After opening its doors nearly five months ago, Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union’s Vashon branch has reported a stronger beginning than anticipated.
As of June 30, 857 people had become members and opened more than 600 checking accounts, depositing more than $7 million and borrowing more than $1 million, according to Shannon Ellis-Brock, a vice president of the Bellevue-based credit union known as PSCCU.
“I think everyone is thrilled how quickly successful the credit union has been,” said Bill Moyer, executive director of the Backbone Campaign and one of the organizers who helped bring the branch to the Island. He now sits on its board.
Patte Wagner, the longtime manager at Chase and Washington Mutual before becoming the credit union’s branch manager, said the numbers exceeded her expectations, and growth is still steady, with 40 to 50 new memberships each week.
Rob Harmon, another Islander who worked to create a credit union that would serve Island needs, said he believes Vashon is already benefitting from the branch’s presence. Deposits, he said, have provided loans for energy-efficiency home improvements and solar installations; the credit union also provides low-interest loans for hybrid cars and alternative energy vehicles.
Car loans for new and used vehicles start at 3.74 percent, with a quarter percent deducted for those that are environmentally friendly, Wagner said. In direct relationship to the money coming in from Vashon, PSCCU was also able to lower mortgage rates for its members, dropping them .25 percent on 15-year loans and .125 percent on 30-year mortgages, she said.
According to Harmon, such numbers underscore the point of a credit union. “When the credit union becomes more successful, the Island becomes more successful,” he said.
Moyer also noted that financial institutions make money on the loans they make, not the deposits they take in, and this means borrowing from the credit union is vital to its financial health.
“Moving our money is important,” he said, “but moving our debt is more important.”
Debt, Wagner noted, is on many people’s minds these days, and PSCCU can help people regain control of their economic situations and make their debt less burdensome. Because it is a nonprofit institution, its interest rates are lower than banks, she said, and members do not pay fees for services.
Looking ahead, Wagner said she would like to offer financial education in the schools. Washington Mutual had a long history of doing so, she said, a service that was dropped when Chase took over.
“If you do not know how to manage your money,” she said, “your money will manage you.”
Now that PSCCU is up and running, Moyer said his energy has turned to telling Vashon’s credit union story to other communities. What happened here, he said, is “successful and replicable.”