In a Nutshell: Credit unions are known for their commitment to the communities they serve, and University Federal Credit Union in Central Texas is a good example of just how impactful this approach can be. The Austin-based institution identifies as a social purpose credit union and focuses much of its effort on the areas of education, employment, and affordable housing. The credit union partners with like-minded organizations to make positive impacts in the community and drive the financial health of its members and beyond. It’s also the largest mortgage lender in the Austin area. University Federal Credit Union recently launched its PlanU program to give the community and its members access to expert financial advice that will contribute to their overall financial health.
As not-for-profit organizations, many credit unions are known not only for their financial offerings but also for their dedication to serving their communities — and University Federal Credit Union in Central Texas is no exception.
The Austin-based credit union was founded in 1936 when a group of 30 faculty members from the University of Texas pooled their funds for a total of $855, said Heather McKissick, the organization’s Senior Vice President of Community Impact.
Today, University Federal Credit Union serves approximately 325,000 members belonging to more than 200 universities, associations, and employers in Central Texas and Galveston County. The credit union’s assets are just under $5 billion, McKissick said.
“We work hard to adhere to the original credit union values and principles that started it all,” she said.
And those principles include promoting the well-being and prosperity of credit union members and the communities in which the credit union operates.
McKissick discussed the ways in which the University Federal Credit Union works to deliver valuable financial and instructional resources to communities across Central Texas. University Federal takes its role as a social purpose credit union to heart, exerting formidable efforts to drive financial health anywhere it can.
Supporting Education and Employment Efforts to Drive Financial Health
With its roots at the University of Texas., McKissick said University Federal Credit Union continues to maintain a strong connection to higher education.
“Our big mission is related to education — higher education in particular — and helping make sure that our members and potential members in the communities that we serve have access and opportunities for quality education,” she explained.
Education is actually one of three main areas of focus, along with employment and housing affordability, for the credit union. McKissick said that by turning its efforts to these three areas the credit union can maximize its impact in driving driving financial health.
“We call those our social impact areas,” she said. “They really drive most of the products and services we offer for members and the community. They also drive our corporate philanthropy and our social purpose work as well.”
University Federal Credit Union often works alongside organizations whose missions align with the credit union’s to focus on those three social impact areas. The credit union’s engagement varies, including strategic partnerships, sponsorships, employee volunteering, and giving.
“When we talk about employment, we’re focused on mid-skills employment that usually happens when someone is between high schools and a four-year degree. Not everyone goes to college. We want to make sure that population doesn’t slip through the cracks,” McKissick said.
She discussed how important it is for the credit union to stay focused on its original mission despite major growth over the years.
“We are a large financial institution, and it’s really very important to us on the team internally and also to our board that we don’t lose sight of the original not-for-profit credit union mission that we’re on,” McKissick said.
She said University Federal Credit Union is a social purpose credit union.
“Everything that we do — our products, our services, our approach to financial health and counseling — everything is now geared through that lens of those three impact areas,” McKissick said. “They drive everything in service to financial health.”
The Importance of Affordable Housing and a Quality Mortgage Lending Program
When it comes to its focus on affordable housing, University Federal Credit Union demonstrates its commitment in a number of ways.
“UFCU is the number one mortgage lender in the Austin, Texas, area now for five years in a row,” McKissick said. “We have a very unique relationship-based approach to mortgage lending.”
That approach was even more evident in recent months as folks dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
“We offered a wide variety of crisis relief options for our members, including — but not limited to — special emergency type loans, mortgages, forbearances, loan deferments, etc.,” McKissick said.
She also discussed some of the other components in its affordable housing efforts.
“Housing affordability is so important to us, and as the number one mortgage lender we feel like we have a big responsibility to the needs of our community — the concern that we have for our community related to housing affordability,” McKissick said.
One way University Federal Credit Union has tackled this issue is with a special partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
“This year, UFCU led the charge, and we organized a joint build among the credit unions in Austin with UFCU in the lead position. We came in as the lead donor and our team has been the one organizing it. And we’ve built a Habitat for Humanity house. It’s called the House that Credit Unions Built.” — Heather McKissick, University Federal Credit Union Senior Vice President of Community Impact
The credit union has also created a special mortgage program in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
“It’s not just about that one house, but really about Habitat having a good, affordable, and special mortgage program UFCU created just for them,” McKissick said.
She said this is just part of how the credit union is trying to do the very best it can to be not just good community members and good stewards of the community, but also to show its concern for the community through its philanthropy. That extends to its products and services.
“It’s a full spectrum in my view and an example of how we’re committed to housing affordability through that special mortgage but also through volunteerism, corporate philanthropy, and also organizing our fellow credit unions all together to make a meaningful difference.”
Helping Members Take Control of Their Finances
McKissick said University Federal Credit Union recently launched a new effort — PlanU — to help its members improve their finances and gain better financial footing for the future.
“That new program is our financial health program, and there are two components to it, really three depending on how you look at it,” she said. “The public-facing component is not exclusive to members. It’s considered a community resource.”
This includes online learning opportunities that are available for free to anyone. This portion of the program includes information on a wide variety of financial topics as well as several short learning modules.
“Let’s work together on your financial health,” according to the website. “Create a personalized financial plan with PlanU, and work toward tomorrow. As for today, need to complete a transaction, but not sure how? Our new Quick Service Guide helps you find the fastest way to get your banking done.”
McKissick said a key aspect of the PlanU process is meeting people where they are. This means talking to them about their unique financial situation and their credit report.
“It’s not just a quick and dirty overview, it’s a full sit-down review of their credit report,” she said. “It’s getting that kind of personalized financial consultation and creating an action plan with goals on it.”
The University Federal Credit Union website makes it quick and easy to set up a virtual appointment to help members progress on their journey to financial health.
“Talking to a financial health expert has never been easier!” according to the credit union website. “Receive personalized guidance and create an action plan to achieve your goals through candid, compassionate conversations with an expert.”
With its focus on education, employment, housing affordability, and financial health, University Federal Credit Union is demonstrating on a daily basis its commitment to the well-being of its Central Texas communities.