John Kingston made a major career change 17 years ago in order to spend more time with his family. He meant it.
He left the retail field in order to be able to live and work in one place so he could watch his children grow up. But that transition has also aided the growth of the credit union and may be instrumental in its survival.
Kingston was a self-described “PTA dad” volunteering at the grade school. When he became manager of the credit union 10 years ago, he said, he sought more community involvement, which, at the time, was somewhat uncharted territory. A new high school principal approached the credit union to form a branch in Revere High School, and three years ago, that branch became reality. The credit union changed its charter to be able to accept high school students. And just recently, Revere Municipal Employees Federal Credit Union opened membership to Winthrop municipal employees, as well as any child attending schools in either Revere or Winthrop – after which their families could also become credit union members.
The credit union offers financial literacy courses for high school students, as well as student debit cards pending parent or guardian permission. In a community where students often work to contribute to the support of their families – and where many families are unbanked – they receive direct deposit of their paychecks and easy access to their money from after-school work.
The credit union has also partnered with Revere’s Park and Recreation Department, which hires about 200 student summer workers who have difficulty, at 15 years old, cashing a check without a driver’s license, Kingston said. Issuing them a debit card and doing direct deposit of their summer-work city check launches them into the beginning of their financial lives, he said.
The expansion strategy had to start from the beginning. “We had no online presence at all,” he said. “I started with a website and went from there. Share drafts and debit cards were next. We then did [a] virtual branch and a mobile app,” and he credited software provider Fiserv with help to achieve the online outreach goals. The NCUA also awarded the credit card two grants to help it create the virtual branch and the mobile app. Last but not least, the credit union offers remote deposit capture and e-signature, both of them expensive technologies but essential for the credit union to remain competitive, Kingston said.
Kingston said he’s aware of the trend among small credit unions to merge, a measure he doesn’t want to take. He commends the credit union’s board of directors for its support in this regard. “I believe we are headed in the right direction and hope to remain independent,” he said.