Too often people feel uncomfortable talking about finances, but Corporate America Family Credit Union’s mission is to welcome people into the conversation.
“Financial education is important to us,” said Deliana Gamez, vice president of business development. “Everyone’s financial story is different. We don’t want people to come to us to be told what to do with their finances. We want to give them all the knowledge they need to assess their own financial situation and make educated decisions. When someone comes in for a loan we don’t say ‘this is what you’re approved for.’ The first question we ask is ‘what is an affordable payment for you.’”
Headquartered in Illinois, CAFCU has a nationwide footprint with branches in 11 states total, including one in Bristol since 1999.
“Once you become a member with us you are not a customer, you belong to our family,” said Kasia Leone, Bristol branch manager. “The most important thing is that we empower your financial success. People don’t like to be sold, they like to be helped, and that’s what we do every single day.”
The CAFCU story began when 15 employees of Automatic Electric Co. made a deposit of $5 each into the newly founded Automatic Credit Union back in 1939. Since then, the credit union has evolved in name, membership base and charter to bring it to where it is today – serving tens of thousands of members across the nation.
In order to continue serving a diverse membership, the credit union altered its charter from a federal charter to a State of Illinois charter in 1997, and so it came to have the name it is known by today.
CAFCU primarily works with what are known as Select Employer Groups (SEGs), although it is open to the community, Gamez said. “We welcome anyone in the community, and if they can’t join from the community footprint, we have other avenues with our charitable fund donation, which donates to scholarships. They can join by donating to that fund.”
The credit union also prides itself on being innovative, such as in adding personal teller machines in the branch locations.
They are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to connect you with a live person on screen to handle all your transactions, Gamez said. “With the large footprint and the asset size we have we’ve been fortunate to launch technologies that you may not find at some of the smaller banks or local community credit unions.”
The covid-19 pandemic has also had an impact on CAFCU.
“Now it’s about accessibility,” she said. “We want people to be able to access their accounts while being safe, so we’ve pivoted to make sure you are able to do all the things you want to do with a financial institution from the comfort of your home. We’ve launched a concept called Virtual One-on-Ones where our members can set up 15-minute video chat sessions where they connect with us on a live camera, or they can do it by phone. That way they can apply for membership or loans, talk about accounts, even just get general counseling about budgeting, buying your first home and things like that.”
CAFCU has also been focusing on putting out educational content about the federal CARES Act and the stimulus checks that were being sent out, she continued. “We want to talk about not just the drier content of financial education, but about things that are relevant today for our members.”
For the future, look for CAFCU to launch improvements to its website and make contact-less cards available to members.
However, brick and mortar will stay important too, Gamez said. “We are enhancing some of our branch locations too, to make them a bit more sleek, a little more of a different experience.”
Corporate America Family Credit Union is located at 501 Middle St., Bristol. For more information, call 860-583-4437, 800-359-1939, or visit www.cafcu.org .