Credit unions see growth

Published 8:12 am Wednesday, July 28, 2010

FRANKLIN—Bronco Federal Credit Union has been adding members at a healthy pace for the last 15 months, mirroring a statewide trend that has seen Virginia’s 191 credit unions add almost a half-million new members.

According to data from the National Credit Union Administration, credit unions in Virginia added new members at a rate of 6.4 percent — well above the national average of 1 to 1.5 percent — between December 2008 and March 2010.

Bronco has grown during that timeframe as well. NCUA reported the credit union had 17,710 members in December 2008. That number climbed to 19,554 by March 2010, a growth rate of 10.4 percent.

“Our brand is strong in this area, so that brings us much business,” said Pam Vaughan, who serves as the marketing and human resources manager for Bronco. “I have also heard many people say they are tired of ‘big banks.’ Credit unions and community banks are benefiting from that.”

NCUA said credit unions based in the state had 6.7 million members in March.

“Consumers are looking for a better deal for financial services, and they’re finding it at Virginia’s credit unions,” Virginia Credit Union League President Rick Pillow said in a written statement. “Consumers are heeding the advice of the major media outlets and consumer advice columnists that have been urging consumers to move their money to credit unions to take advantage of free checking, lower fees, better rates and more personalized service.”

BFCU was chartered in 1941, but membership at first was exclusive to employees of Camp Manufacturing Co. After the 1956 merger between Camp Manufacturing and the Union Bag and Paper Co., membership was extended to the employees of the combined company, Union Camp Corp.

The credit union expanded membership eligibility after the flood of 1999, the same year the National Credit Union Administration allowed BFCU to become a credit union for select employee groups. Those groups comprised 57 small and large employers, including the City of Franklin, Southampton Memorial Hospital and the local school systems.

Eligibility expanded again in 2002 or 2003, when the NCUA provided a community charter to BFCU, essentially offering membership to anyone who lives, works, worships, attends school or does business regularly in the Southside Virginia region from Southampton County to Virginia Beach.

In December, Bronco officials said about 14 percent of its membership, about 2,660 people, were employees of International Paper Co.

NCUA, which is based in Alexandria, Va., reported that Bronco had assets worth $200,837,907 for the March 2010 report. The credit union was named Business of the Year by the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce in March 2009.