Oregon State Credit Union Starts 2015 With New Name, Same Vision

“In our focus groups, everyone already called us Oregon State Credit Union,” said Rick Hein, CEO of the credit union that until recently was called OSU Federal. “And we found one other interesting thing in the focus groups. Members and non-members alike, and especially non-members, told us that being a member of the credit union was prestigious. We decided we had to keep that identity.”

Founded in 1954 for the employees of Oregon State College in Corvallis, Oregon, the credit union switched from a federal to a state charter at the beginning of 2015 and changed its name to Oregon State Credit Union.

A Tale of Two Charters

With the new charter, Oregon State Credit Union expanded their field of membership from five Oregon counties to 24 counties running the whole of Oregon’s western coast and into its central region. But they have no plans for immediate expansion. In fact, Hein said, the larger field of membership is not what drove the charter change.

“For the past 60 years our credit union has experienced all organic growth,” said Hein. “The reason to move to a state charter was not for overwhelming growth, or to put a branch in Portland or Bend.” Instead, Hein said that it was the modernization of the Oregon charter that prompted the change, and the relative stagnation of the federal charter.

“We moved to a state charter because the federal charter was not being modernized like the state charter,” said Hein. “There are plenty of examples. For instance, under the federal charter, if you need to remove someone from the field of membership, you have to call a meeting of the members. Under the state charter you can present your case to the board of directors, as it should be.”

Hein said that credit was due to Oregon credit union advocates. “Because of the strength of our relationships in the Oregon legislature,” he said, “and the education and communication that we’re able to do, we are able to effectively share the value of credit unions and move the charter forward.”

Hein and his team were casting vision out five, ten and twenty years, and saw that the gridlock in Washington, D.C. that has kept the federal charter from evolving with the industry had no clear end in sight. “Where we felt constraints was not this year or next year,” he said, “it’s when we looked out 10 or 20 years. The federal charter and the gridlock in Washington didn’t look like they were going to change.”     

“2014 was the year we needed to make the change because of other major projects in the pipeline,” said Hein. They launched the new charter and name on January 1, 2015.

New Look, Same Great Credit Union

Though the name and charter are big changes, Hein says that the much bigger story is what is not changing. Oregon State Credit Union’s team, its branches, its commitment to the communities it serves, and its focus on serving its members above all else remain totally intact.

“We’re here for one purpose and one purpose alone,” said Hein, “and that’s to serve our members.” He said that every new employee, before they start training for their position, gets an orientation on what a credit union is and what makes it special.

“Our vision is to create financial solutions to make lives better,” said Hein. “And that vision is as strong as ever.”

Oregon State Credit Union will also continue its legacy of community impact. In 2014 the credit union won two national CUNA Desjardins Awards for their work in financial education, both with prisoners in Oregon state correctional facilities and with teenagers at community Boys & Girls Clubs.

“Financial education is one of those basic tools that I learned in middle school or high school, but that because of budget cuts isn’t taught anymore,” said Hein. “It’s at the very root of what we do, of financial solutions to make lives better. It’s not going to add basis points to our bottom line, but it will benefit our communities in the long run.”

Hein pointed out that Oregon State Credit Union employs a full-time community education coordinator, a position that differentiates the credit union from many other financial institutions. “I’m sure as we continue to grow into other areas we’ll bring on more folks to do the same,” he said.

Oregon State Credit Union employees are also encouraged to serve their communities individually, said Hein, and every year at their annual winter gala they recognize one team member who demonstrated outstanding community service with the Gene Hatfield Community Service Award. “Our people are the face of Oregon State Credit Union in the communities they serve,” said Hein. “Not me, not the COO or CFO, it’s everyone who works in that community.”

OSU Federal built a legacy of success and respect with its twin commitments to serving members and community. As they begin 2015 as Oregon State Credit Union with their modernized state charter, the credit union plans to continue doing what they have always done: creating financial solutions to make lives better.

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790, jpearson@nwcua.org.

Posted in Advocacy News, Federal.