Union Turns 50
Customer service a core value
Photo courtesy of the U.Va. Community Credit Union
By Matt Kelly
of Virginia Community Credit Union celebrates
its golden anniversary this year, in large part
by being the gold standard of customer service.
The credit union — now 46,000 members strong, with $300 million in assets
and seven branch offices — started in 1954 at the prompting of Daniel D.
Colcock, a financial officer at the hospital. He had investigated a state employee
credit union in Richmond and saw the benefit to hospital employees at U.Va.
rest of us listened to him,” said founding board member John F. Harlan
Jr., an administrative assistant at the hospital at the time. “There was
a benefit, without any question, to some of the lower paid employees, who had
difficulty in a legitimate borrowing situation. There were plenty of people who
would lend them money, but the interest rates [they were being charged] were
Operating from a humble office with two chairs, a desk
and one part-time employee, the credit union
signed up 307 hospital employees during its
first year. “Once
you made the $5 payment and you got a share, you were a member and eligible to
borrow money and save money,” Harlan said.
those early days some of the members worked it out so that
their wives and children had passbooks.” Harlan remembers that his own passbook — the
small ledger-style book given to him by the credit union to record savings deposits,
withdrawals and earnings — was number 100.
The credit union had a three-member supervisory committee
and a three-member loan committee. Audits were
conducted annually. Under the credit union’s
original by-laws, if a borrower died, his or her loan was forgiven, and depositors
had life insurance equal to their holdings, up to $2,000.
was a good deal back then,” Harlan said. Loans were limited to a few
hundred dollars. “It could have been for a car, or a house add-on, or to
assist with college expenses,” Harlan said. “It was 1954, a time
when a dollar would go farther than today.”
The credit union closed its first year with $10,269.49
in assets, which “was
a lot of money,” Harlan said.
Since then, the credit union has broadened its scope
to include, first, the rest of the University
and, later, the local community.
expanded to include personal loans, credit cards, debit cards
and interest-bearing checking.
is the coolest place I’ve ever been,” said Alison L. DeTuncq,
the credit union’s chief executive officer, who rose through the ranks
starting as a manager at the hospital branch 14 years ago. DeTuncq, a graduate
student seeking a career in nonprofit health care administration at that time,
accepted the job to get some business experience, not realizing that her decision
would turn into a career.
are really doing service here,” said DeTuncq, who especially enjoys
working with the volunteers who work on the credit union board of directors and
the supervisory board, which arranges the annual audit, and holding educational
Janine Williams, the credit union’s vice president of marketing, first
had the credit union as a client when she worked at an advertising agency in
Charlottesville. She became a credit union employee in May 1997 and discovered
first hand that the credit union was “the real deal,” she said.
The mission was genuine … all based on membership, with the overall benefit
for the members,” she said.
The credit union cannot issue stock like a bank, but
it can absorb other credit unions, which is one way
in 1978 when
with the Blue Ridge Sanatorium Credit Union.
Membership was further enlarged in 1987 to include
employees of Piedmont Virginia Community College,
and then in 1988,
Martha Jefferson Hospital
Credit Union, the County of Albemarle Credit Union
and the Charlottesville City Employees Federal Credit
the name was changed
to the University of Virginia Community Credit Union,
and the state corporation
membership to people working in Albemarle or Charlottesville
then later expanded into Fluvanna and Greene counties.
There are 156,000 people in the three counties the
credit union serves, and of these, 46,000 are credit
with plenty of
room to grow,
says her institution’s philosophy should stay the same. Shares in the credit
union, for instance, remain $5, and service to individual members a main priority.
Customer service is what sets the credit union
apart from other lenders, DeTuncq said, relaying
two customers’ stories. One woman wanted a credit card with
a $100 limit, a sum too small to interest local banks.
credit union gave her the card with the $100 limit, DeTuncq
Another customer, who joined the credit union
while on the engineering faculty, continued
to be a member
returned to her
native China. Each
year she sent the credit union handwritten
mailing labels in Chinese characters so mail
her in remote
areas where she was
working on water
projects. And each Christmas she sent the credit
union a watercolor
she had painted.
paintings are on display in the lobby.
“That’s the kind of relationship we have with our customers,” DeTuncq
said. And it’s the kind of service
the credit union plans to provide to members,
new and old, for the next 50 years.