In an attempt to better serve the variety of patrons at the USF Federal Credit Union (FCU), management has decided to move its main on-campus location on Palm Drive to a newer, “more open” building just a few miles down the road.
The credit union’s main on-campus location — at 13302 Palm Drive — will close its doors to clients Feb. 6, and open a new location at 7037 E. Fletcher Ave. on Feb 8. The new location is across the street from Lettuce Lake Park, 2.8 miles away from the original location. However, the Marshall Student Center (MSC) branch will remain open so students can still bank on campus if they wish.
The move is happening primarily because the Palm Drive location is deteriorating, according to Bill Steiger, the director of brand strategy and marketing communications for the USF FCU.
“We have been in that building since the early 1970s,” Steiger said. “When that building was built it had some infrastructure problems and we knew we’d either have to completely renovate it or do something else, like move.”
The old building will still be owned by the FCU, and for now it will be used as an administrative office. However, no banking activities will take place in that location after Feb. 6.
The new location will better accommodate the credit union’s needs, according to Steiger. It features a two-lane drive-up window with four pneumatic tubes, which are the vacuums that patrons can use to deposit checks from their cars, as well as a more spacious office with an open floor plan and a drive-up ATM.
“We serve 60,000 members, not just the university, so we had some that did not like having to come on campus because you have to navigate students and bikes and there were sometimes parking problems,” he said. “The decision was made since we have the branch, right up the hill in the MSC, to go out and look around for a new location.”
Steiger said a large draw of the new building was the amount of parking spaces it offers. Patrons will no longer be hunting for spaces like they did with on-campus parking. The new location has over 20 parking spots that surround the building on all sides.
To ensure that students who want to bank on campus can still do that, FCU management is improving parking conditions of the locations within the MSC.
“Because we were moving and not doing retail banking in that building anymore, we decided that we need dedicated parking up near the MSC so that people that aren’t necessarily working on campus can walk there or drive there,” Steiger said. “So we got five parking spaces that are only credit union spaces.”
The spaces are designated with signs that read “Credit Union Business Only,” and the concrete in the spaces is spray painted with a yellow box that reads “Reserved for Credit Union.”
In the MSC location, the credit union is working on offering more banking services, like loan help, so that customers never have to leave campus if they are not inclined to do so. The MSC location currently offers basic banking services, like making an account, depositing funds and issuing cards. Services revolving around loans will also be offered at the MSC location.
Once conditions are better and more students, faculty and staff are back on campus, the MSC branch of the credit union will be hiring more people so it can offer more banking options, according to Steiger.
“I know we’re going to try to get a loan officer up there, but because of COVID-19, the campus is still pretty deserted,” he said. “We’re just in the formative stages of what to put up there, but we’re well prepared to do it once things get a little more normal.”
The only services offered at the new branch that will not be at the MSC are the drive-up ATM option and help with mortgages, according to Steiger. He said this is because very few students are in the process of buying or mortgaging a house.
The new location will be the FCU’s seventh. The others are spread across central Florida including areas of New Tampa, Sarasota and St. Petersburg. FCU also has 16 ATM locations in those areas.
However, most of its business for the last 10 months has been online, according to Steiger, which helped the credit union prosper during the pandemic.
“We made a concerted effort to emphasize our digital bank, and we have a complete state-of-the-art digital banking platform,” he said. “For instance, we encouraged people who got stimulus checks to deposit them using mobile deposit over their phone, and we saw a huge increase in the number of users digital banking.”
During the course of the pandemic, the USF FCU also offered Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, which are loans that can be forgiven. They are financed by the federal government, but patrons have to go through an FCU to get one.
“The last round, we did $18 million in PPP loans that help small businesses stay afloat, so we’re helping our members, and that in turn helps us keep business flowing and keep loans flowing,” he said. “That’s what credit unions are all about, helping their communities and helping their members. We’re not here to make a big profit.”
Steiger emphasized the dedication that the FCU has in helping students and other members of the community. He said the credit union has been serving the USF community since 1959, and its move will only broaden its abilities to do that.
“We’re pleased to serve the USF community, we’re going to be there, we’re not going anywhere,” Steiger said. “We just decided to move out of one building and move two miles away but also keep a branch on campus.”