COMMUNITY BANKING What Happened to Your Community Bank? By Rebecca K. Worthington, Vice President of Marketing, Benchmark Federal Credit Union Look around Phoenixville and the surrounding region, and you’ll notice something is missing. It used to be a touchstone of every community, and it’s getting harder and harder to find. I’m referring to community banks, where (yes!) everybody knows your name. In the past few years, we have seen them close one by one as some merge with other financial institutions that maintain they will still preserve the “local feel” of the community bank you once trusted. So if sustaining the “local feel” is important, then why don’t banks remain local? A variety of factors are contributing to this trend. Some banks are facing bankruptcy, and even when investors try to come to the rescue, regulators are reluctant to work with a buyer that is not 10 1.800.558.0940, ext. 202 TO ADVERTISE | Phoenixville Area already an established bank. Other banks are merging and shutting numerous retail branches in the process. In addition, increasing regulatory and cybersecurity costs have put pressure on many banks to reduce their spending. That’s why I’m prouder than ever to work for a local federal credit union that exclusively serves Chester County. Benchmark Federal Credit Union is steadfast in its commitment to remaining a local financial institution that supports and grows its local economy. While our branches have changed to accommodate the habits and tastes of the modern member, we hire local tellers and branch managers to provide personal service to you in an increasingly “self-service” world. Our focus is on opening branches closer to the center of where you live and work, with new branches in Downtown West Chester and Phoenixville. And because of our collaboration with more than 5,000 credit unions around the country, members can still transact business from just about anywhere via the Shared Branching Network. In addition, it’s our priority to support the community we serve, and we do so with upwards of 20 sponsorships of local events every year, including a five-year commitment as title sponsor of the Benchmark Twilight Cycling Classic. Every year we also provide $15,000 in college scholarships to local students. And in 59 local schools, we make available a free, award-winning financial literacy curriculum. If you feel like you already know the Benchmark name, it may be because we are headquartered in West Chester and have been providing financial products and services for more than 75 years. During that time, we have found that much of the appeal of a credit union is that members are part-owners of their financial institution. Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives that are governed by a board of owners—not stockholders—so profits go back to the members through higher savings dividends and lower loan rates. The credit union approach to providing financial services is based on a philosophy of “People Helping People.” The concept dates back to the mid-1800s, when townspeople pooled their savings to provide loans to farmers hurt by a poor growing season. Whether it’s a farmers’ market or neighborhood business, people are realizing that when they turn to services that are local, they get superior value and dedicated service. The same is true for a local federal credit union like Benchmark FCU. Thank you for making us a part of your community. Rebecca Worthington is Vice President of Marketing with Benchmark Federal Credit Union, which has new branches in Phoenixville and downtown West Chester. Celebrating more than 75 years of service, Benchmark FCU is the only federal credit union to exclusively serve Chester County. 610.429.1600; BenchmarkFCU.org.