by Steve Sears
Keith McCarthy, president and CEO of Picatinny Federal Credit Union, is a busy man who is about to increase his workload. With branches in Denville, Mt. Olive, Rockaway, and at Picatinny Arsenal, McCarthy and team are soon to unveil brand new Parsippany location at Baldwin Plaza. The hope for a soft opening is set for Mon., Oct. 22, with the Grand Opening planned for Sat., Nov. 17.
Of the tight knit group, McCarthy states, “I would have to tell you that, in our culture here, everybody is a key player. If somebody doesn’t do the job, then the whole member experience suffers.”
McCarthy explains for the uninformed what a credit union is, and how dealing with one is advantageous.
“A credit union is really a true financial co-op, it’s owned by the members,” he says. “The idea here is that our profits get returned to the members. It gets returned to them in the form of lower fees, better rates on both deposits and loans, and we also invest in technology and now, obviously, branches. Years ago, you didn’t see a lot of credit union branches anywhere. Also, a credit union doesn’t have to answer to Wall Street; we’re not worried about what next quarter’s profit is going to be. And unlike a bank, our Board of Directors is a group of unpaid volunteers. So, these are folks who come together, they are members and they have the members best interest in mind. So, the management structure is very, very different then what you would see in a bank.”
Another difference between a credit union and a bank is that any member can run for the credit union Board of Directors when elections are held.
“You can have five dollars or $5,000, you’re still qualified to run for the Board,” McCarthy adds.
Picatinny Federal Credit Union’s first location in Picatinny Arsenal opened in 1939 and was founded by the employees. To provide members another place to go that would not be on the base the Rockaway office opened in 1989. Following reception of a community charter in 2005, locations opened their doors in Mt. Olive in 2009 and in Denville in 2012.
McCarthy explains, “We’re able to serve anyone who lives, works, worships, or goes to school in Morris County. A member can be any one of those groups. We’re chartered to serve people in Morris County. That’s the advantage of Picatinny Federal Credit Union; we are very focused on the people of Morris County.”
Specifically, Picatinny Federal Credit Union brings a local flavor to the way they do business, and that homey interaction is a key.
According to McCarthy the credit union has “local people making local decisions, and I know that some banks claim that also, but they also have to answer to someone who’s not part of the community. We feel a real connection to our members. We don’t see members as customers you have to make a profit from; they’re members, they own the credit union. We serve the members, it’s not the other way around. We can also save them a lot of money, while at the same time we let our members know we really do care about them and we really appreciate their business, because whatever profits were making are going back to them anyway.”
Still, there are misconceptions about credit unions that McCarthy is eager to quell.
“Our number one misconception here at Picatinny Federal Credit Union is that you have to know someone who works at Picatinny Arsenal; that’s one of our biggest barriers,” he says.
McCarthy continues stating, “people are concerned that their deposits aren’t insured, believe it or not. All deposits in credit unions are insured up to $250,000 by the NCUA [National Credit Union Association].
Another public concern that McCarthy notes is the idea that the credit union does not have the same technology that a big bank has.
McCarthy counters that concern by stating, “We can provide the technology people need, we can provide the personal service people need. Somebody used to say here years ago, ‘Were just like a bank, only better.’ I think all of our employees here believe that.”
Picatinny Federal Credit has to adhere to capital requirements as banks do.
“We have to stay safe and sound and we’re examined just like banks are,” he says. “The NCUA examines us just like the FDIC examines banks. So, there’s no safety issue with the credit union.”
Picatinny Federal Credit Union also gives back to the community it serves regularly.
“Through the choice of the employees here, there are two major charities in Morris County that we support in a big way,” he says. “One is Eleventh Hour Rescue. They have an event over in Horseshoe Lake called Puptoberfest. We’re a huge sponsor of that; we also help them throughout the year with raising money. One of the big things shelters have a problem with is their medical expenses. The employees got behind it here, a lot of the members got behind it here, so we’re active physically and financially with Eleventh Hour Rescue. The other one is a new one this year, and that is the Interfaith Food Pantry of Morris County. I don’t think people realize that food security is a big issue no matter how affluent the county is.”
Picatinny Federal Credit Union also does food drives, raises money, and supports first responders, sports teams, and educational functions.
“We’re active in the community and we’re active with our people,” he says. “Our people actually get a full paid day to serve whatever charity they’d like to, so that’s also part of our culture here. The whole culture of how we treat our members is how we treat our employees.”
In addition to the new Parsippany location, McCarthy elaborates about what is on the horizon for Picatinny Federal Credit Union, including an updated business model, “Our goal is to be the go-to financial institution in Morris County. We want people to recognize who we are and what we can do for them. We recently changed our model to the ‘Universal Member Experience Professional.’ When you walk in the door, any person in that lobby can help you with anything. You’re going to see that in Parsippany because we’ve actually constructed that branch to meet our new business model.”
In conclusion, McCarthy explains what success means to him.
“I get a lot of success stories from people who work in what we call the front office,” he says. “I have a successful day every time I hear one of those stories. I have members talk to me, I get emails from people. The other is just to walk around the building and people seem relaxed and seem to enjoy what they’re doing. That makes my day.”