Coastal Federal Credit Union working to solve NC’s income gap

50th Anniversary

Coastal Federal Credit Union

This January I attended the Triangle Business Journal’s 2016 Businessperson of the Year Award Luncheon. For the first time since I can remember they nominated the CEO of a non-profit corporation, Chuck Purvis of Coastal Federal Credit Union (CFCU).  I had to be there!

Now many would say that CFCU has more in common with a for-profit bank than a non-profit organization. Chuck, however, made it clear that day his heart and his actions are grounded in the nonprofit mission of his organization.

Chuck publicly worries about growing income inequality across the country and specifically in North Carolina. Chuck believes it is the biggest threat to our democracy.

He is very concerned that fifty percent of all adults in the US have less than $400 in a financial institution, a sign so many of us exist on the edge of impending economic disaster!

Chuck is passionate about finding a way to change this. He is particularly concerned about those communities with incidences of high substance abuse, declining property values, lack of opportunity and economic depression.

How can CFCU have impact? Here are some of their strategies:

1) Create a Platform for High growth – Create a Vision and Step Into It! In three years the credit union expanded from two counties to five and now Chuck and his team are looking to expand to sixteen counties—all while continuing to grow their financial products at a rate of 10% per year. This is an amazing rate of organic growth (growth that is not caused by acquisitions and mergers). Expanded growth into lower-income counties will give the credit union a seat at the table in communities where income inequality is growing.

2) Don’t blindly follow your competition – instead innovate your operations to be as efficient as possible.  CFCU was the first financial institution in the world to use video tellers. Chuck recognized it was not a good idea for the credit union to hire tellers who would not be busy most of the day, and then completely slammed during times of high demand. This is what every bank blindly does.

Remote tellers via video allow members to see the teller in real time, but allow the tellers to do other important work when there are no members in branches. It works incredibly well.

Members no longer go to the bank and spend twenty minutes in line on a Friday afternoon. Employees can be deployed exactly where they are needed, best utilizing the credit union’s precious human and financial resources. This innovation is a win-win.

3) Care about Solving Real Problems that Impact the Organization’s Vision. CFCU recognized Habitat for Humanity’s important role in helping low-income families have a chance of growing real household equity through home ownership in Wake County.  Habitat had a problem because they loaned capital to their buyers at very low rates of interest for thirty years – a long time to tie up large amounts of cash.  CFCU developed a partnership with Habitat in Wake County to buy all of their mortgages.

This gave Habitat an immediate infusion of very large amounts of cash to expand their operations.  They now help more low-income families gain a foothold in home ownership and grow their wealth in a very real way.

4) Listen to Your Customers! CFCU recognized convenience matters to their members.  They are open seven days a week – the only financial institution in North Carolina to do this.  They do their biggest volume of transactions on the weekends.

5) Don’t be Afraid to Learn by Trial and Error: Chuck has a vision to make financial services much more user friendly to the ordinary customer many who have limited means.  He wants to develop apps for each product the credit union offers, making it easier for people to engage with the credit union, learn about and practice financially healthy habits and growth wealth.  After some intense experimentation, he is now building a company that will be an ‘app store’ providing financial applications accessible to CFCU members.

Inspired? What is one step you can take to innovate and move your organization forward more creatively, with more life, serving more people, solving real problems? Want someone to brainstorm with? Contact me here. I would love to innovate with you.

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