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sfcu expands membership area into four new counties

By Traci DeLore (tdelore@cnybj.com)

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Sidney Federal Credit Union, which is rebranding as sfcu, has expanded its field of membership to now include anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Onondaga, Essex, Cortland, and Hamilton counties. (PHOTO CREDIT: sfcu)

SIDNEY, N.Y. — Sidney Federal Credit Union is looking for new members as it expands its field of membership into Onondaga, Cortland, Essex, and Hamilton counties.

The credit union is capitalizing on 2020 changes to field-of-membership rules for chartered community credit unions, allowing them to offer membership in areas of population of up to 1 million, says CEO Jim Reynolds.

“We played with all the different scenarios, and we decided on Cortland, Onondaga, Essex, and Hamilton counties,” Reynolds says, adding that half of the allowed population is in Onondaga County. Membership is now open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in those counties.

Those are areas where the credit union, which has rebranded itself as sfcu, already does some business, particularly with auto loans. Reynolds is confident sfcu can convince some of those auto-loan customers to use the credit union for all their banking needs.

“We’ve got a great value proposition,” he says. “We’ve got a low/no fee, fee-adverse mentality.” The credit union primarily generates revenue through lending, which allows it, as a not-for-profit financial institution, to keep fees to a minimum.

Along with current loan customers, Reynolds says the credit union’s target audience for growth in the new membership areas is low- to mid-income individuals who are looking for an alternative to banks with a lot of fees. Also, sfcu is hoping to entice small businesses as customers as well, he adds.

One thing Reynolds hopes will give sfcu an advantage over the competition is its digital offerings. Not only did sfcu open a virtual branch last fall, but it also has started to install interactive teller machines (ITM) at branches. These machines function like a traditional ATM, but have the added function to summon a teller via video, if necessary, he says.

The Amsterdam branch already has an ITM, and sfcu plans to install one in the Oneida area this summer.

While virtual banking is handy — and was especially so during the height of the pandemic — Reynolds realizes the need for a brick-and-mortar branch that can serve members in the counties into which sfcu is expanding.

“We’re looking to secure a location in Onondaga County in the next year,” he says. He is hoping to have a branch there by the end of 2023 “if we can find a good location that makes sense.”

In the meantime, sfcu has a regional sales team at work in the new counties, reaching out to businesses such as auto dealerships and others to raise awareness of the credit union.

“We’re just looking to find our niche and serve member needs,” Reynolds says.

Currently, sfcu has about 190 employees and Reynolds expects to add about 10 new employees over the next two years to support the expanded field of membership. That would include employees necessary to staff a new branch.

Headquartered in Sidney, sfcu currently has 10 branches located in Sidney, Oneonta, Greene, Norwich, Walton, Delhi, Hancock, Bainbridge, and Amsterdam. Its full membership area now includes Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Essex, Fulton, Hamilton, Madison, Montgomery, Onondaga, Otsego, and Schoharie counties, as well as parts of Broome, Oneida, and Herkimer counties.

With $700 million in assets, sfcu (www.sfcuonline.org) currently serves more than 60,000 members as a full-service financial institution.

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