The following message was written by our President and CEO Marc Schaefer for our 2016 Annual Report.
Eight years into “financial recovery” from the crisis of 2008-2009, our members may be feeling somewhat comfortable – or at least optimistic – about what it means to be on track with their financial lives and more confident in their ability to stay on course to achieving their life’s goals. That usually implies strong employment opportunities, improved values of 401(k) plans and investments, along with appreciation in the value of homes.
Less than 20 years ago, our very existence was threatened by the banking industry’s efforts to eliminate credit unions as we know them by prohibiting all but a tiny fraction of consumers from having access. Only through a concerted and effective grassroots campaign by our members – one that resulted in sound national public policy – were we able to survive and focus our efforts on improving our members’ lives, particularly in the shadow of the financial crisis.
Public policy, as enacted by Congress and the accompanying branches of government, determine our ability to serve you. In light of the disclosures by a large financial institution prevalent in Truliant’s markets that they have pushed products even when not in the best interests of their customers, it is imperative that credit union choice remain a clear option for consumers. We cannot take our availability to consumers for granted, because public policy is always subject to change. As is often said in Washington D.C.: “If you are not a voice at the table, you may be a choice on the menu.”
As we approach our 65th year of service to our members, the value of what we provide becomes even clearer. Just as with building Truliant’s reputation as a trusted partner to our members, building your personal financial security takes time and consistent commitment.
Your focus on your future will need to continue through good times and bad, with changes to public policy and governments, and changes to your personal circumstances and perhaps employment. Knowing that Truliant will be there with you and your family — advocating for your best interests — can be a powerful aid.
During 2016 alone, through 166,386 direct member engagements, we discovered over 307,900 specific needs. Our Truliant team connected with our members on their “why” in life over 25,850 times — not to sell product, but to make sure we were helping them reach their goals. We uncovered 40,295 mid-range goals and 28,466 personal milestones they wished to prepare for.
As a pioneer in developing the No-Cost Credit Review for our members in 2009, we continued that work with 25,202 sessions with members in 2016, assisting them in understanding how to secure loans and other services, and with better terms. The contrast remains stark between Truliant’s approach to understanding and improving members’ lives and the profit/product push consumers experience in traditional consumer banking.
We improved members’ lives with 20,407 auto loans and over $404 million in financing. We made 548 first mortgage loans for our members to purchase homes with nearly $80 million in loans, and 2,460 Home Equity loans providing over $136 million in credit access. For our members who own small businesses, we originated financing for 77 term loans — providing $41 million in capital — and over 225 lines of credit and working capital for $1.9 million. These are the members who help create business and jobs in our communities. We are proud to serve them.
Companies that offer Truliant as a benefit for their workforce grew by 17 new Business Partners in 2016, and 20,816 of their staff became eligible to join through their employer. These workplaces recognized the incredible value this program could offer without any expense to the sponsor company. Knowing that your workforce is in the hands of a member-owned, not-for-profit credit union with their best financial interests at heart is an easy choice.
As we round out efforts to be convenient to consumers in the rapidly growing and traffic-challenged Charlotte market with our 14th Member Financial Center (MFC) location, the question is again asked: Why is Truliant building MFCs while large banks are closing their branches? The answer is simple. Our members want and need to engage with us from time to time to explore their roadmap to financial success. Yes, we have all of the state-of-the-art mobile applications (Tru2Go), online banking including remote check deposit, new account opening and electronic signature capability that you demand.
But those do not substitute in all cases for the type of honest and complete conversations that our members need and deserve from their trusted financial services partner. A quick stop into any of our soon-to-be 33 locations demonstrates clearly that consumers are interested in face-to-face service, along with best-in-class mobile access.
As a part of each community we live in, care about and serve, Truliant leaders engage directly where it matters. To that end, we launched the Truliant Education Fund, pledging $200,000 in grant funding directly to local teachers over the next five years to improve financial education in public schools, grades 6-12.
This recognizes that Truliant has reached over 200,000 member-owners but, more importantly, we care about the financial choices our children will be making as they find their way in life. In addition, we conducted 26 different financial education programs including “reality fairs” throughout our markets. Our student-run credit unions at East Forsyth High School and Wiley Middle School continue to provide direct learning experience to participants.
I began by commenting on the “financial recovery.” Not everyone, and perhaps many, do not feel “recovered.” Those that feel like they’ve made good progress to become financially strong would like to stay on that track, and those who do not feel “recovered” would like to improve their financial position. There will be future recessions. Home values and investments, particularly those in the stock market, will go up and down. Truliant, through member-ownership, is structured and, through our mission-focus, culturally-oriented to be there for all of our members; helping them to get on track and stay on course to their financial destination.
Sustained, life-time recovery and financial stability for our members is our primary goal.
Through the thoughtful work of our volunteers, including the Board of Directors, Associate Directors, Advisory Board and Supervisory Committee, we maintain our course and our strength to serve our members in good times and bad. On behalf of the staff and management of Truliant, we are grateful for the support of our Business Partners, our small businesses, our volunteers and most importantly, our member-owners for providing us with the opportunity to serve our communities.
Understanding how our mission makes us different — where and when it matters to the consumers and small businesses we serve — will ensure those important benefits will continue for decades to come.
President and CEO