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January 6 – March 29, 2020
Credit unions are not-for-profit, financial service cooperatives, owned and controlled by their members, and operating in a democratic way. As co-ops, credit unions operate solely for their members’ benefit, rather than to make a profit.
Credit unions were founded on the principle of people helping people. When you join a credit union, you become part of a community. A community that exists to help its members grow and prosper financially. You become something bigger than just an account number. You become a member-owner with the power to shape the future of the credit union through your voice and your vote. You become part of a movement that exists solely for the purpose of meeting the financial needs of their member-owners by following seven cooperative principles:
All co-op businesses run in accordance with seven basic principles.
It's important that members voluntarily choose to become members. Cooperatives are "open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership..."
Members ultimately control their cooperatives. When you attend your credit union's annual meeting or vote for the board of directors, you're exercising your member control.
"Cooperatives operate so that capital is the servant, not the master, of the organization."
While governments determine the legislative framework within which co-ops function, this principle asserts that co-ops also have an "essential need to be autonomous in the same way that enterprises controlled by capital are..."
This principle says members can play their role in the cooperative only when they understand that role and the co-op. That's one reason, for example, that your credit union provides you with this information and other educational tools.
Those managing a cooperative believe that co-ops have a unique opportunity to protect and expand the interests of ordinary people. This kind of one-for-all and all-for-one idea is unique. Even in areas where they compete, it's common for credit unions to cooperate on activities.
Cooperatives exist primarily for the benefit of their members. Because of this strong association with members, they also are often closely and actively tied to their communities.
Edward Filene, founder of the first credit union in the U.S.
A recognized visionary and innovator, Don W. Lewis has been a leader in the credit union movement for more than 40 years.
You may already know that when joining a credit union, you do not become a customer, but rather a member. However, did you know you also become an owner?
This structure of member-ownership sets credit unions apart from all other financial service providers. It is a concept that goes back to 19th century Germany, when credit cooperatives were formed to meet the needs of struggling farmers. While economies have grown and evolved over time, the concepts of member-ownership and the cooperative remain as relevant today as they were then.
Credit unions are for the people and owned by the people. Your initial deposit of five dollars becomes your “share” of ownership in APGFCU. Each and every member has one equal share, regardless of his or her account balance. Whether it’s $5 or $500,000, all are equal owners. Each member-owner has a voice in the credit union. That voice can be exercised to help shape the credit union’s future. For example, members have the right to vote in the annual election of our board of directors. Members also have the opportunity to volunteer to serve on a credit union committee.
Because APGFCU is owned by its members, we have a member-centric orientation. We focus on how to best serve you and meet your needs. In order to do that, we listen. When we receive feedback from members, we take it into consideration. We review every letter and email that is submitted to us.
We also actively seek our members’ thoughts and opinions via periodic surveys and focus groups. This information is analyzed and used to impact decisions we make about products, services, delivery channels and more.
We strive to maximize the benefits of your membership by offering better rates, fewer and lower fees, and by investing in infrastructure to improve our services and convenience. In 2018, this was demonstrated by offering above-market deposit rates, including eight certificate specials, one of which had an annual percentage yield of 5.00%. We continued to meet our members’ lending needs by offering affordable ways to borrow, granting nearly $653 million in loans in 2018. In addition, we made significant investments in new branches and technology to improve service delivery.
We believe all generations benefit from credit union membership, and we continuously strive for ways to deliver our message of financial capability to people of all ages. Throughout Harford and Cecil counties, we are actively involved in providing financial education to the children in our schools, imparting the knowledge necessary for a sound financial future. In addition, we offer financial education workshops and counseling throughout the year. In 2018 alone, we reached nearly 4,500 youth and over 3,200 adults through our financial education and counseling efforts.
We are driven to give back to our member-owners. Over the past year, this took many forms. In addition to the aforementioned rates and infrastructure improvements, we began waiving the foreign ATM fee that was previously charged when using an Allpoint Network ATM. With this change, our members can now enjoy truly free access to over 43,000 ATMs nationwide. Thousands of members benefited from 0% balance transfer offers and cash-back awards for Visa® credit cards, a low introductory rate on home equity lines of credit, and closing cost assistance for mortgages.
Our structure has served us well for the past 80 years, as our results show. APGFCU has the highest deposit market share out of all other financial institutions in Harford and Cecil County combined. In fact, nearly one out of every two households in these counties is a member of APGFCU. This success goes beyond offering the right products and services, and knowing how to navigate the marketplace. Other financial institutions can do the same. The difference is our unique, member-owner structure and cooperative focus. Each and every decision we make is with our 130,000-plus member-owners in mind.
Don W. Lewis President/CEO