Jeff Schmidt, the president and CEO of Voyage Federal Credit Union, joined us on the podcast to discuss the story of how the credit union was started.
How did Voyage Federal Credit Union Get Started?
The credit union charter itself has been around for 81 years. Voyage is an interesting story because it’s a hodgepodge of multiple credit unions. Back in the 1930’s and 1940’s, credit unions were formed by little employer groups. A group of employees would get together and try to figure out a better way to help each other out. Some may want to help gather money for a car loan, while others wanted to help out their fellow coworker with a down payment on a house. A lot of credit unions started out of shoe boxes.
I remember working with a guy named Larry, who ran a credit union where he literally had a shoe box in his basement. Members would come to his house and say they needed a $300 loan. And he would go to the shoe box and he’d say, “There’s not $300 here, I only have $200, but people are getting paid next week. So come back in a week.” Then that person would come back and he’d loan them the $300. That’s really how credit unions got started.
Voyage originally started that way with the Bell Telephone Company. Over the years there was a credit union with Bell, and then there was the Transportation Credit Union and Dakota Catholic Credit Union. And then Midwest Partners, which is another credit union, merged in. Midwest Partners had a bakery, Wholesome Foods, Lewis Drug, and Ravens. So then all of these credit unions combined to become Voyage.
When and How Did You Become Involved With Voyage Federal Credit Union?
I was always really intrigued by local, friendly community involved financial institutions, and there’s nothing that suits that role better than a credit union. I’ve always been intrigued by credit unions and when I had the opportunity to join a credit union 14 years ago, I was super excited about it. I don’t regret it a day since, we are truly there to help our members improve their financial lives. We think about it every day. We’ve got a team of people that are dedicated and committed, and we just take a lot of pride in helping our members.
You Started at Midwest Partners, So When Did it Merge and What Was Your Role?
Back to how Voyage got formed, in 2011, there were two credit unions. One was named Midwest partners, which was a conglomerate of multiple credit unions. Then the other one was named Bell, which was also a conglomerate of credit unions. And in 2011, we came together and that was the landmark moment in our credit union’s history. We took two small, $30 million credit unions, combined them, changed the name, and changed some of the building locations. And we kind of built a new credit union from those two. We then became a $60 million credit union in 2011. I was the president of the Midwest Partners Credit Union. When the credit unions joined, I then became the chief operating officer for a number of years. Now I’ve been the CEO for one year.
What Do You Do in Your Role and What is Your Overall Day to Day Like?
The financial service industry is changing just like every industry with technology. I work closely with the board and with our management team and our staff. I just try to figure out what role the credit union can play in the next 10, 20, 30 years and what the needs of our members is. We spend a lot of time analyzing technology, products, and services. We make sure that we’ve got the staff, the board, and all of us on the same page and moving in one direction.
What has Been the Most Influential Start in the Development of Voyage?
I don’t know if I could pinpoint one person. When we came together in 2011 and we put the resources together of two small credit unions, we were able to get some efficiency going, improve our marketing, and change our name and image, which was very influential. Most importantly, step up our technology, that has made us a lot more attractive and appealing to a lot of members in the Sioux Falls market. I’m pretty confident that by the end of this year, we will have almost tripled in size since 2011.
What Has Been a Defining Moment for Voyage? Do You Think it’s Been That Big Merger?
I think that’s absolutely been the defining moment in our 81 year history.
What is the Vision and Hopes for the Future of Voyage?
We want to be the primary financial institution that our members rely and depend on for education and for value. Whether that’s when they’re buying a house, a car, saving for college, or they have questions about how to save for retirement? Or perhaps they have a dream vacation they want to know how to afford. We want to be there to help answer all their questions. We are really confident that we’ve got the right products and the right people in place to be a full service, financial institution for the local people of Sioux Falls.
How Many People Work at the Credit Union and What are Their Roles Ranging From?
We have 34 staff right now and several product lines. We provide mortgages for people buying houses and we also provide construction loans. We’ve got a business department where we can help small business owners buy the building that they’re in, help them with an operating loan, or even buy some machinery that they might need. That has probably been the fastest growing segment of our credit union.
We also have what we call consumer lending or retail lending, where we’re helping our members buy cars, motorcycles, boats or campers, or whatever their priority is. In that department we also have a division that helps people buy cars locally at car dealerships. We have 11 dealerships in Sioux falls we partner with, and our members can buy cars from them and finance with us directly at those dealers.
And then of course there are the branches, we have three locations conveniently located across town. We’ve got great people in those branches and our members love to come in and just say hi. We also have so many great members that just make Voyage feel like a family.
If you would like to learn more about Voyage Federal Credit Union or how to become a member you can check out our website. For any questions you can call us at 6053382533 or you can send us a message.