By: Brian Wolfburg, President/CEO, VyStar Credit Union
April marks my first six months as the President/CEO of VyStar Credit Union—and what a busy and productive first six months it has been! I am excited about the changes that have already taken place at VyStar, as well as those that are soon to come.
While I continue my work with the Board of Directors and Senior Management Team to improve our internal processes and efficiencies, I am equally focused on ways we can make it easier for you to access and transact on your accounts, and how we can give back more to our member-owners and communities. Now and in the coming months, our members will see this increased return take several forms, including expanded access to our delivery channels and lower fees.
This movement toward change began late last year, when we began to steadily increase our Certificate of Deposit (CD) rates. This was not simply a deposit rate increase, but a permanent shift in our philosophy. Going forward, it is our goal to remain amongst the top local financial institutions when it comes to deposit rates.
You might ask, why not always be number one? Providing the best deposit rates possible is important; however, we also have to balance this with keeping our loan rates and service fees low and investing back into all of the other important aspects of the credit union’s infrastructure and delivery channels, as well as providing all of the friendly staff you have grown to know and love. Each of these requires money, and it is the balance between them that is challenging, but important, work.
Unlike banks, however, a credit union’s dollars will never be set aside for big investors or stockholders. It always goes back to you, our member-owners, in one way or another. While you have seen our deposit rates increasing, you may have also noticed many service fees being eliminated. During the first half of 2018, we are working hard to eliminate and/or reduce over half of our service fees, as we never forget that it’s your money.
We also know it is important for VyStar to maintain a highly visible and active local presence in Northeast to Central Florida. This presence includes continuing to grow our robust in-person branch presence, ATM network and local Contact Center, all while remaining actively engaged in our communities.
In addition to our existing well-developed branch infrastructure, ATM network and Contact Center service levels, we are looking at new and exciting ways to become even more accessible to our members through these delivery channels. Last month, we significantly expanded our local network of more than 230 ATMs to include over 20,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide at convenient retail locations, including Target®, Costco, Speedway, CVS, Walgreens and Duane Reade. This has already saved our members over $40,000 in just one month, as members conducted over 10,000 withdrawals at these surcharge-free ATMs.
In the coming weeks, we will announce another great improvement to our service offering: the extension of our Contact Center and VyChat hours of operation to seven days a week, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Our members’ needs do not shut down at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, so neither will we. No longer will a member have to wait until Monday morning to ask us a question or complete a transaction.
This year, VyStar will also continue to meet the needs of our growing membership with strategic plans for expansion and growth. 2018 is already off to a busy and exciting start for our credit union in terms of new and improved branch locations. In February, VyStar opened its 46th branch, Gainesville Oaks. This branch joins VyStar’s first Gainesville location, which opened over 10 years ago. We are excited to be in Gainesville and to grow with this great community. Our Gainesville Oaks location reflects our commitment to bringing the VyStar difference to local residents, students and businesses.
The construction of the new VyStar branches in Orange City and DeLand is well underway, with plans to open these locations later this year. Planning is also underway for VyStar’s newest High School Credit Union Branch, which will be in Yulee and will be ready for the 2018/2019 school year. This will be our 14th High School Credit Union Branch.
While we are going to continue building new branches and expanding into new markets, we are also going to increase our focus on our older branches. These locations serve the majority of our membership, and it is important that they remain current and fresh, appeal to our members and meet their needs. We will be refurbishing/remodeling more of our older branches and introducing more new technology at those locations.
Lastly, in an effort to meet the needs of our business members and support branch activity in each of our communities, we will be restructuring our Business Services department, introducing new small business products and adding more business lenders in 2018.
While not all-encompassing, I hope this message begins to let you see some of our efforts and feel the energy around these exciting changes. My team and I are committed to making this the best place for members to meet their financial needs, and for employees to work. Thank you for your membership and for continuing to make VyStar the successful organization it is.
VyStar Credit Union