We’re a community development credit union. We serve anyone seeking affordable, responsible financial services, but are particularly committed to serving low-wealth and underserved communities and families. We operate through two divisions – Community Trust and Community Trust Prospera.
Chartered in 2008, Self-Help Federal Credit Union is itself a relatively new institution. However, the partners we’ve merged with have been serving California’s working communities since 1936.
The Center for Community Self-Help (Self-Help), which sponsored the launch of Self-Help Federal, also has a long history serving similar communities. Self-Help is a leading community development financial institution (CDFI) that has been offering loans and financial services to underserved communities since 1980. Over this period, Self-Help has provided more than $6.08 billion of financing to over 74,000 families of modest means, small businesses and nonprofit organizations across the country, and currently serves more than 88,000 members through 26 credit union branches in California and North Carolina.
Self-Help launched a credit union in California to
- Preserve and expand responsible financial services in low-income communities. As the financial crisis deepened, many banks and credit unions – especially those located in under-served communities came under financial pressure. We wanted to be sure that if and when necessary, community based credit unions serving under-served families could find a financially strong merger partner firmly committed to serving their communities.
- Inform and strengthen Self-Help’s advocacy and policy work. California has traditionally hosted a high concentration of the most predatory service providers -- a majority of subprime home lenders were based here and currently the state possesses roughly two times the nation’s concentration of alternative financial services providers (e.g. check cashers, payday lenders, and pawn shops). Demonstrating that underserved communities can be served both responsibly and profitably will help us better advocate for policy changes to promote responsible financial services.
Self-Help Federal is building scale quickly. Since mid-2008 we have combined with seven credit unions serving diverse California communities in the Bay Area and Central Valley. Together, as one credit union, we are preserving and expanding responsible financial services for thousands of families in an economically sustainable way. Self-Help Federal is built on the hard work and important histories of the following credit unions that have joined us (date of combination), and all now operate as part of our Community Trust division.
- People’s Community Partnership Federal Credit Union (September 2008)
- Community Trust Credit Union (June 2009)
- El Futuro Credit Union (January 2010)
- Kern Central Credit Union (January 2010)
- United Savings Federal Credit Union (June 2010)
- 1st Pacific Credit Union (January 2011)
- Mission SF Federal Credit Union (April 2011)
Self-Help Federal is also committed to innovation – finding new and better ways to responsibly serve under-served communities. Our most significant effort in this regard is the development of Community Trust Prospera, formerly known as Micro Branch, launched in 2010 as a new branch model designed to attract unbanked families into the financial mainstream. A hybrid of a check casher and a credit union branch, CT Prospera “meets unbanked customers where they are” providing check cashing, remittance and other services in a convenient and comfortable environment with extended hours. But unlike a check casher, its tellers are trained to deliver “in-line financial education” at the point of service, nudging customers toward mainstream financial products such as savings and checking accounts, and responsible loan products, all designed specifically around our customers’ needs. Our goal is to develop a replicable model to reach un-banked members of our communities so they can move down the path toward greater economic stability and building family assets.
Opportunity to Serve — in Chicago
While Self-Help Federal Credit Union operates mostly in California, serving largely underserved communities in the Bay Area, Central Valley and Los Angeles County, we recently were presented with the opportunity to pursue our mission to great impact in Chicago.
When FDIC regulators closed the Second Federal Savings and Loan Association of Chicago in July of 2012, it wasn’t clear what the closure would mean for the mostly Latino, working-class families the Chicago thrift served. Self-Help was approached by The Resurrection Project (TRP), a Chicago community development organization, to purchase Second Federal’s loan portfolio. The purchase included almost 1,100 mostly troubled mortgage loans. In early 2013 Self-Help purchased the rest of the bank’s operations and now manages three retail branches in Chicago. They operate as Second Federal, a division of Self-Help FCU.
For the families whose mortgages were with Second Federal, this outcome means their loans will be owned and serviced by an institution committed to doing all it can to prevent foreclosures and preserve homeownership. We are working actively with the borrowers to avoid what would have been almost certain foreclosure had the portfolio been purchased by a financially motivated buyer. Self-Help and TRP’s partnership also ensures that the people of Chicago’s Southwest side will continue to have access to basic and affordable financial services.