When Maggie Pope began working as a teller at the Peru Federal Credit Union (PFCU) in 2005 the financial cooperative was tucked into a tiny space behind the McDonald’s restaurant on the Bear Swamp Road. “It was so small,” she reminisced. Since that time the PFCU has received a community charter and Pope has gone from teller to CEO and neither shows any sign of slowing down.
With membership growing, Pope wants the community to know, “We’re a full-service financial institution with checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit, business and personal accounts, car loans, personal loans, and mortgages. We offer online banking. Members can scan a check using our smart phone app and deposit it directly into their accounts. Our online accounts are compatible with the QuickBooks Accounting program and all accounts are ensured by the NationalCredit Union Administration.”
PFCU follows the credit union definition in that it is a not for profit financial institution. That means profits are distributed in dividends to members and through products like low interest loans and high interest savings and checking accounts.
Pope is proud of her team members and the community they represent and serve. “We’ve grown from a staff of four to almost a dozen employees—including a social media administrator now serving three branches,” she explained.
While Pope works to keep her branches on the cutting edge of technology, those are not the only irons she has in the fire. PFCU offers an app, and members can do most of their banking online. She explained that members who spend time out of the area or have a home out of state can choose to do their banking wherever they find themselves.
With Pope at the helm, PFCU continues to embrace its founding philosophy of “people helping people” whether it is in cyber space or around the corner. “There is a movement toward electronic and mobile banking and some of our members are looking to go that route,” she offered. “We want them to have their needs met and we work to anticipate what some of those needs might be going forward. But for us, it’s not either/or. We are just as adamant about having a brick and mortar presence in the communities we serve. Our membership is made up of individuals who live, work, worship or volunteer in Clinton and Essex Counties.”
Pope grew up in AuSable Forks and retains a loyalty, understanding and gratitude to the community she came from. This fall will mark two years that PFCU’s second branch was established in the Forks. The branch is tucked in by the west branch of the AuSable River and offers a drive thru teller and drive up ATM, services that were very welcome in an area that had gone without for some time.
When the only bank in Keeseville announced it was closing, Pope knew it would be leaving some customers out in the cold — literally. Those who wanted to continue their business with the institution would be limited to a walk-up ATM a stone’s throw from the iconic bridge over the AuSable River, a less than ideal location to say the least, never mind it was mid- November.
Immediately Pope and the PFCU responded. They brought a temporary branch to Pleasant Street, across from the area landmark Arnold’s Grocery and committed to not leaving the community in a financial desert. Pope was confident in her decision and remains unwavering in her advocacy and commitment to her communities. “We did our research,” she shared. “The Towns of AuSable and Chesterfield have the population and businesses to support a financial institution. Many roads come right into Keeseville and it is in the center of our company triangle now that we have offices in AuSable Forks, Keeseville and Peru. Soo… “Pope shared, beaming with pride, “in the words of our social media coordinator -#allroadsleadtoPFCU!”
Having the branch in AuSable Forks gave PFCU exposure and the brick and mortar presence encouraged growth. “Within a year our loans had grown and our membership grew as well. We welcomed hundreds of new embers. And the Keeseville branch? We signed up 25 members in our first week!”
PFCU never closed its “temporary” branch in Keeseville, and when the opportunity presented itself, bought land. “We want the community to know we are here for them, and particularly in this area people like to come in and do their banking.” And so, PFCU will break ground this summer for an opening in the fall where the old Grand Union used to be, right along Front Street. “Being in that location was a great opportunity to see the growth that is happening here, and we want to be a part of it.”
Despite the fast pace of PFCU’s growth, it is extremely well thought out. Pope wants to make sure that every location has a drive-up ATM and a drive through teller lane. “These are the things that our membership has asked us for, and people (even those that aren’t members yet) use frequently!” she observed.
During Pope’s tenure PFCU has more than doubled its assets and all of its ratios have increased based on initiatives to maximize community accessibility and involvement. Her approach is action oriented. And she isn’t limiting her efforts just to branch growth. Pope prioritizes education for herself, her team and its members. While much of that has been put on a pandemic pause, it is something she is eager to resume as soon as it makes sense to do so.
The little credit union that could, that started out behind a fast food joint, has grown. While PFCU continues to stay on the cutting edge and works to make sure all of the current technologies and cyber protections are offered to its members, the staff is resolute in its commitment to offering the services its members are looking for. They are even available to educate members on their web/ app-based services should a member be interested but have a limited skill set and need assistance. But Pope is emphatic that those efforts will not preclude PFCU from being a brick and mortar presence in the communities it serves. “FinTech is important to the growth of our business, but it’s not more important than traditional services. Not more important than a warm greeting. Not to me and not to any of us at the Peru Federal Credit Union.”
Peru Federal Credit Union
700 Bear Swamp Rd.
Peru, NY 12972
AuSable Forks Branch
2499 Route 9N, PO Box 786
AuSable Forks, NY 12912
187 Pleasant St
Keeseville, NY 12944