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2010 Best Credit Union: Redwood Credit Union

Author: Beth Galleto
May, 2010 Issue

What sets a credit union apart from other financial institutions is that it has no stockholders—its members are its owners. As a local, not-for-profit financial cooperative, Redwood Credit Union (RCU) returns all of its profits to its members through lower rates on loans, higher return on investments, lower fees and more products and services.

“Credit unions were founded on the philosophy of ‘people helping people.’ Our mission is to passionately serve the best interests of our members, employees and community,” says Brett Martinez, president/CEO of Santa Rosa-based RCU.

He adds, “We’ve been a very successful credit union for a long time. In February, we were named number one SBA lender in the North Bay for the fifth consecutive quarter.”

RCU has won the “Best Credit Union” title from NorthBay biz readers before. It’s also earned five stars for fair and ethical practices and is listed on the “dean’s list” on, together with a comment from personal finance expert Suze Orman that, “I have come to believe, thanks to you, that many credit unions are more ethical and fair to their customers than banks with credit cards.”

Even in times of recession, RCU continued to help its members shore up struggling businesses. “We never stopped lending. We’ve had strong lending practices, and we’ve continued doing what we do,” says Martinez.

RCU serves anyone living, working or owning a business in eight Bay Area counties, including Sonoma, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, San Francisco, Lake, Contra Costa and Solano. Now in its 60th year, it serves nearly 150,000 members with 15 branch locations. It offers full financial services, including checking accounts, savings and investment products, consumer and real estate loans, free home banking, financial management services, retirement planning, a variety of online applications and free access to more than 28,000 ATMs nationwide. With $1.7 billion in assets, it’s ranked the 16th largest credit union in California and the 74th largest in the country.

RCU also participates in its communities through sponsorships, leadership and volunteerism. “A lot of people are attracted to us because our staff volunteers and has leadership roles in so many groups,” says Martinez.

Because of its emphasis on helping its customers/members, RCU, like other credit unions, is coming out ahead in today’s difficult financial situation. Martinez notes that the recession has given birth to a “go local” concept as well as a movement to transfer funds from the “too big to fail” banks to local community institutions. Both are having a large impact on RCU.

“We have new members coming in like crazy,” he says. In this time of getting back to doing business locally, and frustration around large banks, RCU and its member owners are focusing on what they do best: working together to help each other succeed. “It should always be that way,” says Martinez. “A lot of unscrupulous people took advantage of people who relied on them. That’s not what a credit union is about. People forgot that doing business with people you trust is really important.”



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