2014 BEST Company to do Business with in Marin County: Marin County Federal Credit Union
Author: Judith M. Wilson
May, 2014 Issue
“I’m an advocate for creating a family atmosphere. Everybody’s like family.” —Elesja Ingwersen
With just one office in San Rafael, Marin County Federal Credit Union (MCFCU) might seem small as financial institutions go—but that’s one of its assets. It can offer the benefits of membership with a local focus, while providing up-to-date banking tools to make doing business easy from afar in a high-tech world. “We’re local people helping local people. We never lose sight of serving the people of Marin County,” says President/CEO Elesja Ingwersen.
When MCFCU opened its doors as San Rafael Federal Credit Union in 1963, it had a charter allowing it to provide services to elected or appointed officials and employees of the city of San Rafael and the county of Marin. In 1992, it became Marin County Federal Credit Union, and its scope expanded in 1999, when it received a new, more expansive charter. “Our charter for members is what’s considered a community charter,” says Ingwersen, explaining that it lets MCFCU serve anyone who lives, works or attends school in Marin County who wants to join.
“We do have a lot of members who are Marin County employees,” she says, but membership has risen, and it took a noticeable jump in 2012 in response to the Occupy movement and its protests against large banks. “We had quite an influx,” Ingwersen says, reporting that today, MCFCU has more than 5,000 members and eight employees to serve them at the branch on North San Pedro Road, close to the Marin Civic Center.
She explains that the philosophy is different to that of a bank, because credit unions are not-for-profit organizations with members as owners, so they don’t have stockholders. “Everything is for our members,” she says, adding that MCFCU’s goal is to keep interest rates low for loans and high for savings accounts, although economic conditions have made that difficult in recent years. She believes that the local focus gives MCFCU the ability to work with each member’s requirements and says, “We work with some members who might have challenging credit records.” She points out, however, that credit unions are designed to help all members, including the financially disadvantaged and says, “We try to work with our members to help meet their needs.”
That extends to technology. “A lot of members like online banking,” she adds, so MCFCU offers free home and mobile banking services to its members. In addition, it’s part of the CO-OP Network, so members can do their banking at other credit unions throughout the country, and they also have free access to 30,000 ATMs nationwide. In addition, “We’re looking into doing remote deposit capture,” she says, which would let members scan or take pictures of checks and transmit them over the Internet to make deposits. Members are welcome to do their banking in person as well, and the staff is always happy to see them. “I’m an advocate for creating a family atmosphere. Everybody’s like family,” says Ingwersen.
MCFCU has strong connections to the community and is a supporter of the Marin Food Bank, Marin Advocates for Children and the Marin Humane Society. “Who doesn’t want to help families, children and animals?” asks Ingwersen. The company also is a sponsor of Newspapers in Education, a program that gives schools regular access to newspapers. Ingwersen likes the idea of getting newspapers into the schools and says, ”I strongly believe in the education of our youth. Starting early is always a good idea.”
Receiving an award from NorthBay biz as the BEST Company to do Business with in Marin County was unexpected, says Ingwersen, because she and her employees didn’t know they were in the running (many people don’t realize the awards are chosen entirely by NorthBay biz readers, who fill their favorite companies’ names into blank categories—there’s no multiple choice). “We’re proud and honored that readers have chosen us,” she says.
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