Credit union goes for the personal touch

04/17/2014 6:50 AM

08/06/2014 10:56 AM

When members of the Mid American Credit Union walk through its northeast Wichita branch, they’re greeted at the door, then guided to a stand-alone teller, or “dialogue” station, for help.

The branch doesn’t have a traditional teller counter.

It’s a more personal way to serve customers, said Jim Holt, Mid American Credit Union president and CEO.

“The focus is on each individual’s needs,” Holt said. “Eventually, all our offices will go to that model.”

The branch is one of four locations in Wichita. Mid American also has locations in Arkansas City and Larned.

And this month it merged with a smaller credit union, Jayhawk Federal Credit Union, in Lawrence.

Mid American employs a total of about 85 people.

The institution has been on an upward growth cycle, despite a philosophy that forgoes advertising.

In the past six years, it has grown an average of 12 percent annually in assets, 10 percent a year in membership, 14 percent a year in deposits and 13 percent a year in loans.

It serves more than 300 employee groups in the Wichita area.

One way it’s building relationships is though a series of financial literacy programs.

This year, it’s offering a series called Eight Keys to Becoming a Millionaire.

Mid American also works with the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and Urban League of Wichita to help young people understand financial issues, such as the importance of saving money.

“Part of the credit union’s mission is thrift,” Holt said.

The credit union’s focus when it comes to lending has changed some since the recession.

During the downturn, many banks scaled back their small-business loans.

“So we got a lot of inquiries and started doing a lot of small-business loans,” Holt said.

It’s a small part of its lending portfolio, however – about 2 percent.

About 80 percent of its lending is for auto loans.

Mid American also focuses on its employees and has added a number of benefits over the years.

The credit union wants to succeed – but not because it skimps on its employees, Holt said.

It offers paid vacation and sick leave to employees who work at least 20 hours a week.

It also added short-term disability and increased its 401(k) matching from 6 percent to 10 percent for longer-term employees.

“We try to invest in the people who invest their time with us,” Holt said.

One of its biggest challenges is dealing with all the regulations, which have increased with the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was enacted after the 2008 financial crisis.

The changes are creating huge burdens for many of the smaller financial institutions, Holt said.

“We’re OK,” Holt said.

Another challenge is keeping up with ever-changing technology.

It’s currently investing $2 million to upgrade its 20-year-old core processing system with a new one.

The credit union also must deal with data breaches at retailers, such as when Target had a major breach late last year that compromised tens of millions of credit and debit cards nationwide.

Because of that, Mid American reissued about 400 cards to members with compromised cards.

In the past two years, it has reissued more than 2,000 cards because of security breaches.

Mid American’s biggest success is the way members respond to the focus on customer service, Holt said. It’s giving people second chances to return to financial health.

“We serve everybody,” he said.

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