In our first in a series of credit union profiles, we are highlighting the success of our CU Servnet partner, Virginia Credit Union (VACU). We spoke to VACU Vice President, Mitchell Jones about the benefits of being part of the CU Servnet CUSO and working with its subservicing partner, Cenlar. Mitchell discusses how the credit union’s excellent products and services, as well as its award-winning financial education platform are the cornerstones of VACU’S growth strategy.
Q: Tell us a little bit about VACU?
Mitchell: Virginia Credit Union (VACU) is the third largest credit union in the state. We serve the entire state of Virginia and have more than 300,000 members. VACU is designated as a low income credit union, so we typically serve members of modest means – that’s our wheelhouse.
Q: In 2020, VACU merged with another Virginia credit union, Chesterfield FederalCredit Union (CFCU). How did this merger benefit you?
Mitchell: The merger with CFCU was more of a partnership. VACU was significantly larger than CFCU, so there was an opportunity to work together to bring additional products, services and overall infrastructure to their membership. Both credit unions are local, so our cultures align very well. And for VACU – strategically, we’re always looking to grow.
Q: Speaking of growth – VACU recently acquired Joyner Fine Properties, expanding therange of services VACU can offer its members and prospective members. What is the advantage of partnering with real estate agencies?
Mitchell: Our acquisition of Joyner expands our existing real estate operations, which include Mortgage and title insurance services. And of course, our partnership with CU Servnet has grown significantly over the years, giving us the ability to offer additional financial services to our members. So if our members take advantage of our full cooperative – real estate, title insurance and home financing – we can offer them better products at a better price point. And by having our trusted partners all under the same arm, we’re able to do that.
Q: You recently launched a new, user-friendly website for members. Tell us about theredesign and how it fits into VACU’s overall technology strategy.
Mitchell: In this day and age, everybody has to be looking at the new, digital way that banking is being done. Our strategy is a two-pronged approach – we are focusing on both physical and digital channels of communication. We’re committed to our branches and at the same time, we also understand that online services are changing rapidly. So we did a re-platforming of our website for a much better online experience and we continue to look for ways to offer our products through a digital avenue that is easy and frictionless for users.
We’re also really pleased with Cenlar’s rollout of the new homeowner website, CenNet. Cenlar is the mortgage servicing partner to CU Servnet for close to 20 years. It’s a dramatic improvement and we’ve received great, positive feedback about its ease of navigation, the interactive tools and the easy-to-find documents. It’s great to see that as we’re evolving on our side, our vendor business partners are evolving as well.
Q: Why is financial education a major priority for VACU?
Mitchell: As a designated low-to-moderate income credit union, financial education is vital in making homeownership possible for our members. We do a lot of financial education for first-time homebuyers and sellers. We give them proper counseling – informing and advising them on how to get through the complicated mortgage process. We’ve also been successful launching financial education workshops on managing money during difficult times. Our award-winning workshops and webinars reached more than 65,000 people during the pandemic, specifically college-age participants and youth.
In 2019, we launched the Virginia Credit Union Financial Success Center at Virginia Commonwealth University. Through this sponsorship, we are able to inform, educate and advise college students and give them an avenue to become VACU members as they begin their financial lives.
Q: Can you explain how working with CU Servnet is helping you grow your membership?
Mitchell: As you know, CU Servnet is an integrated service organization that gives us the ability to offer additional financial services to our members. Working with CU Servnet provides our organization with another revenue stream, which we can hopefully turn into lower rates and better product offerings to attract new members.
Q: What kind of feedback are you receiving from you members about Cenlar’s MemberExperience Team?
Mitchell: The last couple of years were really tough because so much was changing in the servicing business with the CARES Act. But overall, our members are very happy with the service they get from Cenlar, the servicing partner to CU Servnet. Ultimately, our members view a partner like Cenlar as an extension of us, and matching service levels is something we’ve been able to do.