Ypsilanti Area Federal Credit Union to become Washtenaw Federal Credit Union
The Ypsilanti Area Federal Credit Union is changing its name to Washtenaw Federal Credit Union, marking the latest in a series of changes for the region's financial services industry.
The change goes into effect Thursday. It comes after the credit union last year broadened its membership requirements to allow anyone who lives, works, worships or completes coursework in Washtenaw County to join.
"We thought that we should be more inclusive of the name to cover that field of membership," CEO Gregory Gurka said. "It should cover the actual field of membership, not just one small portion of it."
The credit union has benefited from the eligibility changes - not to mention growing national interest in locally based financial institutions in the wake of the global financial crisis, which exposed irresponsible practices at major banks and prompted many consumers to look elsewhere.
The credit union's deposits surged from about $25 million at the end of 2008 to $30.5 million today, Gurka said. Nationally, credit unions now have 10 percent of consumer deposits, up from 9 percent before the financial crisis, according to the New Rules Project's Community Banking Initiative.
"We are getting people from greater distances, not from the far west side of the county, but we're getting them from Pittsfield, the Ann Arbor area, more from Superior Township," Gurka said. "We're seeing them leave other financial institutions to come here to keep their money more local. I think they feel more secure knowing that we're based within Michigan, we're based within their community."
The change, approved by the credit union's board of directors in April, has been communicated to members for the last five weeks, Gurka said.
Dave Adams, CEO of the Michigan Credit Union League, said many credit unions have broadened their membership eligibility since legislative changes in 2003.
"People need to know that they can join a credit union," he said. "They can join more than one credit union."
The switch comes as the local credit union industry is in the midst of several changes.
The University of Michigan Credit Union earlier this month purchased the former Ann Arbor News building, allowing the institution to expand into bigger corporate headquarters. Also this month, Dearborn-based DFCU Financial agreed to absorb Ann Arbor-based MidWest Financial Credit Union, which had been enduring a series of losses.
Gurka said Washtenaw Federal Credit Union will be positioned to expand its physical footprint as its membership grows.
The credit union is currently investing $750,000 to build a new freestanding branch about a block north of its existing branch on Whittaker Road. The existing branch will move to the new location sometime in September, Gurka said.
The credit union also has another branch on Michigan Avenue near Mansfield.
Gurka said he wasn't too concerned the credit union would face community criticism for stripping "Ypsilanti" out of its name.
"We assume there would be some," he said. "But overall it's been well-received."