Improving financial wellness through education, innovation and community
by LAURA HENNIGAN, Crain’s Content Studio-Cleveland
Original article: https://www.crainscleveland.com/custom-content/inside-cardinal-credit-unions-community-focused-approach-and-financial-wellness
Since its original formation 10 years ago, Cardinal Credit Union’s Financial Education Wellness program has expanded to include five additional high schools and one student-run branch at Lakeland Community College.
Cardinal Credit Union has been providing financial services in the Greater Cleveland area for more than half a century. Initially established in 1953 to support the employees of the Mentor Public School System, the organization now serves 24,000 members across Ohio.
Unlike a traditional bank, Cardinal Credit Union is a member-owned financial cooperative that is owned, managed and utilized by its member-owners. The board of directors is elected from and by the general membership, and members are both the stockholders and the customers. With this structure, any profits the credit union gains are returned to the member-owners in the form of lower loan rates, higher savings rates, and lower fees.
Membership is available to anyone. Also, membership is instant at account opening with any product – only a five dollar savings account is required – and there are no ongoing subscription fees to maintain membership. This simplified membership system provides instant access to a wide variety of products and services. With its latest and improved technology, Cardinal offers online access to funds through a mobile app, shared branching, a network of transaction-free ATMs, and convenient electronic banking.
In addition, it provides an array of financial solutions, including savings and checking accounts, money market accounts, IRAs, and loans. Cardinal’s goal is summed up succinctly in its mission statement: “to brighten our members’ financial future.”
“The instruction we offer teaches positive money management, including thrift, smart spending, informed use of credit and the benefits of regular savings,” said Cardinal Credit Union CEO Christine Blake.
Cardinal’s passion for financial health expanded even further in 2012, when it launched its Financial Education Wellness program and opened one of the very first student-run branches in Northeast Ohio on the campus of Lake Catholic High School. This innovative partnership provided a disciplined financial education program designed to help high school students develop responsible money management skills while helping them avoid costly financial mistakes in the real world. Cardinal added five additional branches at Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, Eastlake North, Willoughby South, Northern Career Institute and Mentor High School.
“The instruction we offer teaches positive money management, including thrift, smart spending, informed use of credit and the benefits of regular savings,” said CEO Christine Blake. “Regular use of the branch is coupled with significant opportunities for financial education through group presentations in the classroom and individual conversations with branch staff.”
Since its original formation 10 years ago, the Financial Education Wellness program has expanded to include five additional high schools and one college student-run branch at Lakeland Community College. All students are encouraged to open and use the free checking account offered by Cardinal Credit Union at these school branches, as well as take advantage of opportunities for financial education in group presentations in the classroom and in individual conversations with branch staff.
“Our intent is to immerse students ‘in a culture of thrift,’ putting sound money-management skills into practice as they learn by doing in a controlled environment,” Blake added.
Cardinal and its member-centered approach shows no signs of slowing down, with a Mayfield branch opened in late 2021 and plans for a Mentor Avenue branch in December of this year. Cardinal also plans to continue supporting local communities through philanthropic efforts, including free monthly homebuyer seminars, quarterly financial counseling workshops, faculty events at partner schools, and various community events.
“Cardinal is all about people helping people,” Blake said. “Every day, we strive to improve our members’ lives through education, attractive products and services, and smart financial planning and management.”