In a Nutshell: Credit unions offer many people appealing characteristics, including high-quality personal service and a commitment to the community, that set them apart from traditional big banks. Alabama ONE Credit Union embraces these differentiators and takes pride in the role it has played in Alabama for nearly 70 years. The credit union maintains a robust financial wellness program that includes regular virtual meetings, school programs, and one-on-one coaching. Alabama ONE Credit Union also remains active in the communities in which it operates by sponsoring events and regularly showing support for important local causes and organizations.
The credit union financial institution model began springing up in Germany in the 1800s, and by the early 20th century had found its way to America. Since those days, credit unions have popped up all over the country to offer individuals an alternative to traditional banks.
Credit unions are member-owned, nonprofit organizations that often put more emphasis on personalized service than do other institutions. They also offer competitive financial products and services because, as nonprofits, they are less driven by the bottom line. Credit unions also maintain a reputation for their active role in the communities in which they operate.
And this is all certainly true for Alabama ONE Credit Union, which is based in Tuscaloosa.
The institution has been serving Alabama for decades and has seen substantial growth since its early days as a small credit union created specifically for employees of BFGoodrich.
We recently spoke with Jacquie Johnson, Alabama ONE Credit Union’s Director of Financial Wellness & Outreach, to learn more about its products and services, its robust financial wellness program, and its community involvement.
Alabama ONE Credit Union is driven by its philosophy to deliver products and services that benefit members’ financial lives.
“Your goals change as life changes. What matters most when you’re 23 is different when you’re 35 or 55. But one thing is true — most of life’s big goals require healthy finances,” according to the institution. “And at Alabama ONE, that’s our purpose. That’s why we exist: to help you build a healthy financial life so that whatever the goal that is most important to you – your ONE – becomes a reality.”
Serving Alabama For More Than 70 Years
Alabama ONE Credit Union began its longstanding tenure in 1951. It was originally known as the TRW Federal Credit Union, and in 1973 was renamed the BFGoodrich Employees Federal Credit Union. From that point in time, the credit union has continued to grow and take on new members.
“In early 2001, BFGoodrich Employees Federal Credit Union was granted the status of a Community Credit Union. Membership was subsequently opened to all who live, work, worship or are educated in Tuscaloosa and Pickens Counties,” according to the organization.
The institution’s name was changed to Alabama ONE Credit Union in early 2009.
“So, we’ve been here, and we’ve really branched out,” Johnson said. The credit union underwent a merger last summer with Alabama Rural Electric Credit Union in Montgomery, and it recently purchased a bank in Linden, Alabama, Johnson explained.
“We’re very excited about both of those — the merger and the purchase,” she said. “This puts us at a little over $900 million in assets. It’s constantly growing. When I started working here 2 ½ years ago, we were at about $653 million. So there’s been tremendous growth in 2 ½ years.”
Johnson said Alabama ONE Credit Union maintains 14 branches across the state. Most of the branches are in the Tuscaloosa region, but the credit union also has a statewide presence.
“Together, Alabama ONE and ARECU, in both services offered and geographic presence, offer an unparalleled field of membership and opportunities to serve communities across Alabama,” according to the institution. “There is unimaginable potential in the collective financial strength, media penetration, and cooperative commitment of Alabama ONE, ARECU, and the Alabama Rural Electric Association (AREA) of electric cooperatives.”
Providing a Wealth of Financial Literacy Resources To Help People at All Life Stages
Financial wellness is a huge area of focus these days for Alabama ONE Credit Union, Johnson said.
“When COVID first hit, the financial wellness department was just me — I was the only one,” she said. “Then with the merger of Alabama Electric, we brought on another team member.”
Johnson said that, as people were met with more financial challenges during COVID and were hearing varying advice about how to handle these challenges, the credit union decided to increase its already active financial wellness efforts.
“We were doing a monthly Zoom meeting where we basically started talking about things to be aware of. People were hearing a lot about going to mortgage lenders and telling them they want to put their mortgage in forbearance,” Johnson said. “We were telling them why that was not a good idea to do that, as of yet. We addressed other things like should people defer car payments.”
Johnson said the meetings were really about providing members and nonmembers alike with as much valuable information on how to best handle the unprecedented situation the pandemic put in front of so many people.
“After we got out the do’s and don’t’s, then we started speaking to them about certain things to keep in mind like making sure your credit stays on track. And the fact that there was a lot of fraud that happened during the pandemic,” she said. “So we talked about how to look for fraud on your credit report.”
Alabama ONE Credit Union even launched a financial wellness podcast during this time, Johnson said.
Another key component to the institution’s financial wellness program is the work it does in schools, Johnson explained.
“Before the pandemic started we were constantly in the schools, as young as second grade, doing financial literacy, and all the way through college,” she said. During the pandemic, the credit union was still able to offer its school programs virtually.
Alabama ONE Credit Union hosts a wealth of financial wellness resources on its website that people can easily access for free. It also partners with GreenPath Financial Wellness to provide in-depth financial guidance to members.
Supporting the Local Community with Sponsorships, Events, and Donations
As with many credit unions, Alabama ONE Credit Union values the communities in which it operates and takes pride in working to support important local causes and organizations.
“Alabama ONE was founded on a vision to make our local community stronger through shared values and high-impact relationships,” according to the organization. “Our strong connection to the local community has grown from our ability to serve the ambitions of our Members. Today, our TEAM is committed to supporting local causes that are important to our Members and our communities.”
The credit union regularly sponsors organizations and events that benefit the community.
Its Food Truck Friday and Munchy Monday events are a great way to promote and support local businesses. And its Family$aves program is designed to elevate the entire family. The program will match each family with a mentor from the Alabama ONE team, offer quarterly Financial Literacy and Personal Growth classes, feature a point-based system to reinforce the program’s values, and provide opportunities to attend events and earn financial incentives.
Johnson said the credit union also launched the Bridge Builders financial wellness conference in 2019, which is designed to reach what Alabama ONE Credit Union views as the main pillars of the community — the faith community, the education community, and the nonprofit community.
“Bridge Builders is a catalyst for collaboration to empower these communities while building bridges of connection and communication to foster mutually beneficial relationships; and, therefore, enhance our collective communities,” according to the institution.