CEO Message – April 2024

April 2024 Newsletter

With the Easter season over and April upon us, this time of year signifies that another spring has arrived.  Personally, it marks another milestone – – – the conclusion of my first year at Patriot.  As I have said in previous letters, I am impressed with the staff that makes up Team Patriot, our members, and the community. As I’ve become fond of saying “it’s been as advertised, only better!” I have found folks to be very supportive and welcoming in my interactions – thank you!

In just a few short months this year, our teams have been quite busy focused on improving member experience with additional features and greater convenience to support the financial needs of individuals, families, and organizations.  For example, on February 13 we unveiled a new look to our website with enhanced user-friendly navigation across all devices, a more modern design, and an improved accessibility for visually impaired community members using assisted technology. Additionally, the site can accommodate Spanish speaking members – a growing population throughout our market area.

In addition to the Spanish version of our website to better serve our diverse communities, we added interpretation and translation resources to assist our staff in serving individuals. Whether they are immigrants from eastern Europe, Asia, or South America, Central America and the Caribbean islands, these resources enable us to better communicate with members who may not speak English or speak English well, as well as to serve deaf or hearing-impaired individuals versed in American Sign Language.  In a short time, we have engaged with members and prospective members in Spanish, Haitian-Creole, Portuguese and Russian over 200 times using these resources.

Other initiatives that are planned for 2024 include enhancements to our online and mobile banking including new security features, as well as provide tools and information to help our members better protect themselves from fraud.  As we introduce and expand services that members regularly utilize, we feel it is also prudent to look at sunsetting services and channels whose time may have come and gone.

After nearly 47 years, we determined that it was time to close the credit union’s initial branch location, located on Overcash Drive near Letterkenny Army Depot.  Member utilization of the Letterkenny Branch had steadily declined over the past several years. This slower activity, coupled with an aging building that was in dire need of significant repairs and costly upgrades, and a lease that was set to expire in early 2025, led us to determine that the credit union’s resources would be better invested in other areas to benefit the membership at large.  This location is a significant part of our history and served as a springboard for the credit union’s growth. With all of the memories that this location has created, closing this branch is certainly bittersweet.

While the branch is closing, we plan to continue to serve the Depot workforce and area residents with a new drive-up ATM located on Coffey Avenue near Opportunity Avenue.  We have received local municipal approval for the site and are hopeful that the new ATM will be operational by the end of 2024.

Let me now turn our attention to the state of our economy and interest rates. It may be too early for a thorough economic recap of the first quarter of 2024, but for the first time in four years Americans say the country isn’t in or heading toward a recession according to a recent poll.  We have seen a flattening of the higher interest rates from late 2023.  The Federal Reserve’s plan to temper inflation and avoid a recession appears to be leading toward a soft landing. That said, the inverted yield curve has not yet returned to a more normal pattern, continuing to make it difficult for borrowers to fit a much larger monthly payment into their budget for a new car or home.  As an alternative, many homeowners are staying put resulting in fewer homes on the market, and drivers are holding onto vehicles longer. Likewise, inflation (which remains over 3%) and credit card debt (nationwide at an all-time high) are contributing to financial challenges for many family budgets impacted by higher costs of goods and services.

Even though US consumer sentiment appears to be improving, and we too remain optimistic, there remains concerns about higher prices on gas and consumer goods, economic problems in other countries, and political turmoil and conflicts throughout the world. And finally, we don’t need to be reminded that it is a presidential election year.

Our focus is to be here for you, when you need financial services and solutions, in the good times and the challenging ones.  Patriot can’t be all things to everyone, but we strive to offer options and financial alternatives to meet the needs of individuals, families, businesses, and organizations throughout our field of membership. The financial well-being of YOU, our members, is Priority #1.

In closing, I want to thank you for allowing us to serve you and earn your trust and confidence.  I also appreciate your patience and understanding as we make improvements and changes to better serve your needs now and in the future.  If we fail to meet your expectations, please give us the opportunity to address it.  And if we exceed your expectations, consider telling your friends and family about Patriot – – – we would greatly appreciate it.

Ron Celaschi

CEO – Patriot Federal Credit Union