First New England Federal Credit Union’s Voyage to Finex Credit Union

Apr 04, 2017

President's Message

A journey to overcome adversity, learn new skills, and sail to a bright future.

The aftermath of the financial crisis seems so very long ago. But the many new challenges it spawned are what has propelled us to achieve at a higher level. Ours is a journey of a small not for profit overcoming obstacles, rebuilding to compete with powerful megabanks, and finding a new approach that keeps us true to our original purpose.

The rocky period during the financial crisis included large loan losses and a collapsed central banking system that wiped out much of our capital. While set back, we quickly bounced back to rebuild our financial safety and soundness. Fortunately we had the ability to rely on many great long term staff members while adding talented new people to emerge with a new stronger staff. We also had our mortgage subsidiary to help weather financial setbacks during the mortgage refinance booms.

After the economic crisis subsided we found that there was a different feel to the world we operated in. Despite the many improvements made, they did not offset the negatives coming down from federal regulators in an avalanche of restrictive rules. There was also a sense of continual oversight by the selfprofessed “tough regulatory cop on the beat”. Though it was the Wall Street mega banks that had torched the mortgage markets, we were the ones most punished. The ongoing operating message was “hunker down” to survive in this hostile environment.

The credit union faced a decision point; do we hunker down and hide as the mega banks thrived at our expense? Do we cut expenses and member benefits, hoping the storm passes? Or do we come up with a bold plan to progress and preserve the heritage passed on to us over 70 years. First New England (FNEFCU) decided to go bold. In the face of declining branch transactions, rapid technology advances, and escalating credit union mergers, our Board of Directors envisioned a future that ensured our niche role providing customized personal service with new technologies. We would invest to create this bright future, overcome the odds, and grow.

It was the birth of Finex that captured the new bolder approach, accelerating our actions to INCREASE benefits via a total redesign of the branches, new stronger partnerships, and a dramatic expansion of hours, locations, and services. Our new identity was in essence the opposite of hunkering down. We reached out to help pull up those left behind as fees skyrocketed and big banks denied loans. In all too many cases we see our own kids in this group burdened by crushing student debts and fees.Finex committed to not leave them behind, but rather be there with them on their journey as a family friendly partner offering technology and service that makes your financial life more convenient.

We are not yet assured of success. But on our journey, we have learned new skills and already greatly expanded the convenience we offer to the entire membership. There have been challenges; but even there in speaking with fellow members it does seem there is an appreciation of the efforts made to be relevant for the next generation. As we redeploy staff in the new branch environment we will get more consistent in providing the best quickest response with that personal touch.

The last chapter is yet to be written but Finex will be tenacious in advocating for a better financial future for all our members.

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Michael Palladino