One of the biggest challenges faced by small credit unions is the rapid advancement of technology in the banking industry. Many of those who would be best served by our services, as well as those who are most well-equipped to provide stable accounts, have grown up with a device in their hand. If it can’t be done on a phone, it can’t be done. For a small credit union, investing in technology overhauls is daunting. The investment isn’t just an expense that’s not in the budget (just as with our churches, it never is); it’s a new way of thinking, a new way of serving, a new way of believing in doing mission.
Founded in the wake of the 1992 civil unrest, the Episcopal Community Federal Credit Union (Episcopal Credit) received its federal charter in 1994 with the support of many volunteers from parishes around the diocese as well as seed funding from what we now know as Episcopal Relief & Development. As a faith-based credit union, headquartered at St. Paul’s Commons, we serve a low- and moderate-income community that believes in the principle of service to others and responsible investing in the community. This philosophy follows the credit union principle where members pool their savings to make loans to one another and are shareholders of the institution where they save, borrow, and obtain financial services.
As Bishop of Los Angeles John Harvey Taylor notes, “Our credit union began and persists as a ministry of economic justice, enabling individuals and institutions to lay hands on some vital capital to leverage a better future when other lenders pass them by.”
Currently, our credit union provides an abundance of services, including:
- Low-cost financial services for members opening their first account or who need financial counseling, in a supportive, compassionate, bilingual environment with fee-free, direct-deposit checking accounts and co-op debit cards;
- Support for local entrepreneurs in the form of small business loans and loans to churches to assist with much-needed repairs or revenue generating revitalization;
- As an extension of its focus on social justice ministries, the credit union enables members with well-established banking records to help support others in the community as they build a more financially sustainable future
- Support for clergy in establishing credit and providing savings and checking accounts and debit cards.
Pre-pandemic, Episcopal Credit’s board of directors recognized the need to modernize the credit union’s technology infrastructure platforms and product offerings to make our services more accessible to current and prospective members. Episcopal Credit launched our transformational efforts in the middle of lock-down, remotely researching the efforts of other credit unions, logging countless Zoom meeting hours, and determining which platforms and programs would best fill the needs of our diverse and flourishing community. Little did we know how long the pandemic would last, the impact it would have, the devastation it would leave.
During these pandemic years it would have been easy to leave good enough alone. But Episcopal Credit’s mission has always been focused on serving our community. This means finding a way forward isn’t really a choice. It’s a calling.
In practical terms, this means that Episcopal Credit wants to expand the reach of our services, making them available to technology savvy generations that rely primarily on cell phones for financial transactions. We want to make it easier for you to access your accounts, make transfers, pay bills, check your credit, and begin other financial transactions including opening new accounts and applying for loans – all online.
In 2023, all these things will be possible. We are thrilled to announce the many new technologies now available through the Episcopal Community Federal Credit Union:
- New online banking platform, available on our website at EpiscopalCredit.org
- New online bill pay system
- Apple Pay and Samsung Pay
- Mobile App, now available in the App store (ECFCU app)
- Mobile check deposit (coming soon)
- Zelle digital payment service (coming Summer 2023)
As happy as we are about these significant technological enhancements, we do not intend to rest on our laurels. These upgrades mean nothing if no one knows about them. They cannot help folks who aren’t yet members of the Credit Union. As noted earlier, credit union members are shareholders and pool their own money to make loans to one another. Increased membership is essential to develop our loan offerings, both for auto and personal loans and for church loans.
As a credit union with a low-income designation, we are eager to keep our identity as a local community financial center while expanding our reach, providing our neighbors, clergy, and churches with opportunities to grow in financial strength and to pass that knowledge along in their own community. We want our larger Episcopal community – which includes anyone who participates in any program of the Episcopal Church – to have the opportunity to participate in low interest lending, social justice banking, and feel-good funding.
Not a member yet? Please visit EpiscopalCredit.org or call 213.482.2040, ext. 254, to join!
— Jennifer Miramontes is vice-chair of the board of directors of the Episcopal Community Federal Credit Union. This article was originally published in The Angelus, clergy newsletter of the Diocese of Los Angeles.