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A Message From Our President, Thomas O’Shea

May 27th 2014 by

The word ‘Member’ is used very loosely by today’s marketers and businesses.  American Express, Costco and Sam’s Club all want you to believe that you are a ‘member.’ Amazon.com has something they call a “Prime Membership” (prepaid shipping!). You are not a ‘member’ of American Express; you’re a customer. You’re not a member of Costco, Sam’s Club or Amazon, just a customer.

TheFreeDictionary.com defines membership as “a state involving mutual dealings between people.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Member as “someone that belongs to is a part of a group” and “a part of a structure.”

Museums, Zoos, Community Gardens, Fraternities and Aquariums have members, not customers. Farmer’s Co-Ops have members, not customers. Credit Unions have members. What do all of these organizations have in common? Their members are in charge.

Being a member means that the organization can’t exist without you – both in its leadership and its activities. Being a member means you can exert some control and influence the direction of the organization. It means that you will participate in the activities of the organization. Your ‘mutual dealings’ bring benefits to you and others in the group. You are part of the structure. You own it.

When American Express tells you that you are a member they are just trying to get you to buy (literally and figuratively) into their business model. They persuade you to pay their usually exorbitant fees and make you think you have some influence. You don’t own or control American Express or Costco; the stockholders do. You can’t influence the strategic direction of Amazon.com, the stockholders can.

With your credit union, you drive our business forward. You do that by serving as a volunteer leader and by using our products and services. You are part of mutual organization that facilitates mutual dealings between the members of the group.  We are owned by you. We are controlled by you. We listen to you.

In early 2013,we closed many of our small, underutilized branch offices. These offices were expensive to maintain and difficult to access. You were just not using them, so we closed them. We decided to focus our attention on the digital environment. You were already there, using PCs, Laptops, Tablets and Smart Phones for virtually everything. We needed to be there too.

We realized that we needed to make some changes and embrace this technology as the future of banking. The branch closings were just the first step. We increased our call center staff, just rolled out a new website and are now planning a new digital-channel makeover. In the next several months we will be providing you with a completely new home banking, tablet and mobile experience. We will be providing you with state of the art technologies so that you can easily and conveniently transact business with us at any time and at anyplace. Our new ‘branch network’ is in the palm of your hand.

We have not totally abandoned the ‘bricks and mortar’ branch network. We have over 5,000 branch outlets across the country through our participation (our ‘membership’) in the Co-Op shared Branching Network. I like to say that we have 5,003 branches – 5,000 shared branches around the USA, wholly-owned offices in Clark, NJ and Jamaica, Queens, NY and of course on that device in the palm of your hand.

Even though we give you access to us through all those physical offices, it is very clear that the future of banking, the future of the branch network, is in that little digital device you carry around with you all the time. There have been reports that the last thing we touch at night and the first thing we touch when we wake up in the morning is our cell phone. Surveys also say that more people would return home for a forgotten cell phone than would if they forgot their wallet or purse. Why would we not want to embrace this technology?

The future of your credit union is as strong and bright as ever. Financially, we are on very firm footing.  Technologically, we are moving to more robust, feature rich offerings. Professionally, we are staffed by a dedicated group of employees that are focused on your financial well-being. Last, but certainly not least, our volunteer member-leaders are driven to bring you the products and services you need and prices you can afford.

Thank you for being a member of Aspire Federal Credit Union!

Read the full version and more in our annual report.

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