Modesto-based credit union dives into South Kern | News

While a local credit union is expanding north through the Central Valley, a Modesto competitor is pushing south into Kern.

Valley First Credit Union says it began making auto loans in the county after recently receiving regulatory approval to add members in Kern and Sacramento counties. It already serves people in 10 other California counties.

The move puts Valley First in direct competition with Bakersfield-based Valley Strong Credit Union, a larger institution that since 2020 has grown north across the Valley through a series of acquisitions and store openings. new branches.

Valley Strong President and CEO Nick Ambrosini said in an email Monday that competition is always better for consumers. “But we remain confident that we are the region’s premier financial institution and continue to live our mission of helping people and communities thrive,” he added.

Valley First President and CEO Kathryn Davis agreed the options were good for consumers and said by email her organization was happy to see other credit unions grow.

One thing she noted her credit union is bringing to the table that Valley Strong doesn’t have — yet — is certification as a community development financial institution. The designation goes to specialized organizations that provide financial services in poor communities that lack them. CDFIs can get federal funds to provide flexible loans for things like business loans and community facilities.

“There are very few CDFIs serving the Central Valley and we believe Kern County could benefit from this designation,” Davis wrote. “With this designation, it is recognized that Valley First invests in its local communities and the residents who live there by providing much-needed financing often unavailable from traditional financial institutions.”

Valley Strong is working on an application for CDFI certification, consistent with its work on the county’s B3K Economic Prosperity Collaboration, but a spokesperson said the credit union has yet to file its application.

Davis added that the expansion at Kern allows Valley First to realize its strategic vision to serve the entire Central Valley. She said the credit union plans to open a small business center this year in Kern — she declined to say where — and after that the plan is to open additional branches around the county.

Meanwhile, the credit union plans to offer digital and remote services that it says have proven popular with some members.

Valley First has over 73,000 members and $895 million in assets.

Valley Strong has approximately 250,000 members and approximately $3.5 billion in assets.

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