United Federal Credit Union makes progress, reflects on the past

United Federal Credit Union has been at the center of a whirlwind of progress in recent years, but it has also recently stopped thinking about its roots.

The St. Joseph-based credit union founded in 1949 said it strives to provide personalized in-person service, balanced with an innovative digital experience to meet members’ growing expectations of what they need. their financial institution.

The Credit Union recently opened approximately 80,000 square feet of new corporate headquarters in St. Joseph to increase its diverse workforce, expanded its branch presence to new cities including South Bend, Indiana and Springdale, Arkansas, taking it to 42 locations in six states, and it launched new remote banking services like its chatbot Mya AI and upgrades to its mobile app.

As United look to their future and their ability to help more members than ever before, the institution is also taking time to reflect on the values ​​it was built upon and honor those who pioneered the founding of the credit union 72 years ago.

In July 2021, United welcomed one of its founding members to visit the new headquarters in St. Joseph. John Conrad, 95, saw firsthand how much the small credit union he helped start has grown. Conrad was the first auditor of Nineteen Hundred Employee Credit Union, which would later become United Federal Credit Union. He also served on the board of directors of the credit union, including serving as chairman of the board.

Prior to becoming a founding member of the Credit Union, Conrad was a World War II veteran who enrolled in an injured veterans training program to learn accounting. He learned these skills and landed a job in the payroll department of Whirlpool Corporation. While Conrad’s job made him a natural fit to help start the credit union, he said his real passion for helping others in St. Joseph came after a bad experience at another financial institution.

“I needed a loan to buy a heater for the house I was building,” Conrad said. “I went to the bank after working on the house, and I wasn’t dressed the best. I said, ‘I would like a loan.’ (The banker) looked at my clothes and asked me if I worked in a factory. I told him I worked in an office. He kept asking me questions, including who I was working for. I ended up getting the loan, but the way I was treated convinced me that we needed a better way to get loans. The credit union did it for us, and I’ve been a member ever since.

Conrad, along with seven others, formally founded the Nineteen Hundred Employee Credit Union in 1949. At that time, it only served Whirlpool employees and had around 500 members. Instead of the sprawling corporate headquarters and dozens of branches that United operates today, the business of the credit unions was conducted from a safe kept inside a Whirlpool building until the opening of its first independent branch in October 1963.

“We wanted to welcome people into the credit union and tell them what we could do for them – make them feel comfortable,” Conrad recalls of the founding members’ motivations.

It’s a state of mind according to Terry O’Rourke, which is just as important to the institution today as it was in the late 1940s.

“We want to strive to carry on the legacy that John and our other Founding Members started – to show respect and kindness to others we meet. This includes not only our members, but each other no matter how busy we are, ”he said.

While the values ​​on which the Credit Union was founded have remained the same, the number of members United serves has grown to over 180,000.

“I’m very proud. I’m amazed at how much United have grown,” said Conrad. “I’m so proud to see what’s happening with credit unions across the country. It is good for me. heart.

As United continue to look to the future and how to improve the service they provide to its members, Conrad offered some simple advice to current employees and leaders.

“Treat people with respect. Be nice to them, ”Conrad said. “And compliment people when they do their jobs well. “

Conrad’s advice resonated with members of Team United, including O’Rourke, who have indicated that these words are the key to the foundation of all exceptional leadership.

“It was simple but powerful advice,” O’Rourke said. “John’s words are something we can reflect on in our daily interaction with members, with each other and with the people of our community. It’s also an important reminder that although we have grown so much in 70 years, we come from humble beginnings built on timeless values.

United Federal Credit Union is made up of over 180,000 members / owners worldwide and manages over $ 3.7 billion in assets. Its head office and main branch are located in St. Joseph, with additional branches in Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio. More information on UnitedFCU.com.

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