Spend just five minutes with Ann Flannigan, Vice President of Public Relations for Washington State Employees Credit Union (WSECU), and you will convert to a raving fan of a credit union. Combine Flannigan’s passion with a beautiful new, LEED Gold certified building and it’s easy to see why WSECU is a pinnacle in Thurston County.
WSECU was founded in 1957 by 40 Washington State employees who had grown frustrated with banking alternatives. Customer account #1 was opened by Dean Egan when he deposited the first check of $5.25 on July 17, 1957. A copy of the check hangs in Flannigan’s office. WSECU continues to thrive because of its ability to understand and serve the needs of Washington State’s public employees and their families.
Currently, WSECU has about 162,000 members, 485 full-time equivalent employees, and $1.6 billion in assets. WSECU is enjoying a healthy 2-3% growth in membership over the years, higher than the national average for the credit union industry. “Many of our members are surprised to learn that we have grown to 19 branches state-wide. They think of us as their small, cozy, warm credit union and we are proud of our friends and family atmosphere,” said Flannigan.
WSECU’s service is a hallmark, as displayed by a WSECU core value which reads “Treat all members like Dean Egan.” Employees are continually recognized for outstanding member service and displaying a credit union industry value of “people helping people”. Flannigan shared some service stories including employees who drive papers to a member’s home to be signed, the patience staff show when working with members who are victims of identity theft and even some potentially life-saving skills. One contact center representative noticed the member he was speaking with was getting disoriented. The employee kept the member on the line while contacting a neighbor who came over to check on the woman and ultimately got her to the hospital. All in the line of duty at the credit union!
When asked what differentiates a credit union from a bank, Flannigan explained that credit unions are not-for-profit entities. “Our earnings get returned to our members in the way of better rates and expanded services such as new branches or technology upgrades,” noted Flannigan. Additionally, credit unions operate with a volunteer, uncompensated board of directors. “Our board makes decisions by asking first ‘Is this good for the member?’ And, the next question is ‘Is this good for our employees?’” said Flannigan.
“There are many wonderful community banks in this town,” commented Flannigan. “We do not hold an ‘us vs. them’ mentality but rather are pleased to provide a different choice. We think that many people appreciate our not-for-profit distinction,” continued Flannigan.
Outside its branch walls, WSECU has a history of supporting programs and events that have a financial education goal and a tie to its core membership of public employees. Flannigan described a free financial education course geared towards middle school students. Titled “The Vault”, the program was designed by a certified teacher and includes lesson plans and activities tied to the state learning standards.
WSECU is proud of its community involvement. “We love having the YWCA of Olympia as our neighbor and have organized a drive for The Other Bank during our free shredding day,” said Flannigan. WSECU is also sponsoring a “community heroes” dress-up exhibit in the New Hands On Children’s Museum and lends support to the Dispute Resolution Center, Boys and Girls Clubs, Tumwater Farmers Market, Habitat for Humanity and the Olympia School District Foundation.
WSECU moved into its new building on 330 Union Ave SE in Olympia in October 2009. “We have slowly marched up Union”, described Flannigan when noting that previous building sites were all within a few block radius of the new headquarters building. Flannigan said that WSECU “worked very hard to be a good neighbor during construction of our building.”
“We researched a wide range of options for our new headquarters building,” explained Flannigan. “We opted for this location so that we could stay near our core members – public employees.”
Flannigan noted that public employees have been going through some difficult times with state budget reductions. WSECU encourages members to talk to the credit union early about financial solutions. “We appreciate the relationship and trust that our members have with us, especially at a time when the safety and security of public employment has been shaken,” stated Flannigan.