St. Francis X. Federal Credit Union celebrates 60th anniversary
This location of St. Francis X. Federal Credit Union has been at 224 State St. in downtown Petoskey since 1963. (Mark Lindsay/Saturday)
Father Hugolinus Keiner led a group of St. Francis Xavier parishioners who organized St. Francis Credit Union in the early 1950s. The credit union won its charter on April 5, 1951, and began serving the Emmet County Catholic community.
"All of the Catholic church members and their relatives qualify to join the credit union," said Scott Bingaman, CEO of St. Francis X. Federal Credit Union. "In this community there are more people than you might think, when you factor in all relatives."
After a rocky start in the church monastery, the credit union saw steady but relatively slow growth in the '50s. As the membership increased, a move was called for to allow better access and convenience. The credit union was eventually moved to Mitchell Street, where it continued to grow and do well. The next decade brought a membership explosion, and by the end of 1962, St. Francis credit union boasted 1,543 members and $880,000 in assets.
The skyrocketing membership caused renewed space difficulties. A site at the corner of State and Petoskey streets presented itself as an ideal location for a new facility, close to the post office and newspaper, and to St. Francis Xavier church and school. The staff moved into the newly-constructed offices on Jan. 1, 1963. The cost of the project, including land, building, legal and architectural fees, furniture and fixtures, totaled $40,000.
Steady membership and asset growth in ensuing years allowed for the addition of new products and services, and the credit union eventually became a full-service facility.
"St. Francis has always been on the cutting edge of new technology and products for its members," Bingaman noted.
With assets at more than $24 million in the early 1990s, it became apparent that the State Street office was not adequate to serve the members, and the decision was made to build an additional office. After searching the area for the right opportunity, property on M-119 was purchased. The facility opened for business on Feb. 11, 1993.
Credit unions are not-for-profit, mutually owned and democratically controlled financial institutions. Profits are returned to members in the form of higher dividends and lower rates on loans, according to the credit union's website.
"Another advantage to credit union membership is that all of our financing and investment is held locally," Bingaman said.
Any excess income, after reserve requirements are met, is retained in undivided earnings. Since credit unions are not stock-issuing corporations and have no means of creating capital other than through retention, their undivided earnings often serve as a cushion in lean years.
Credit unions are unique financial institutions able to operate in a highly efficient manner with lower fees and higher dividends because they work closely with sponsors and are operated to a large extent with the use of volunteers, according to the credit union's website. The board of directors, supervisory and credit committees receive no pay.
St. Francis offers many technology services to its membership. Text banking, which allows members to perform many banking functions using short codes from their cell phones, is one new option. They also offer a complete online budget program that members may take advantage of to help manage their finances. The E-Budget program provides alerts to those using it when they deviate from their plan.
"While many community banks are being bought up by conglomerates, St. Francis has and will continue to remain local and firm in its commitment to serve Catholic families in Emmet County," Bingaman noted.
"We really want to thank the community for its unwavering support, especially through the last several lean years," Bingaman added. "When many banks were folding and looking for bailouts, our membership stayed solid and as a result so has St. Francis. We have a really great group of people in our community, and we appreciate them very much."
St. Francis has three locations in the local area, downtown Petoskey at 224 State St., Harbor Springs at 7681 State Road and Harbor-Petoskey at 2140 M-119.
For more information on St. Francis X. Federal Credit Union, visit www.stfranciscu.org or call (231) 347-8480.