TOTOWA, N.J. – New Jersey credit unions are dedicated to providing “Banking You Can Trust” to N.J. consumers. The New Jersey Credit Union League recently launched a story contest, asking credit unions to share their personal stories about how they have helped members in a profound way.
North Jersey FCU has been named the winner of the NJCUL’s “Banking You Can Trust” Story Contest for its story of helping one member, who had been turned down again and again by banks, get the financing she needed for a wheelchair accessible van for her disabled son.
North Jersey FCU President/CEO Lourdes Cortez (left) receives a “Banking You Can Trust” certificate from NJCUL Marketing and Communications Coordinator Marissa Anema.
Alberta Gordon, a long-time and loyal North Jersey FCU member, wanted to purchase a specially equipped van for her son. An innocent bystander in a shootout, the elementary-age child was left wheelchair bound.
Gordon first worked with a dealership to finance a van, but because she needed major customization done to the vehicle in order to make it wheelchair accessible for her son, and her credit was less than perfect, she was turned down. She also tried to get financing from two other banks, which also turned her down.
She then turned to North Jersey FCU, where she had been a member since 2000, and met one-on-one with North Jersey Vice President of Lending Anthony Couzzi. Moved by Gordon’s situation, Couzzi brought her application and her story to the credit union’s executive team.
“We didn’t hesitate,” says North Jersey FCU President/CEO Lourdes Cortez. Cortez and her team jumped at the chance not only to review the loan application, but to hear the moving story of Gordon and her son. “We sat down and asked ourselves ‘How can we help, how can we make this happen?’” says Cortez.
Because of Gordon’s low credit score, the credit union knew that giving her the loan was risky, but the difference this loan would make in her son’s life outweighed the risk.
“We look at loans on a member-to-member basis and Alberta’s story was touching,” explains Cortez. “The loan-to-value and perfect score may not have been there, but the fact that we were going to improve the quality of life for this family and for this child was worth it.”
North Jersey FCU “customized” its auto loan to fit the needs of this member, taking into consideration her credit score and credit history, but not basing its decision solely on the numbers. Its approach to this loan isn’t a typical one for the credit union, but it considered the unique needs of Gordon and her son, her loyalty to the credit union, and her denial for a loan from so many other financial institutions.
“This family couldn’t get a loan anywhere else,” points out North Jersey FCU Vice President of Marketing James Giffin, who was part of the executive team that reviewed Gordon’s loan application.
Why not? “It’s not a profitable proposition,” says Cortez. She explains that to banks, loans are “black and white” and consumers are only looked at for their “face value”. That is not the case at credit unions, particularly North Jersey FCU, which, in Cortez’s words, realizes that its members “come from all walks of life; each has their own story, has different needs.”
And the credit union was able to look past the “numbers” to really see the “member” in this case.
“North Jersey Federal Credit Union allowed me to purchase a vehicle that was safe, affordable, and functional. I am so appreciative of them. I don’t know what else I would have done,” says Gordon, who now has a wheelchair accessible van to drive her son to and from school that also fits her family of five, so her son never has to feel left out or that he’s inconveniencing anyone.
“This loan has been a blessing,” Gordon goes on to say. “It made a difference in my whole family’s life.”
She has even become a bit of a cheerleader for credit unions, saying that she believes it’s a good thing to belong to one and even getting her sisters to join. “I always tell people that I love being a part of a credit union. I know all of the people there; they know me by name. It’s that personal touch.”
According to Cortez and Giffin, that’s the credit union difference: building relationships. Cortez explains that the credit union is “in the business of building relationships”, which is key to building member trust and loyalty.
As the winner of NJCUL’s “Banking You Can Trust” Story Contest, North Jersey FCU receives a feature story in the Weekly Exchange, a framed reprint of the story, a feature story in NJ CU Digest (NJCUL’s legislative newsletter), the story featured on the home page of the League Web site, the story sent to the local press, and a certificate certifying that the credit unions provides “Banking You Can Trust”.
Is your credit union providing “Banking You Can Trust”? Let us know how! NJCUL is continually looking for “Banking You Can Trust” stories from member credit unions for its upcoming ad campaign. For more information on this contest and instructions on how your credit union can enter, visit www.njcul.org/BYCTstorycontest.aspx.