The city’s firefighters and police officers have joined forces – at least when it comes to banking.
The Richmond Fire Department Credit Union and the Richmond Police Department Credit Union have merged, in a deal that was finalized March 31.
The combined institution has been rebranded as the Richmond Virginia Fire Police Credit Union. It has a combined 2,500 members and about $21 million. Credit unions are not-for-profit and, consequently, the deal was a pure merger with no money changing hands.
It’s the latest in a trend of small credit unions tying the knot and was prompted initially by succession planning from the pending departure of RPDCU chief executive Alice Pope.
“The major item was that their CEO was getting ready to retire,” said Wallace Garland, who had been CEO of the RFDCU and is now head of the combined institutions. “They tried to find a replacement, but the cost was more than the individual sitting in the seat. They started look at other avenues.”
Once the two sides got to talking last year, they realized both brought something to the table that the other could use, Garland said.
The firefighters’ credit union was the larger of the two coming into the deal. It was founded in 1929 and had grown to 1,500 members and $14 million in total assets.
Its police department counterpart was founded in 1934 and brought about 1,000 members and $5.9 million in assets over in the deal.
The RFDCU had been offering home equity loans and IRAs, something the police credit union didn’t have. And the RPDCU had mobile banking capabilities, which was something the fire side had sought.
“We wanted to put as many resources out there as possible for members,” Garland said.
There were some philosophical and financial aspects that made the pairing a good fit, Garland said. Firefighters and police officers share a certain dedication to being municipal employees and protecting and serving the community. And the salary ranges for employees on both sides were similar, which made it easier to craft loan and savings products for the combined credit unions.
“We did hear some ‘We carry the guns, you carry the hoses,’ but it was more in a joking manner,” Garland said.
In the end, the members had the final say and overwhelmingly were on board with the deal. Garland said 100 percent of the police department credit union members who voted on the matter were in favor. And 96 percent of votes from the fire department side were pro-merger.
The combined credit union has a staff of seven full-time employees, including Garland, who retired from the city fire department in 2000 and took over the credit union that year.
It has two offices: one inside the firehouse at 900 Hermitage Road and one inside the RPD headquarters building at 200 W. Grace St.
In addition to the city police and fire departments, the credit union offers membership to employees of the Hanover County Fire Department, the Richmond Ambulance Authority and their immediate family members.