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Low-Income Branch

Credit Union :Communicating Arts
Assets :$28
Address :P O Box 32584 | Detroit, MI 48232-0584

Details :

Start Date: April 2008

Key Credit Union Data:

  • Loan/share ratio: 82.7%
  • Yield on average loans: 8.8%
  • # Members: 8,000
  • Avg. shares/member: $3,030
  • Avg. loan balance: $4,320
  • Membership growth in 2009: 10%


Highland Park, Michigan is a city within the city of Detroit. It is an impoverished community with a mean income of about $17,000, estimates Kim Vermander, VP of lending and development at Communicating Arts Credit Union (CACU). According to reliable sources, unemployment in Detroit is approaching 50% and the majority of residents in Highland Park live below the poverty level, according to Vermander. The crime rate in Highland Park is three times greater than any surrounding area. So it seemed a strange decision when CACU chose Highland Park as its location for a second branch. “Our peers thought we were crazy,” says Vermander. “It was a scary prospect.”

But research conducted by the credit union showed that many of its members lived or worked in Highland Park. A zip code search indicated a high concentration of members lived in the area and a number of the SEGs served by the credit union are located in Highland Park, as well. Furthermore, management saw a real need for a credit union in the community where payday lenders and check cashers are very prevalent.

When a community developer decided to build a shopping and office complex on a plot of ground in Highland Park, the credit union jumped in with both feet, says Vermander. “It’s been the best decision we’ve made,” she states. “We’ve gone back to our roots of people helping people. It’s where people want us to be. It makes coming to work each day fun.”

That people in the community appreciate the credit union is evidenced by the growth CACU is experiencing. Membership growth increased 10% in 2009, with 25% of those members coming from the Highland Park area. Over 2,000 members are from Highland Park and 80% of those members have joined since the branch opening, says Vermander. “We are opening between 90 and 100 new accounts a month,” she states. Highland Park members represent $1.7 million in deposits and $2 million in loans. “The community appreciates our presence and our membership growth is proof of that,” says Vermander. Community organizations are quick to include CACU in any local events, as well.

Security was a big issue when the credit union decided to put a branch in the new shopping complex, notes Vermander. However, the developer worked with the credit union to address security concerns. There is a security vestibule and a police mini-station a few doors down from the credit union branch. The vestibule itself is very open and inviting, says Vermander, but having security personnel nearby minimized the credit union’s security concerns.

Products/Services Offered:

  • PDL-Alternative – MyPay Today – A $500 loan with a $70 annual fee and up to 60 days to repay at 18% APR.
  • Save to Win Certificate – A 12-month CD with a low initial balance of $25 and with each $25 addition (maximum of 10 per month), member receives a chance for monthly savings prizes – up to 10 each month and an annual grand prize of $100,000.
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site in the branch.
  • Financial counseling using Accel.
  • CACU adopted 24 families for Christmas from six area schools.

Additional Information:

Communicating Arts CU is constantly reviewing its products and services to make sure they are meeting members’ needs, says Vermander. The Save to Win certificate program is offered through the Michigan Credit Union League. In 2009 there were eight credit unions offering the product, but CACU has the highest penetration of its members using the CD product. Almost 15% of CACU’s members participate in the savings program, according to Vermander. The 1,100 accounts represent $307,000 in Save to Win deposits, or an average of about $283. “The majority of our members aren’t regular savers,” says Vermander, “but they love the idea of the chance to win monthly prizes.”

Vermander is also proud of the credit union employees and their willingness to make a difference in their community. “Most of our VITA IRS-certified volunteers are our employees. They are very willing to give their time to community projects when not at work. They love being part of the community.” A further example was the 24 families adopted for Christmas. “The employees bought food, clothes, and even paid utility bills for these families,” notes Vermander. “Then on Christmas Eve, they went to the houses and delivered their goods wearing Santa hats. Our CEO, Hank Hubbard, is passionate about community service and is always a participant in these events.”