LAURIUM - When you walk in the door at Torch Lake Federal Credit Union, chances are you'll be greeted by your first name.
"We've been here since 1955 and over the years our staff has gotten to know the members personally," CEO Mary Kay Grabig said. "We are professionals who can make your financial experience a pleasant one."
Founded in 1955 by the Knights of Columbus, Torch Lake Credit Union started out of a basement and later on became a chartered credit union for all people in the surrounding area. Presently, between the two branch locations - Lake Linden and Laurium (North End) - Torch Lake Federal Credit Union is capable of serving more than 16,000 members.
"Consider our doors always open with an invite for you to join us," Grabig encouraged. "Let's start by sharing our terminology with a little credit union 101."
There are different misconceptions on how to join a credit union, Grabig said.
"Some are association, some are occupational, we are an open community charter, meaning anyone can join," she said.
The word "join" can sometimes make people apprehensive, added Connie Mikkola, member account representative at the North End Laurium branch.
"Becoming a member is an easy transition. It's just like any other financial where you open a savings account," she said.
Our objective is to keep your financial experience always pleasant, Grabig assured.
"It is an uncomplicated process to belong and become part of a member-owned financial," she said. "Our credit union terminology is relatively simple. Members are a name for customer. Share draft is a name for checking account. Share certificate is a name for CDs, certificates of deposit. Our Shares are our savings account. Dividends are the money you earn on your savings/share accounts."
The staff continually provides information for their members on a number of financial issues, for example, the importance of checking their credit report for inaccuracies and misreported information. All consumers in the state of Michigan can request a free credit report from each credit reporting agency - TransUnion, Equifax and Esperian. To access a free credit report online visit annualcreditreport.com or call (877) 322-8228.
"I can't stress the importance of education for the members and how they can protect themselves," Mikkola said. "We keep valuable information posted in both locations."
What makes Torch Lake Federal Credit Union unique is their annual meeting dinner which they encourage all members to attend. This year's meeting will be held April 4 at the Lakes Lounge in Lake Linden.
"This is where our volunteer Board of Directors are elected by the attendees," Grabig said. "In addition to the election, the financial report and any issues of interest are reported."
The evening also includes a pizza buffet and prize drawings. Tickets are $10.
Grabig said credit unions are uniquely "different but the same" in that they offer most of the financial services customers are used to including: ATM, VISA Cash and Check cards, loans, mortgages, share savings, share checking, online account access, direct deposit and fixed-rate Visa credit cards. All accounts are insured by the National Credit Union Association up to $250,000.
Grabig, who has been with the credit union for 21 years, said she's proud to be part of an organization that stands firm in its commitment to members.
"I have enjoyed working for a board that welcomes new ideas. You have to evolve in this fast-paced world, and you can do it while remaining amiable to the customer. That is what keeps you in business," she said. "We stand out in a crowd in that we remain who we were 10, 20, 30 years ago. We operate conventionally. We are living proof of hometown service. Our building may not be huge but the service is. We are rated a five star credit union by Bauer Financial."
On Friday, March 20, Torch Lake Federal Credit Union will be hosting an open house at both locations from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The community is welcome to drop by for refreshments, ask questions and find out about any of the services the credit union offers. Register at either location to win a VISA gift card.
As CEO, Grabig said she's experienced the credit union grow from 1.2 million to 7 million in assets.
"It's not easy to run this type of business these days. You have to adapt to all kinds of changes," she said. "Hats off to my employees. Each one of them wears more than one hat, meaning a wide description of duties."
The financial industry is constantly developing. Rules and regulations transform.
"Products and services are what we strive to continue to offer to our members, in a conservative manner that is passed down to you," she said. "There are areas within bigger organizations we simply cannot compete with, but we know where our margins are."
The North End Laurium branch is a concept Grabig developed and implemented.
"I felt that members needed access to a credit union in my home town area. I knew that people would not want to navigate the Lake Linden hill in the winter time to do a simple transaction," she said.
The North End Branch in Laurium was developed in 1996 and has become a very busy location.
"I do believe we have actually outgrown that location, and I am proud of that," she added.
Over the years, as Grabig looks back, she remembers completing the paperwork to get their checking accounts started.
"I've seen the cash and check ATM card program start," she said. "E-commerce has increased the ease for members to stay with the credit union once they've left the area. One of the credit union's mottos is 'Once a member, always a member.'"
Torch Lake Federal Credit Union is located in Laurium at 50 Third St. and in Lake Linden at 100 Calumet St.
Business hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday. Saturday hours are available from 9 a.m. to noon at the North End branch. For more information, call 296-0215, 337-5565 or visit torchlakefederal.com for online banking access..
"Find your way to our doors"and belong "TORCH LAKE FEDERAL CREDIT UNION"
Editor's note: This feature is part of a paid advertising package purchased by Torch Lake Federal Credit Union. Businesses interested in being featured on the Business page may call Yvonne Robillard at 483-2220.