Published June 16, 2015
Volume 23, Number 6

Credit Union Caters to Firefighters
Hacienda Branch Opened in April
Firefighters Credit Union
Firefighters Credit Union, and local firefighters, at the credit union's grand opening.

By Zoe Francis

Catering to the unique needs of firefighters is the mission of Firefighters First Credit Union.
The Pasadena-based credit union counts firefighters as its sole members and vows to treat them properly.
“We’re exclusively serving firefighters only in California, and we are the largest firefighter-exclusive credit union in the U.S.,” Kelly Ramsay, senior vice president of marketing, said.
The credit union has a vaulted history dating back to 1935 when a group of Los Angeles firefighters founded the Los Angeles Firemen’s Credit Union during the height of the Great Depression.
As the credit union expanded, the name changed to reflect the growing reach of the financial institution. The group’s most recent expansion is in Hacienda, where a branch was opened in early April.
“Right now, we have five locations, including Pleasanton,” Ramsay said. “For the longest time, we had only the Los Angeles branch. Only in the last four years have we started to branch out to multiple locations.”
The Hacienda site is the only Bay Area location and the second in Northern California. The next closest branch is in Sacramento.
“When we go into a location, we’re look at our field of membership,” she said. “We will look at where they live and where they work and get a geographically central point that’s easy to access for most of our members.”
“Most firefighters don’t live where they work,” she continued. “We have to look at the fire departments to see where they all work, but we also have to look at where they all live.”
The name of the credit union says it all – firefighters come first. Membership is open to paid active and retired firefighters.
“Our board of directors are made up of firefighters,” Ramsay said. “They are adamant that we stay true to just firefighters. We provide services that are designed based on what their lifestyle is.”
As with most credit unions, Firefighters First offers better loan rates and higher savings earnings than what might be offered at banks. What truly sets Firefighters First apart from other financial institutions is its dividends program.
“It’s a cooperative, so it’s basically owned by the members,” Ramsay said. “Everything we do, we do with them in mind. That’s where the dividends and bonuses come in. It’s not profit-sharing, but that’s how you could look at it. Members benefit from our success.”
“We’ve paid out dividends every year but two, and that was right in the middle of the big recession,” she added. “That’s why a lot of the firefighters like us. And for them, it’s a lot about the history and tradition.”
The credit union also has an investment arm, Firehouse Financial, that helps firefighters manage their short- and long-term investments. Investment planning is offered at no charge to members.
“We work closely with them on how to invest,” she said. “You can give us the money and we invest it for you, or you can invest it yourself.”
Firefighters First offers the convenient services most people have come to expect, including online banking, mobile banking and mobile deposits. It is part of a cooperative network, so members do not have to live near a branch if they need in-person services.
“We may not have a branch or an ATM on every single corner, but the co-op network covers that for us,” she said. “It really pays to be a member. We have all the services of a bank, but what we have in addition to that is the dividends. The more banking you do with us, the more it pays you.”
Learn more about Firefighters First Credit Union at firefightersfirstcu.org.


Also in this issue...