Taking Care of Its Own

With a “People Helping People” philosophy, Loyola University Employees Federal Credit Union’s CEO Harry Tram (right) and board president Howard Hayes (left) annually donate a toy-filled Christmas stocking to charity.

Loyola University Employees Federal Credit Union expands its financial-services suite to serve growing membership

Members own. Members control. Members benefit. Loyola University Employees Federal Credit Union (LUEFCU) operates based on this simple “M3” formula and its “People Helping People” philosophy to provide customers with fairly priced, customer-service-centric financial services. The nonprofit cooperative manages approximately $45 million in assets for more than 5,000 members on Loyola University Chicago campuses and affiliated primary care sites—up from the roughly $179,000 in assets and 1,000 members it saw in its first year of operation.

The credit union provides the same products and services as a traditional bank. The difference lies in its extra-mile effort to improve the financial health of all clients, regardless of their income level and credit score. About half of LUEFCU’s members fall into the lower economic bracket; it caters to these individuals with specialized products and services such as credit revival loans (no credit score required) and budgeting education sessions. Additionally, all of the financial institution’s fees are always under market.

“We’re not so focused on that ‘making money part’—a little more on the service and helping folks,” says CEO Harry Tram. “Most of these folks would be paying double somewhere else. If there is an ability to help someone and it will work for us and for whoever that other group might be, I am sure we can at least make an attempt to do it.”

Founded in 1979, the financial institution offers a comprehensive financial services suite that includes credit cards, loans, insurance, home banking and bill pay, direct deposit, and free education resources and seminars. For $25, a Loyola employee—as well as individuals supervised or paid by Loyola, eligible family members and, most recently, Loyola students—can open a lifetime member account.

Headquartered at Loyola’s Medical Center Campus in Maywood, Illinois, the credit union employs eight full-time staff members (Tram, a marketing coordinator, and six customer-service workers) dedicated to delivering friendly, personalized service. Nine enthusiastic volunteers specializing in diverse financial topics comprise the board of directors.

A general credit-union rule of thumb is to have one full-time staff member for every $3 million in assets managed; by that rule, LUEFCU would need to almost double its staff size. The group’s limited manpower, however, does not keep it from improving existing products and services and introducing new ones to best serve its growing membership.

Ongoing technological development, for example, is a major emphasis at LUEFCU. Rather than expand its physical presence to accommodate growth, the financial institution is taking a more cost- and resource-efficient approach at this time: enhancing its online reach.

“Before, members would come in—we could talk with them and learn,” Tram says. “As we get more sophisticated, we’re going to have to establish the same kind of relationships on electronic and digital levels. [LUEFCU] would like someday to be championing this kind of thing.”

The credit union is planning on revamping its website to provide expanded resources and to host a more user-friendly experience. It plans to incorporate, for example, video tutorials and a car-buying section that walks users through the processes of buying, maintaining, valuing, and selling a vehicle. Establishing a social-media presence is an objective as
well.

Another distinguishing business characteristic is LUEFCU’s commitment to not only its members but also the environment. The first focus of the credit union’s green initiative is to reduce paper use. Staff, most notably in marketing, is reaching out to members and potential members using multimedia—not only print—communications. Similarly, clients are encouraged to use home banking tools and sign up for electronic statements in order to reduce physical mailings.

LUEFCU’s growth does not stop here. The organization is issuing surveys and hosting focus groups to learn more about member needs and preferences, and its findings will help it continue fine-tuning and developing financial-services offerings. “It’s important to know our members,” Tram says, “so we can take care of them.”