Education First Credit Union: Keeping Member Service a Priority
Along Livingston Ave headed east towards Nationwide Children’s Hospital, sits a credit union many may not glance at twice. Education First Credit Union is housed in an ordinary old German Village brick building, with the front doors, not on the street but instead held on the south side, across from a large parking lot. Inside, is a newly remodeled state-of-the-art banking center, complete with automated tellers, an open inviting space with perfectly placed red accents.
Education First Credit Union has been in this location since the late ’80-s but dates its origins back to 1936 to the kitchen of Herb Williams, a teacher and the founder of Education First Credit Union. Reflective of their heritage and appreciation for the social impact that education has on society, the mission of Education First has changed minimally. From the beginning, Williams’ primary point of emphasis was to continue to serve the employees and students within that vital education community by providing the best service for all, from teachers to janitors, from administration to lunch ladies.
Over the years, Education First found it could not survive strictly serving only those in education. Deb Olbrys, Education First’s Chief Marketing Officer, said anyone can be a member of the credit union as long as you live or work in the six communities they serve or of course work in the education field. Even if a member moves from one of these communities or retires from the education field, they are still allowed to be members. Once a member, always a member.
How is a credit union different from a bank? Olbrys explained it this way. “Credit unions truly belong to their members. We are a not-for-profit, whereas banks generate a profit to satisfy stockholders, something credit unions do not have.” Therefore, excess earnings are returned to credit union members in the form of competitive dividend rates on savings and investment accounts, competitive interest rates on loans, and a low structured fee schedule. Olbrys continued to say, “Our board of directors are all volunteers and are representative of the full range of the membership field. They are voted into place by the members to tackle any major issues facing the credit union. Our members have power and make decisions, and we value their opinion.”
Education First is an organization committed to extending their services to a realistically manageable field of memberships. Olbrys explained, “We have the pleasure of looking at each person’s unique situation. If a member has been faithful to us and they are going through a rough patch, then we will reward them and may give a loan that others deem too risky.” Olbrys stressed how important it is for them to know their members not just from the perspective of a supplier of services, but on a deeper personal level. It is through these personal relationships that they are able to provide the financial education members need to successfully navigate the challenges and decisions linked to their financial success, and in turn, improve the quality of their life. Olbrys likes to say, “Its good people helping good people.”
Education First is serious about recognizing technology and applying it to their member’s needs. They were the first in their marketplace to install automated teller machines. Instead of having a physical person stand before you to handle all business, a teller is broadcast on a screen. Members have the option of picking up a phone and having a discreet conversation with the teller, and money is dispensed just like an ATM. The goal of these machines is to do routine transactions quicker and more efficient. All three of Education First’s locations Westerville, Gahanna and German Village, are equipped with the automated tellers.
Education First is devoted to providing members with proven state-of-the-art services and delivery mechanisms to better enable them to manage their own finances. They are proactive in alerting members to opportunities and innovations that could improve their situations, and to making themselves as easily accessible as possible. At least four other banks are looking at making the switch to these machines. They have sent representatives to Columbus to see them in action. Olbrys said during the transition period, it took time and patience for the public to accept it. They still have one regular teller at each location for members who would rather deal face to face and to make the shift easier.
It is clear that Education First holds the highest regard for its members. They have been located in German Village for the past 25 years and love it. Olbrys said they want to become even more involved in the community. That sometimes means giving time, not always money. They recently held a pet food drive for elderly pet owners who cannot always afford pet food. They also have a scholarship fund for high school seniors. So far, over $100,000 has been given away in scholarships.
For many of the residents of German Village, one of the things that make their community so special is the quality of residents and its businesses. In Education First Credit Union, German Village has a provider of financial services that’s committed to serving its customers and its community.