18 months ago, after working 43 years alongside most of the credit union’s 157 members.

When employed at the plant, Frey would oft en conduct credit union business during lunch breaks or after hours. If need be, he’d return to the plant to deliver a check to a member who worked a different shift . And Frey had the company’s blessing to step away from his factory job to handle urgent credit union business.

“They’re not high-tech, but they’re certainly high-touch,” says Ken Watts, president of the West Virginia Credit Union League (WVCUL).

Eagle Manufacturing Co. has furnished the credit union with a secure office at the plant—equipped with a desk, computer, file cabinets, a phone line, and an Internet connection. Frey maintains a regular presence there, serving employees and executives.

It’s his custom to make life easier by delivering checks to members’ workstations. “I try to keep the members spoiled,” Frey says.

The company has given Frey approval to transition the credit union’s entire operations to the office to comply with the NCUA’s final rule, if necessary.

“They’re extremely supportive,” Frey says. “If I need anything, they’ll help us.”

NEXT: A way of life

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