By Christina Autry
Houston Federal Credit Union’s sixty-year history in Houston is being celebrated with the opening of their Houston Baptist University location in the Southwest District. HFCU has partnered with HBU over the past five years, culminating in the creation of a brand-new branch in the “Pillars at HBU” shopping strip near campus. As it happens, HBU turns 60 this year, too.
“We love HBU, and it was a great move for both of us to form this partnership,” says Rene Cannavo, HFCU’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development. HFCU is already a sponsor of HBU’s athletic program, and provides Elevate, a free financial literacy program, to their athletes. “We look forward to being able to provide even more responsible financial education to students,” says Cannavo.
Walking into this new branch, customers will immediately notice the environmental differences between this office and a traditional bank. Wood floors and wood paneled walls give the space a clean, modern appearance. Complete with a computer “tech bar,” a refreshment area, and a variety of seating options, the office was made to be an appealing place to study or work. Tellers are not seated in a row behind a wall of windows where you would typically expect to find them, but rather behind a more inviting desk reminiscent of a hotel lobby.
Though the office encourages a more comfortable, relaxed coffee shop setting, HFCU has taken special precautions to ensure that customers and staff take preventative measures against Covid-19. Drive-through services are available, and inside the building, “A deep clean is performed every day,” says Cannavo. “Face masks are required for customers and staff, temperatures are checked upon entry, the number of people allowed inside at one time is limited, and those inside remain six feet apart. Teller stands and offices have plastic screens installed, and are cleaned in between seeing customers.”
HFCU is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(1) credit union, “a concept that goes back to feudal Germany,” says Cannavo. “German sharecroppers rented and lived on plots of land owned by landlords. They began forming cooperative groups in order to pool their money and borrow from one another.”
The concept of a credit union was popularized in the United States in the 1900’s, and HFCU was established in 1960. Original principles still define the organization, resulting in characteristics such as members having an ownership in the company, a voluntary (unpaid) board of directors, and offering affordable loans, and financial opportunities for lower and middle income individuals.
“We offer free checking accounts with no monthly service charges,” says Cannavo. “Our aim is to provide services at reasonable rate & financial literacy for free.” In addition to working with individuals, as an approved business lender, HFCU performs commercial lending, offering commercial loans up to $5M.
For those who are deciding whether to place their trust in a bank or a credit union, Cannavo says the first step is to “figure out what your own needs are, and look at how each financial institution can fulfil your needs, and at what price. Make sure you’re not being nickel-and-dimed with various fees.”
As an organization that is owned by its members, “we know most people who walk in the door, despite being a large organization with over 60,000 members,” says Cannavo. “We go the extra mile. Helping those with smaller means is where our concept began, and it’s still part of our core mission.”
Members are welcome to do business in any of the ten HFCU locations around Houston, or any of the other credit unions that are part of the Co-Op Shared Branch Network, nationwide. This group has created the Co-Op Locator App which allows members to locate their nearest branch, or a free ATM. HFCU also offers free online banking, including via app.
HFCU makes a point of working with local partners such as the Houston Rockets and Star of Hope to promote financial literacy in the community. Together they have worked with middle and high schools in the area in addition to college students at HBU, introducing a variety of learning opportunities to help them succeed later in life, or even beginning now, with youth checking accounts available.
“We pride ourselves on meeting the needs of our customers, while being accessible, convenient, easy, and affordable,” says Cannavo. “We’ve been here for 60 years, and we plan on being around for at least another 60!”
Houston Federal Credit Union
7459 Southwest Freeway, Suite 100, Houston, Texas 77074