Credit union reaches for more members, new offices

Call Federal Credit Union has expanded its membership opportunities. Photo by Michael Schwartz.

Call Federal Credit Union has expanded its membership opportunities. Photo by Michael Schwartz.

Another local credit union wants a bigger bite of the market.

Call Federal Credit Union, a $356 million institution headquartered on the Southside, said last week it received approval from its federal regulator to offer membership to the entire Richmond metro area.

The approval means Call FCU, already the second largest locally-based credit union after Virginia Credit Union, can expand to all 16 localities within the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).

With the new designation, CEO Roger Ball said the credit union has a branch expansion plan that will aim to open one new location a year for the next five years.

“We have said in our business plan we want to be identified as a Richmond community credit union,” he said. “We wanted to clearly make ourselves available to the Richmond MSA.”

Roger Ball

Roger Ball

Call FCU could already could membership in the region’s main four localities: Richmond and Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico counties. It received that designation, known as a community charter, in 2010 and has added about 7,500 new members as a result, Ball said.

Call has sought this larger community charter for a few years and first applied for it in December 2012. Ball said the credit union was already advertising in various outlets that reached the entire region, so it made sense to be able to complete the sales pitch.

“It was like we were extending an invitation to do business with us, but we legitimately couldn’t do business if they weren’t in that area,” he said.

As for the planned branch expansion, Ball said his organization will likely look for storefront locations in shopping centers around the region, those that have an anchor store that drive plenty of traffic.

Call FCU has about 29,000 members. In addition to its five current offices, it has ATMs in Rite Aid stores around the region.

Banks often see community charters as a way for not-for-profit credit unions to further step onto their turf but without having to pay taxes.

A handful of credit unions across Richmond have received community charters in recent years, including Connects FCU, Argent CU, Henrico FCU and Partners Financial FCU.

Many credit unions were founded with a focus on a narrow field of membership, such as employees at a factory or a church congregation. Ball said expansion has become necessary for some credit unions as larger so-called single-sponsor membership bases have become less common. For example, Ball said, there aren’t as many large factories whose employees can start and run a thriving credit union in the modern banking market.

“If a credit union is going to grow, it has to look for a membership base they can serve, and they may have to venture beyond where their origins were,” Ball said.

While bankers may not like the trend, Ball said he believes there’s plenty of market share to go around for large banks, community banks and credit unions.

“It’s definitely a much more competitive world,” he said. “But I think there’s enough business there.”

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