In a Nutshell: Abound Credit Union is a leading provider of financial education in Kentucky, with over 100,000 members and 18 branch locations. Although the credit union has expanded during its more than 70-year history, it has never lost touch with its core mission. Abound partners with community organizations to spotlight financial literacy and help people make better financial decisions at all stages of life. It also gears its credit offerings and banking services toward making financial health more accessible and helping people rebuild their finances.
People can find financial freedom in a myriad of ways. But most can say the path to this coveted achievement starts with education. According to Walden University, only three out of seven Americans understand basic financial concepts. Money remains a massive stressor for many households, especially low-income families. As is true with various forms of wellness, financial wellness can influence a person’s life on several levels.
Abound Credit Union understands this notion and has set out to help its members and community attain favorable financial health. Its focus is to meet the needs of hardworking families and educate the community on managing their finances, starting from elementary students to adults.
“Financial literacy has always been a focus for the team and the Board of Directors. We operated a student-run branch in Fort Knox High School back in the 1980s. So really early in the industry movement in financial literacy. We were really proud of that,” said Jake Darabos, Chief Finance and Administration Officer.
In 1950, the credit union, formerly known as Fort Knox Credit Union, began with only 10 members. Abound has now become a leading provider of financial education in Kentucky, with 18 branch locations and over 100,000 members. It continues to push forward with more growth projects as it breaks ground on a new branch in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and recently passed the $2 billion mark in assets.
The credit union’s rebranding also played a hand in tearing down accessibility barriers. Darabos said many community members without military ties were confused about the availability of membership before its name change. The credit union continues to make itself more accessible through its new digital offerings and credit card services.
“We’re really just focused on providing the right products and doing what’s right for the members,” said Darabos.
Meeting Member Needs with Second-Chance Offerings
Abound Credit Union provides different credit services geared toward helping its members build credit and get back on their feet. Its team works with Abound members to understand their needs and counsel them on their financial decisions.
“For the underserved population, the most impactful product offering is probably our Classic Visa with really low-interest rates. Our lowest interest rate on that card is 8.99%,” said Darabos.
The credit union sees its members who may have fallen on hard times or don’t have the best credit history and wants to help them rebuild it. Abound offers its Classic Visa to new or existing members applying for credit and looking to fix their history. The credit union usually starts these members at a $500 limit but also has member service representatives ready to help the members go through their spending habits and find ways to use the card to help their credit.
Darabos said they have members who have come back six months after using their Classic Visa card with better credit reports that eventually help them get approved for lower interest loans on other needs such as auto loans. This credit card offer gives people the chance to get out of the cycle of high interest rates where other financial institutions would have looked away. For members looking for loans, Abound Credit Union also offers deposit-secured loans to help members build credit.
One of the credit union’s most beneficial features is its second-chance checking accounts. The team seeks to reach its members where they are and help them improve their financial standing. Abound wants to provide people who have been denied checking accounts at traditional banks with the opportunity to get back on track.
“This checking account is for individuals who maybe had some difficulties or had their checking accounts closed in the past by other institutions. We provide them with a checking account and debit card. There’s a small monthly fee to it that helps us offset the costs from losses and manage the risks,” said Darabos.
A few months in a second chance checking product, with really reasonable fees helps the member learn how to use a checking account responsibly, and helps them eventually move into the credit union’s standard Free Checking product. He said the size of this portfolio remains steady because most members learn to budget their money and move forward with regular checking accounts as new members enter the program.
Promoting Financial Health with Scalable Financial Literacy Programs
Abound Credit Union partners with several institutions to highlight and increase financial education in its community. The credit union helps people achieve financial health through its courses and believes the financial journey begins at a young age. That is why it partners with elementary schools and high schools and teaches students the financial basics.
Darabos said the credit union has already reached 8,590 K-12 students in 2021. According to the Finra Foundation, young adults who had state-mandated high school finance courses are less likely to apply for high-interest loans than their peers. In the long run, these lessons will supply students with the knowledge to make healthy financial decisions.
Abound also works with local colleges and universities to create presentations for incoming freshmen. As for adult-based learning, the credit union collaborates with a local hospital, Baptist Health Hardin, to bring a comprehensive health program to its members and the community. They work together to offer individuals medical check-ups and financial education all in one spot.
“We also partner with the Kentucky Department for Community-Based Services. We provide education for their youth who are at the point of exiting the foster care system. They’re going to be on their own so we meet with them once a month and teach them how to handle their finances,” said Darabos.
The credit union has also redefined its employees’ roles to increase overall financial education. Darabos said that all of the credit union’s member solution team has gone through a certified financial counselor program. So when they interact with members, they can help them with their budgeting and other financial decisions.
Responding to the Pandemic’s Digital Shift with More Accessible Services
In 2020, Abound Credit Union transformed its services to adhere to the pandemic-led digital shift. The credit union had to accelerate its plans to serve its members with more online offerings.
“One of our big focuses, when we rebranded and changed our name, was accessibility. We actually had a complete online and mobile banking conversion scheduled for 2020. When the pandemic hit, we decided to go full steam ahead knowing that this improved level of accessibility would be even more important given the current environment,” said Darabos.
By August 2020, the credit union had completely revamped its online and mobile offerings, which gave its members more access to their money, banking, and financial education. Abound Credit Union launched a Virtually Well series with Baptist Health consisting of webinars on exercise and financial literacy. Abound also deferred member payments on $70 million worth of loans to help ease member expenses during the pandemic.
As for upcoming offerings, Darabos said the credit union is keeping up with what’s in the market to provide its members with trendy services, like rotational cash back rewards.
“For the first quarter of 2022, we will do a 5% cash back on a Healthy New Year; things like sports equipment, gym memberships, and meal prep services. We really try to match current reward promotions with what’s happening in the world. There is a huge focus on health right now. We can help our members be a little healthier physically and financially,” said Darabos.