Way back in 1936, 14 Charleston Naval Shipyard workers contributed $5 each to form a member-owned financial cooperative. Fast forward 80 years, and South Carolina Federal Credit Union remains the oldest locally owned and operated financial institution in the tri-county area.
Since its founding, South Carolina Federal has continued to offer the highest level of service to the community – even through some of the most challenging times such as Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the Base Realignment and Closure in 1994, and the more recent financial crisis and recession.
“We know our community and understand the value of having familiar faces and long-term relationships in the unexpected,” said CEO Scott Woods.
Headquartered in North Charleston, South Carolina Federal has grown significantly since those initial 14 members. Today the organization has more than 140,000 members. With 17 financial centers and more than 400 employees, South Carolina Federal offers a wide range of services, including savings and investments, checking, credit cards and both auto and mortgage loans for individuals, as well as a complete line of products for small businesses.
South Carolina Federal is an active corporate citizen, investing in both its members and the community as a whole. Through philanthropic contributions, civic memberships and the South Carolina Federal Credit Union Foundation, nearly $400,000 is infused back into the region annually. Woods is also the chairman of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, setting the example that leadership extends beyond the boardroom.
Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester or Georgetown counties, and most of the Columbia area. Those in Orangeburg, Clarendon and Calhoun counties are also eligible to join the credit union and enjoy the many convenient services, such as remote deposit and online/mobile banking.
The major difference between a credit union and banks is that credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives. Credit unions – which are governed by a volunteer board of directors – are focused on serving their membership rather than generating a profit for stockholders. Earnings are returned to members in the form of higher interest on deposits, lower fees and competitive loan rates, but also by allowing much of their earnings to be reinvested in technology, ATM fleet and financial centers for member benefit.
“Credit unions are economic democracy. Each credit union member has equal ownership and one vote – regardless of how much money a member has on deposit,” Woods said. “At a credit union, every customer is both a member and an owner.”
To celebrate its 80th anniversary, South Carolina Federal is launching a “Pearls of Wisdom” campaign to share the wit and wisdom the organization has gleaned over the years.
“After eight decades you learn a lot about the industry, our region, its people and how to best serve them when it comes to something as personal as their finances,” Woods said.