In a Nutshell: Credit unions have a reputation for a strong commitment to customer service and going above and beyond for their members. And that reputation is due in part to organizations like People Driven Credit Union in Michigan. The institution takes the credit union motto of people helping people to heart. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the credit union offered a variety of financial relief options for its members, including skipping payments and low-interest loans. Additionally, it partners with GreenPath Financial Wellness to deliver financial literacy resources to its members. People Driven Credit Union also provides an array of financial products and services to fit its members’ needs, all while giving back to the community through fundraisers and charitable donations.
It’s not uncommon for people to wonder about the differences between a bank and a credit union. I wondered this myself back when I began cashing my first checks as a teenager. And, no, it’s not a silly question.
There are a number of notable and significant differences between these two types of financial institutions. Banks provide a wide range of financial products and services, but, because they are for-profit entities, they often keep a close eye on their bottom line on behalf of their stakeholders.
On the other hand, credit unions provide similar products and services but are not-for-profit co-ops owned by their members. This structural difference means that credit unions are often just as focused on providing high-quality customer service and giving back to the communities in which they operate.
In fact, the credit union motto is “people helping people.”
And that’s exactly what we found when we learned about People Driven Credit Union in Michigan. We recently spoke to Dave Sullivan, the organization’s Vice President of Marketing, about the credit union’s efforts to help people affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, its member-focused offerings, and giving back to the community.
Sullivan said People Driven Credit Union is the product of several credit union mergers in recent years across Eastern Michigan, and the organization now maintains about $300 million in assets.
Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic by Providing Relief Options
Obviously, 2020 has been a challenging year for many folks. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the health and finances of millions of people across the country. Sullivan discussed some of the ways in which People Driven Credit Union worked to ease some of its members’ financial burdens in recent months.
“We offered a number of different options for people,” Sullivan said. “We let them skip payments on nearly any loan they had with us including mortgages. We also offered some very low-interest loans to members who were just trying to survive during that time.”
Members who secured those low-interest loans were also able to take advantage of a 90-day period where they did not have to make payments on the loans.
“If they were in the process of getting a loan, or they were going to get a car, it gave them a breather for a little while to go through, hopefully, the worst of it,” Sullivan said.
Ultimately, the credit union saw 737 members take advantage of the Skip-A-Pay program that totaled more than $51 million in loan payments, according to the institution. It also provided nearly $100,000 in zero-interest and zero-fee loans to members during this time.
People Driven Credit Union offered zero-interest loans for people who worked at the credit union as well, Sullivan said.
It also offered special low rates on auto loans; RV, boat, and ATV loans; and personal loans.
“We really tried to go above and beyond,” Sullivan said of providing financial relief to its members when the COVID-19 pandemic began.
A Strong Focus on Financial Literacy
Sullivan said People Driven Credit Union takes the financial health of its members seriously and, therefore, makes it a point to provide accessible financial education resources to them.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the closing of the lobby, the credit union actually had a GreenPath Financial Wellness representative on site.
“We had him right inside our building, in our lobby in a separate office,” Sullivan said. “People could come in and he would go over financial topics with them. It was pretty unique. We were definitely one of the first organizations to try that in Metro Detroit, anyway.”
People Driven Credit Union still offers GreenPath services to its members, but it is all done virtually or over the phone now.
The credit union also provides access to financial wellness resources on its website, including a recent video about GreenPath transitioning out of the credit union office and the services they continue to offer.
“I think that the common theme across many GreenPath Financial Wellness callers is they are trying to understand how to manage the confusion and worry they are experiencing right now,” said GreenPath representative Julio in the video. “The unexpected change of income is obviously a time of stress for all of us not only from a physical standpoint but also emotionally and financially.”
GreenPath is there to provide guidance for people to understand that they’re not alone, he continued.
People Driven Credit Union also partners with Lincoln Financial Advisers to assist its members with financial planning.
“Lincoln Financial Advisers work with clients to prepare a profile that considers their needs, goals, time frames and tolerance for risk,” according to the website. “This overview becomes the basis for an ongoing relationship to help clients stay on course in meeting their financial goals.”
The experience covers the needs of the individual and can also assist with the needs and issues affecting business owners.
Credit Cards and Other Financial Products to Meet a Wide Range of Preferences
In addition to its efforts to provide relief to members during the COVID-19 pandemic, People Driven Credit Union also offers an array of financial products and services to meet the diverse financial needs of its members.
“We have always been focused on helping people improve their credit score,” Sullivan said. “We moved to FICO 9, which is the latest version of the FICO score.”
He said the FICO 9 score is particularly valuable for people who also take advantage of the Experian Boost service. People can connect their bank accounts to Experian, which then analyzes their payment activities and looks for on-time, consistent payments. Experian can then instantly boost the user’s FICO 9 score.
“We were one of the first credit unions to move to FICO 9, which takes the points you get from the service Experian provides and adds them into the score,” Sullivan explained. “We accept those scores whereas most people currently don’t.”
The credit union also offers a suite of credit cards, including low-interest and rewards card options, to suit a variety of financial needs.
As its name suggests, People Driven Credit Union is not just about the products and services.
Sullivan also discussed some of the important ways the institution gives back to the community.
“We’ve got a whole committee at the credit union — the Community Enjoyment Committee,” Sullivan said. “And we find activities, usually once a month, that benefit the community. We look for charitable activities that we can do.”
He said the credit union has of course changed their hands-on strategy this year due to the pandemic, but in years past it has been involved in a huge range of charitable activities from walking for breast cancer awareness to making blankets for children who are in the hospital.
“We haven’t been able to do as much as we did, but we did do a fundraiser in October for breast cancer awareness,” Sullivan said. “We had everybody donate $1 a day to wear jeans to work. Normally we do a bake sale — a whole bunch of stuff.”
But, the credit union is still finding innovative ways to raise money and show support for local charitable causes.