SEFCU credits membership with repeat wins

What does it take for a company, place or individual to be the best at what they do? As the Times Union conducts its 25th annual Best of the Capital Region poll, we asked a perennial favorite how it managed to top the poll.

SEFCU won top honors in the Banks and Credit Unions category from 2007 to 2020. And although Schenectady-based Trustco Bank passed it last year, SEFCU reclaimed its top spot this year. Earlier this year, we asked Capital Region Credit Union CEO Michael Castellana what makes SEFCU so popular with our readers.

QUESTION: You seem to have identified what readers value in a financial institution. What is it about SEFCU that makes it such a favorite? And how did you manage to maintain this advantage?

CASTELLANE: What makes SEFCU a favorite in financial services is our “secret sauce,” and I’ll share the recipe with you. We create an opportunity for our stakeholders – members, employees and community – to be part of something that is much bigger than themselves. It starts with hiring, training and, most importantly, supporting our exceptional people – smart, skilled and driven people. Add to that our focus on treating members like the owners they are through progressive, convenient and responsive banking options like our new digital banking platforms and video tellers, and exceptional customer service, and you have the ingredients for success. . When you add our commitment to changing lives through volunteerism and millions of dollars in investments in local nonprofit organizations, you truly have something people want to be a part of.

Q: SEFCU maintains a high profile in the community. Your CEO has said his mission is to change lives. You said you don’t measure performance in dollars and cents, but in “lives affected”. Could this be the secret of your success?

A: SEFCU’s commitment to changing lives every day absolutely contributes to our success, but it’s anything but a secret. We are one of the most generous philanthropic organizations in the Capital Region. Each year, SEFCU reinvests millions of dollars into the communities we serve. Our mission-driven effort to make our communities better, healthier and happier attracts the right people to SEFCU. When you know your work as an employee or business partner helps feed the hungry and homeless, clothe and educate children, fight cancer and heart disease, and provide opportunity for people with disabilities , you are motivated to do more and give a little more. We constantly hear from our members how proud they are to do business with an organization that prioritizes people over profits. We don’t do great things in the community so we can grow our business – we grow our business so we can do great things for our community.

Q: You have made it easier for your employees to support children’s causes and for members and employees to make small monthly donations to the community. Is it unique among financial institutions in the region?

A: Our community support methods are certainly unique, such as our Giving for Good program which allows employees and members to make monthly donations to help those in need. We stay true to the credit union philosophy that “people help people.” That said, several major local financial institutions have supported our community for decades. Certainly, our pending fusion partner CAP COM has changed thousands of lives. The same goes for others, including KeyBank, M&T and Berkshire Bank.

Q: Are there limits to what you can do for the nonprofit community? After all, members can be sensitive to interest rates — what they pay for loans and what they earn from deposits. How to stay competitive?

A: To be clear, our community contributions, which range from investing in our local hospitals and healthcare heroes to meeting people’s basic needs and providing free financial education, come after we have provided a exceptional value proposition to our members. We invest in our community from the profits after meeting the needs of our members. That’s why we offer some of the best deposit and lending rates in the region while offering industry-leading banking options and round-the-clock service through online and mobile banking, remote check deposits, 24/7 chat and ATM access. and video tellers, all in addition to our friendly and comprehensive in-person banking and advisory services. As for the limits of what we can do for the community, our support is only limited by our imagination – stay tuned.

Q: You are in full fusion with CAP COM. How might this affect your mission? Do they share these values?

A: The beauty of our merger of equals with CAP COM is that it will bring together two successful like-minded organizations. In addition to creating the largest deposit-based financial institution in the Capital Region, our unification will create a community support powerhouse. CAP COM is managed by Chris McKenna and relies on an exceptional team of professionals. We share similar values, vision, culture and commitment to community, as we recently demonstrated in our joint program to support food pantries across the region and across the state with an investment of $350 $000. As we employ our “Best of Both Worlds” merging methodology, the new entity will have the scale necessary to expand our reach and impact on our members and, therefore, the communities we serve.

Q: The merger will give the combined organization more than half a million members and $7 billion in assets, making it the fifth-largest credit union in the state. Can you update us on the progress of the merger?

A: Executing the largest merger in credit union history takes time and incredible attention to detail. The SEFCU/CAP COM team worked diligently with legal teams and third-party experts to ensure a quality outcome through the eyes of our members. We have made our regulatory requests and, pending their green light, a vote of CAP COM members will take place later this year. Throughout this months-long process, we had the chance to learn more about each other. We have also become more resolute every day in our belief that this merger is in the best interest of our members, our employees and the community. This will give us the scale and skills we need to deliver expanded access to digital branches and solutions, better and improved products and services, and future innovation, to support our unwavering commitment to supporting those who need it. need. We will be stronger together and as we look to the future, I am filled with excitement and anticipation for all the great things that lie ahead.

Best of the Capital Region 2022

Best of the Capital Region 2022

Union Times

Winners: See who won in each category of the Best of the Capital Region 2002 contest. Prefer something for your coffee table or something to stash in your car for a quick reference? Order our 68-page magazine and we’ll send it to you for free.

There are 100 categories divided into four groups — including 14 new categories this year.

Discover how far Best of the Capital Region has come in 25 years: These are the first winners of 1997.

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Eric Anderson is a former Times Union economics editor.

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