Spokane Journal of Business

BECU’s eastward expansion

Credit union’s membership here rises by 65 percent

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-—LeAnn Bjerken
BECU’s Steve Hauschild and Tom Berquist stand at the credit union’s new location along Division Street.

Barely a year after establishing its first retail presence in the Spokane area, Boeing Employees Credit Union plans to expand its reach here.

BECU, the largest credit union in Washington state and the fourth largest nationwide, with over $17 billion in total assets and more than 1 million members, plans to add two more branches in the coming months and has expanded its longtime Spokane Valley operations center. 

Meantime, Steve Hauschild, BECU’s Spokane-based market leader and director of business lending, says the credit union has grown its membership in the Spokane area by 65 percent so far this year and now has a total of about 7,600 members here and 172 employees between its two Spokane branches and its Spokane Valley operations center.

“Last winter was harsher than expected, but we still saw a healthy member increase here,” he says. 

BECU’s credit union branches here are located at 916 N. Division, in the Cataldo Square Shopping Center, and at 615 N. Sullivan, in Spokane Valley. 

“In this first year in Spokane, we’ve strived to be an additive business service, rather than a disruptive one,” says Hauschild. “We’re looking forward to continuing our investment in the community.”

Both branches opened in September of 2016, providing the credit union’s first retail presence in the Spokane market, although it has had an operations center in Spokane Valley since 2003.

BECU recently remodeled the operations center, which stores backup computer data systems, and also serves as a secondary site for BECU employees should any major disaster affect the credit union’s Western Washington locations, Hauschild says.

The remodel was completed in September, and included expanding the center into an adjoining space, hiring 10 more employees and transferring five others from Seattle, he says.

“We had an opportunity to pick up 6,000 square feet adjacent to our current office space,” he says. “The timing was perfect as we’re growing and needed additional space to accommodate staff and provide a more efficient environment for addressing member needs and supporting expanded operations.”

Founded in 1935 by 18 Boeing employees, BECU currently has 50 branches statewide and employs 1,800 people, a majority of whom are based in the Puget Sound area. 

Tom Berquist, senior vice president of marketing and co-op affairs for BECU, says the credit union had just over 1 million members as of the end of September. 

“We’re forecasting overall membership growth to be 7.5 percent for 2017, which would be an increase of 75,000 members,” he says. 

For 2017, Berquist says BECU forecasts its loan portfolio will increase by just under 14 percent, reaching $11.7 billion by the end December, compared with $9.8 billion a year earlier.

Berquist says the credit union also anticipates at least 10 percent growth in total deposits and assets this year, reaching $15.7 billion and $18 billion, respectively.

He says BECU’s net income is projected to reach $208 million for 2017, a decrease of 0.7 percent from last year’s $209 million.

“For a credit union, that slight drop is actually a good thing,” says Berquist. “As a co-op, our goal is return money to our members in the form of better rates and lower fees.”

In Spokane, Berquist says BECU’s expansion is expected to result in reported loan growth in the region in excess of $400 million in the fourth quarter. 

“So far this year, the Spokane team at the credit union has funded nearly $100 million in commercial loans, $200 million in indirect auto loans, $39 million in home loans, and $51.5 million in retail,” he says.

Hauschild says as part of its expansion plans, BECU will open two new operations here soon—a North Side branch and the credit union’s first dedicated home-loan center at a yet to be announced location in Spokane Valley.

The new branch will be located in the Newport Retail Building, at 9420 N. Newport Highway. BECU will occupy 3,000-square feet of space in the newly constructed building, which is being developed by Heritage Properties Inc., and Rich Naccarato, who heads Cedar Builders Inc.

Hauschild says that North Side center is set to open by mid-December.

Meanwhile, he says the credit union is finalizing designs for the home-loan center it plans to establish in Spokane Valley next year.

“This will be our first-ever, separate home-loan center, so it’s a new approach for us,” he says. “A primary purpose of the location will be home-loan lending and servicing, but it will also provide us additional flexibility as we continue to grow in Spokane.”

Hauschild says BECU hopes to open the home-loan center within the first half of 2018.

Regarding community engagement, Hauschild says BECU has participated in over 30 community events here and created 24 new partnerships so far this year.

“That’s a lot for having just established our presence here,” he says. “But it’s important to us to continue developing relationships and supporting the causes our members care most about.” 

In addition to community events, Hauschild says BECU hosted 20 local financial education seminars this year, covering a variety of topics that reached a total of 300 participants.

He says one event that’s particularly enjoyable for BECU employees is called Closing for Good, a kind of conference setting that allows high school students to participate in exercises designed to teach financial planning skills.

In Spokane, the event was held at North Central High School, with 166 BECU employees and 655 students participating, Hauschild says.

“We find it’s more engaging than simply lecturing to a large group,” he says. “This year, we even included a phone app that made it even easier for students to track their budget as they visited each station.”

In all, BECU employees hosted a total of 7,000 students this year at 12 participating schools, mostly within the Puget Sound area.

In addition to the Closing for Good event, Hauschild says this year BECU also partnered with EverFi, a Washington D.C.-based education technology company, to sponsor about 230 students at three Spokane schools in accessing interactive financial education resources.

“The partnership with EverFi is another excellent resource for students to start learning about financial responsibility,” he says. “We’re hoping to reach five or six area schools next year.”

As part of its efforts to support financial education in the community, Hauschild says BECU also hopes to deepen its relationship with universities.

“In the past, we’ve frequently partnered with the University of Washington as an advertising sponsor and through support of academic funding, scholarships, or internships,” he says. “Our goal is to begin working with the universities here in a similar manner.”

Hauschild says this year BECU joined Associated Industries and Regence BlueShield/Asuris Northwest Health in funding half-tuition scholarships for students at Eastern Washington University and the Community Colleges of Spokane through the Bright Promise Scholarship Program.

“This year we provided $25,000 toward the Bright Promise Scholarship Program,” he says. “Going forward, we’re in discussions with both Community Colleges of Spokane and Eastern Washington University to provide more scholarship opportunities.”

Hauschild says BECU also continues to expand its relationship with Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners, a nonprofit community action agency headquartered at 3102 W. Fort George Wright Drive.

Last year, the credit union donated a total of $77,000 to SNAP, $62,000 of which went toward funding its financial stability counseling program, which was experiencing a funding shortfall at that time. The remaining $15,000 went toward the organization’s SNAP forward grant program, which assists business entrepreneurs. 

This year, he says, BECU began a three-year pledge of $100,000 annually to SNAP, in support of grants and financial education for small businesses.

As it grows its Spokane presence, Berquist says BECU is relying on its membership for ideas on how to integrate itself into the community.

LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken is the most recent addition to the Journal's news team. A poet, cat lover and antique enthusiast, LeAnn is also an Eastern Washington University alum.

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