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2017 BEST Credit Union: Redwood Credit Union

Author: Elaine B. Holtz
June, 2017 Issue

“We focus every day on helping people succeed in their financial lives, so they can achieve a better life.”—Robin McKenzie

In 1950, seven Sonoma County employees, who wanted a safe place to save and borrow money at affordable rates, founded Redwood Credit Union (RCU). Today, RCU serves seven counties in the Bay Area and North Bay, providing services for both consumers and businesses. As a financial cooperative, they focus on people, not profits. According to Brett Martinez, president and chief executive officer, RCU’s mission is to passionately serve the best interests of its members, employees and communities.  “It’s a mission we live every day,” says Martinez. “Our employees know it, understand it, and believe in it.” With that mission in mind, RCU has grown into a $3.5 billion financial institution, serving more than 280,000 people.

Every customer (credit unions call them “members”) is an owner who can benefit from RCU’s wide range of financial services from everyday banking to loans and credit cards.  “If you have a financial need, RCU can help,” says Martinez.

Feedback from customers and employees is important at RCU. Member feedback is collected through conversations, surveys, social media and other channels. An internal portal,  “Total Member Experience,” allows staff to suggest improvements to service, technology and processes. Modeled after social media platforms, this portal allows employees to vote and comment on each other’s ideas for improving the member experience with RCU. An internal committee reviews the ideas and the ones with high staff engagement and highest potential for positive member impact are implemented.

RCU is continuously enhancing its branch, online and mobile services to make banking as simple and convenient as possible. RCU’s branches offer self-service technology and free demonstrations of online and mobile banking; most offer digital monitors and comfortable consulting areas to meet with staff.

RCU is also highly committed to the community. The credit union partnered with others during the 2015 Lake County Valley Fire, which destroyed more than 1,300 homes and impacted thousands of residents and many businesses. It created the RCU Lake County Fire Victims Relief Fund to collect donations to aid those affected by the fires. More than 12,000 donations were made, totaling more than $2.5 million in 12 weeks, according to Robin McKenzie, senior vice president of marketing and communications. In 2016, the credit union again collected and distributed $265,000 for victims of the Lake County Clayton fire. RCU covered all administrative costs of the fund both years to ensure 100 percent of the donations went to help fire survivors and relief efforts.

Because financial education is an essential life skill that isn’t required curriculum in most schools, RCU regularly hosts free “Bites of Reality” financial workshops that provide teens an interactive, real-world financial-reality experience. The sessions help educate and build a variety of financial skills, including budgeting, paying for basic necessities like groceries and utilities, understanding the differences between “wants” and “needs,” how to balance a checkbook, and more. RCU staff and other local residents serve as mentors during the sessions.  In 2016, RCU hosted 23 of these events for local schools and groups.

Why was RCU voted Best Credit Union in the North Bay?  Says McKenzie, “We focus every day on helping people succeed in their financial lives, so they can achieve a better life. We love to see that happen for our members. It’s honestly the best reward.”

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The Unseen Damage

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