The Women-Led Credit Union
Sabattus Regional Credit Union in Sabattus is managed and operated by an all-women group. In a “man’s world” of finance and banking, they excel at it. For the past decade, this unique all-women team has been working together to improve the communities they serve.
Ranging from member services, marketing, accounting, and loans, the team goes above and beyond expectations for a financial institution. For example, they are one of only five credit unions in the area that are open on Saturdays. They are there six days a week for members’ convenience.
Asked what makes credit unions unique for consumers, Marketing Manager Maria D’Auria says, “It’s the relationships we have with our members. To us, you aren’t just a number. Each membership matters to us. We want to see all of our members grow with us.”
“Consider that credit unions are owned by the members,” Maria continues, “compared to banks, which are privately or publicly owned. Being member-owned proves that we value all of our members and their financial well-being.”
Since 1957, Sabattus Regional Credit Union (SRCU) has served members from Lewiston to Farmingdale. (For reference, SRCU serves Auburn, Bowdoinham, Bowdoin, Durham, Farmingdale, Greene, Hallowell, Leeds, Lewiston, Lisbon, Lisbon Falls, Litchfield, Manchester, Monmouth, Richmond, Sabattus, Topsham, Wales, and West Gardiner.) Asked about what happens if a member moves away from the region, Maria says, “Even if a member moves out of the field of membership, they are a member for life.”
The team work diligently to provide top notch customer service and financial education for all their members. Says Shannon Surette (a teller for five years), “This is the greatest group of women to work with, and everyone here will say the same!” In fact, in the small employer category, SRCU has in several years been named one of the “Best Places to Work in Maine,” by an organization of the same name which runs a survey and awards program with Maine State Council, Mainebiz, and other state groups.
And this positive team perspective spreads throughout the whole SRCU organization. Tiffiny Stewart, CEO and President says, “Each day brings new challenges and rewards. By working with my team, we are able to figure out how to fix any issues and solve them efficiently.” She speaks highly of all her staff members.
Asked what makes Sabattus Regional Credit Union unique, Tiffiny says, “Having gone to high school here and living in the area makes it very special. I have neighbors, schoolmates, and friends who are members here. This connection makes it so important to do a good job, since people are counting on me to make their financial lives better.”
Male leadership versus women-led workforce?
Tiffiny observes, “I haven’t always worked in a women-led work force. When I started out, it was predominantly males in leadership. The older I get, the more I see women leading. The transition happened organically, so over time it has just happened to become that way. Lucille Terrio was a huge role model for me. She taught me work ethics and how to be a good team player. She has passed now but will never be forgotten.”
Florence Poulin, a teller at the SBCU, echoes similar thoughts, saying, “Community means family to me. I enjoy greeting the members by name with a smile as they come in. We are all in this together, and we are here to help our community thrive, whether it is a loan they need or assistance from us through our Ending Hunger fundraiser.”
She serves on their marketing team for the Ending Hunger campaign.
“The campaign is very important to me,” Florence explains. “I’m involved because I believe in the need for assistance with food insecurity. I help with the distribution of letters during our fundraisers. I usually approach businesses in person, but due to COVID-19, this year has been a bulk mailout. A lot of our usual fundraisers have been cancelled, making it extremely difficult to raise much needed funds, and this part of my job is truly near and dear to my heart.”
Lisa Hinkley is Lending Manager at Sabattus Regional Credit Union. “I have spent all my years at Sabattus Regional CU in the loan department,” she recalls. “I started as a Loan Officer and was promoted to Lending Manager in 2010. The most important aspect of my job is working with members to meet their goals, whether it be to establish credit, to buy their first car, or to refinance their home. There’s something about seeing the smile on the face of someone who was just approved for a loan to buy their first car. It never gets old!”
And, she continues, “Our rates are competitive, although not necessarily better than our competitors, but we have a rate match program in place where we will match a competitor’s rate, subject to certain conditions. We like to think we offer the best service in the area!”
Maria D’Auria says that—along with everyone else—the credit union has had to adjust to the pandemic. “Although things have not been ‘normal’ since March 2020, we have still been able to connect with our members. By social distancing in the office, allowing four members in our lobby at a given time, and even closing our lobby for months during the spring and during November and December, we’ve encouraged members to use their mobile app to help keep everybody safe.”
“What is great about technology,” she points out, “is that it can help maintain relationships with our members. Although social media can have its drawbacks, we’ve put an emphasis on our presence. That way, our members know we are here for them. Most importantly, this is a great way to keep members in the loop for new ways they can save money.”
As to the status of membership, Maria says, “Although we are on-boarding new members on a weekly basis, our growth has been slowed because we (like everybody else) are unsure about where life will take us. As to community events, which is something we always look forward to, COVID-19 has put a damper on a multitude of our planned events.”
Looking ahead, however, she keeps an optimistic view. “Times are uncertain, but here at Sabattus Credit Union, we are remaining positive, and we’re planning new events for 2021. We continue to encourage folks to join us here at Sabattus Regional Credit Union. Our amazing team is ready and very able to be there for families and their financial needs.”