Significant Sponsor Support Is Key to Success

SAN ANTONIO-Express News FCU is making headlines in tough economic times. CEO Linda Tudyk said support from its newspaper sponsor, San Antonio Express News is critical to the success of the credit union.

Credit Union Journal: In which areas does your CU perform particularly well?
Tudyk: We have an array of lending. We do mortgages and home equity lending, but our strongest area is auto lending.

CUJ: How do you do so well?
Tudyk: We are a single-sponsor credit union that is in the (same building as the sponsor, so we have a captive audience. We are fortunate in that our sponsor is a newspaper, so we can use their resources to create posters at no charge. Right now we are focused on reducing expenses. We have cut down on part-time employees' hours, we lowered CD and share rates a little bit, we reduced the amount we are contributing to 401(k) plans. Also, we reduced dividends-but that was the last thing we did on our list. We tried to cut everything we could think of every other way before we cut dividends.

CUJ: Are you proof small CUs don't have to merge?
Tudyk: Oh sure. You just have to adjust with the marketplace. Small credit unions have a niche. We survive as a small credit union because we know our members and they are very comfortable with us. When someone wants to buy a car they come to us and we sit down with them, look at their bills, and help them figure out if they can afford it. One thing that has helped us stay afloat is really good sponsor support, and not every small credit union has that support. We don't pay any rent for space in the building. We don't pay for postage or telephone. Until the paper had cutbacks late last year, it was giving us money for financial counseling for its employees. The CEO is very supportive of us and management feels we are a real benefit for their lower-paid employees. We cash checks for them, we don't charge a lot of fees, and they tell employees how great the credit union is. I was talking with someone at another small credit union about this the other day-members come to us and thank us for helping them. The members take this help very personally and send us thank you cards, but we think of those things as just doing our job.