In a word: While covering the wide world of finance, we sometimes like to delve into financial institutions that grab our attention for one reason or another. The Pittsford Federal Credit Union, which has served the Greater Rochester area since 1968, is distinguished by its member-driven approach. While many credit unions offer lower rates and fees than banks, Pittsford FCU takes it a step further with its progressive thinking on lending. Pittsford FCU members approved for loans receive the same rates regardless of whether their credit score is 510 or 810. The credit union also partners with area schools to offer financial literacy classes and operates a financial education center on its website for members of all ages.
Credit cards are never far from our minds at CardRates, but we also enjoy exploring other related areas in the wider world of financial services. Regular readers may have noticed that this includes taking a deep dive on credit unions across the country that stand out for a variety of reasons.
For Pittsford Federal Credit Union, which serves the Rochester metropolitan area, a major distinguishing feature is its unique approach to lending and strong member-driven programs. While it is true that most credit unions maintain a caring philosophy, Pittsford Federal Credit Union takes the philosophy to new levels in some ways.
We reached out to the general manager of the credit union, Brian Scudder, to find out more about the institution’s products and services.
“The teachers formed the credit union in 1968 when our charter was granted, and we had our first deposit in 1969,” said Scudder.
The credit union was run by volunteers for the first few years after its inception before one of the volunteers, Bill Martin, officially took over as CEO. His son then took the reins of management before retiring in 2018. As such, Scudder is the institution’s third CEO in over 50 years.
“The Pittsford Federal Credit Union has served its members for 51 years, providing financial resources, competitive products and exceptional service,” according to the website. “The credit union continues to grow and is currently the fourth largest credit union in the Greater Rochester area. “
While the credit union now has a community charter and a much larger membership base, Scudder said his member-focused philosophy has not changed.
One of the features of the Pittsford Federal Credit Union that caught our attention is its approach to lending. While credit unions tend to offer lower rates and fees than their banking counterparts, Pittsford FCU goes even further.
“If you look at our appeals report, you will see that our fee income is very low compared to our peers. Our net return on loans is low, which means we charge our members less on loans, ”said Scudder. “The cost of our funds is high, which means we pay our depositors more. “
In fact, the credit union’s commission income is about a third or less than what many of his peers see, Scudder explained.
“So we’re just a little different in that regard, we don’t have risk-based pricing,” Scudder said. “With all of our loans, if you can get approved that day, everyone gets the same rate that day, whether your score is 510 or 810. We just don’t think our evidence suggests that we may charge someone more just because of their credit rating.
And the institution’s imputation ratio is one-tenth of the imputation ratios seen at peer institutions, Scudder said.
“There are a whole bunch of things that we do that we think are different, like the collections that are brought back to me. By lending me reports, I have a direct link with both, ”he said. “Our collection process is not the typical” you get a percentage of what you collect. “”
Instead, the credit union takes a more humane approach when it comes to members who are having difficulty paying their loans.
“We call them and see if they will talk to us. We ask, ‘Is everything okay? Do you have food? Do you have heating? How’s your medicine? Now let’s talk about worrying about your loans, ”Scudder said. “We get this shift in mindset from ‘We’re going to attack you until you give us money’ to ‘We’re actually here to help you. “”
This more caring and tactful approach ultimately pays off. Not only do many members of the Pittsford Federal Credit Union remain for life, but they don’t forget how the credit union has helped them.
“It creates situations where people five years after their loan has been written off and long forgotten can come up with a check and say, ‘Thank you. You helped me out when I needed it most. I couldn’t pay you until now, but here’s your money, ”Scudder said. “And that’s the kind of environment we love to create.
It is not only his approach to financial products and services that demonstrates the Pittsford Federal Credit Union Member First philosophy. The organization also offers a range of financial literacy resources to help its members get on and stay on a healthy financial path.
Scudder said that for the past eight years, the credit union has visited all grade seven classes in the Pittsford school district to teach financial literacy.
“That’s almost 20 sessions a year – the ‘Home and Career’ course is a semester program, and we visit for a class during their Money Matters segment,” he said. “We come in and provide a talk about smart money. And it goes all the way to the origins of money, from barter / commerce to the efficiency of money to the safe use of debit cards. And why you spend more when swiping plastic rather than paying cash. “
The course also discusses the importance of savings, the cost of debt, and other relevant real-world issues, Scudder explained.
“In addition, we use a program called Banzai. We sponsor any schools that we can find within our membership area, ”he said. “We are currently in 15 schools with Banzai. We are absolutely behind to fully support this.
The Credit Union is also partnering with the BALANCE fitness program for members of all ages.
“We want to help you reach your financial goals, whether it’s getting out of debt, sending the kids to college, buying your first home, or retiring,” according to the website. “That’s why one of the benefits of joining Pittsford FCU is access to personal financial information and advice six days a week. And it’s free!
Pittsford FCU also operates a Financial Education Center on its website which includes tips and advice to help guide members through their financial journey.
Scudder said he had worked for the Pittsford Federal Credit Union for 27 years and was originally hired as part of his IT group. Even before that, he worked as a technical consultant for the institution.
“I’ve been coming to this building since 1989, and the philosophy has always been technology first,” he said. “We never had cash in our branches. We use the ATM network. We use technology. We use ACH – all of that good stuff.
“In the age of technology, PFCU strives to keep pace with changing needs to provide the best service to its members. In January 2012, the mobile application for smartphones and tablets was released, ”according to the website. “This has made it easier to access account information on the go. “
Later that same year, the credit union added a mobile check deposit feature for its digital banking members. And in 2014, he partnered with Popmoney to allow members to pay someone through their email address or cell phone.
“ApplePay was added to the list of PFCU services in the fall of 2015. This addition makes it easier to pay without even having to open your wallet, as your card information can be securely attached to your mobile device,” according to the website.
Thanks to its tech-driven philosophy, the credit union didn’t really have to change much when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Scudder explained.
He said that while some members unfamiliar with digital banking were hesitant to embrace the technology at the start of the pandemic, many were happy with it.
Scudder believes the future of the bank lies in more technology-driven applications, and one of the main challenges ahead will be learning how to maintain that close personal bond with its members that the credit union is known for. This could mean more phone calls, the use of video technology, or the increased frequency of the credit union newsletter.
Whatever the answer, Pittsford Financial Credit Union will be up to the challenge.