How Spero Financial Wins With Products, Education, and Outreach

How Spero Financial Wins With Products Education And Outreach

In a Nutshell: Puzzle pieces never fall together of their own accord — someone has to make them fit. In the case of Spero Financial, that someone is a team inspired and united by core values that imbue every action with pride and passion. Products, services, financial education, philanthropy, and volunteerism combine to make communities better places to live, work, and play. Spero is a case study of why we love credit unions.

Spero Financial was known as SC Telco Federal Credit Union when it merged with Anderson Federal Credit Union in February 2021. Together, the joined organizations became known as Spero Financial with combined assets of $529 million. Since the merger, Spero has grown to $700 million and counting, with more than 50,000 members.

Spero is headquartered in the charming South Carolina city of Greenville, growing fast as an anchor in the state’s vibrant upstate region.

The credit union’s name pays homage to the state of its origins, as it draws on a motto on the South Carolina state seal: Dum Spiro Spero, Latin for “while I breathe, I hope.”

Spero Financial logo

Spero, meaning hope, is pronounced “sparrow.” The Spero website characterizes sparrows as industrious and adaptable, individually resilient and collectively strong.

Core values of heart of a servant, mind of champion, and spirit of a warrior impact community interactions in ways that draw notice. In a world where too much seems impersonal, Spero is anything but.

Personal and business banking products strive for inclusive opportunity. A large portion of the credit union’s employees are certified financial counselors. The credit union’s audience for financial education initiatives extends from members to those living in the markets served.

“We see way past just attracting our next member,” said Bethani Williams, VP of Marketing. “True to our mission, we strive to inspire a sense of hopeful optimism in our members’ lives daily — especially when it comes to their finances.”

Helping All Members Build Their Financial Futures

Although the Spero website says the credit union started in 1935, it also states that the institution embodies a tradition stretching to the first financial cooperative, formed in 1844. You do things differently when you see yourself as part of a legacy.

Evidence is in Spero’s products, said Leigh Wright, VP of Member Service, especially products to help new-to-credit members, those looking to regroup after a setback, or folks looking to build a nest egg.

Savings- and certificate-secured loans are examples. Members deposit funds into an account, and Spero loans them back. The credit union reports on-time payments to the three major U.S. credit bureaus to help members establish a positive credit history and boost their scores.

The credit union’s Save to Win savings account also provides members an incentive to put funds aside for a rainy day — welcome in an economy where most Americans don’t have enough cash to tide them over in an emergency.

Spero Financial core values
Spero’s core values encompass integrity, pride, and passion for service.

“Every time a member deposits $25, they receive an entry in a national drawing to win more,” Wright said. “Monthly and quarterly prizes range from $25 to $5,000, and we have winners all the time.”

Wright said Christmas Club and Vacation Club savings accounts promote discipline by encouraging members to set goals. On the checking side, the Kasasa Cash and Kasasa Cash Back accounts reward members for engagement with Spero.

Laura Fowler, VP of Lending Administration, added that Spero’s first-time buyer program makes car ownership achievable for more members.

As a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), the credit union recently applied for federal funding that would allow them to lend to individuals who need additional help.

“That will allow us to meet some smaller-demand loan needs and assist members experiencing financial distress,” Fowler said.

Committed to Financial Consultation and Education

Spero’s community commitment runs just as strong. For example, the credit union’s strategic plan includes transforming branches from transactional to financial consultative centers.

According to America’s Credit Unions, the credit union industry association, more than a third of Spero’s staff across various departments has become certified in financial counseling. Staff members undergo a rigorous six-week program to expand their knowledge of financial scenarios — including taxes, insurance, credit score building, and more — to equip them with more tools and resources to serve members.

Certification reassures members that they’re speaking with an expert when they walk into a branch or contact the credit union through its app or TellerLink.

Spero’s financial education resources include webinars, financial calculators, a quarterly magazine, and GreenPath’s LearningLab+ with articles, tips, and tools. The financial insights section of the Spero website contains copious resources to cover most challenges. The credit union also offers financial wellness coaching through GreenPath.

Spero Financial community service
Community service is at the heart of Spero’s mission.

“We’ve found that some of our members prefer to speak with an outside party about their financial needs, and we make that possible for them,” Williams said.

Spero is also frequently out and about in the community, helping members, consumers, and students from all walks of life gain competencies that enable them to contribute to the vibrant region they call home.

Anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in the areas Spero serves can become a member. However, the credit union also offers financial education to employees and family members of select employee groups.

“We offer financial literacy and wellness tools to the employees of those companies just because they work there,” Wright said.

Fowler said the same is true for participants in the first-time buyer program.

“That includes an educational session and take-home presentation covering fundamentals such as creating a budget and looking for a vehicle with an appropriate cost of ownership,” Fowler said.

Instilling Hopeful Confidence Through Service

Spero firmly believes in fostering financial hope to make the communities it serves more productive and inspiring places to live, work, and play. In 2024, the credit union received the Dora Maxwell Award from the Credit Union National Association (now America’s Credit Unions) for its social responsibility and community service projects.

Spero employees donated 1,200 volunteer hours toward various community causes in 2023.

“One of the things we focus on is getting outside the four walls of our branches to people who might not know us otherwise,” Williams said.

Spero uses a HOPE framework (hunger, opportunity, place, and education) to inform its approach to giving back. Partnerships with local nonprofits add an even more significant impact.

Spero volunteers at Anderson Interfaith Ministries
Spero volunteers with team members at Anderson Interfaith Ministries.

“We’ve been able to offer education, products, and services to folks who wouldn’t have had access to those resources otherwise,” Wright said. “That’s been super important to the teams in that local market.”

Fowler said Spero’s efforts also encourage entrepreneurship.

“We recently participated in a focus group in Anderson SC to learn and provide feedback for the promoting and educating of small business owners in the community,” Fowler said.

Williams added that Spero’s efforts sometimes extend well beyond traditional credit union constituencies. For example, plans are underway to bring financial education to teens in a group foster home.

“Sometimes, we’re serving people who aren’t your traditional credit union members, and that’s okay,” Williams said. “We know that it’s vital to establish good financial habits early, so every month for six months, we’re excited to share financial insights with these teens to help them create a solid financial foundation.”