By Laura Kostad
A digitally-focused credit union has opened its first Tri-Cities office to reach personal and commercial customers in the busy Queensgate Drive area in Richland.
[blockquote quote="Our objective is to become a digital credit union." source="Gene DeLuca, vice president of new market development, Solarity Credit Union" align="right" max_width="300px"]
Solarity Credit Union is offering service by appointment only at the busy corner of Queensgate and Duportail Street near Walmart. The branch is located inside the former AmericanWest Bank building.
As members and consumers transition to digital banking, the need for more “typical” branches is decreasing, as evidenced with branch closures, according to Solarity officials.
“The (Richland) location we have is not a typical branch,” said Gene DeLuca, vice president of new market development at Solarity. “As we build our digital presence in Tri-Cities and other markets…we’re looking to meet changing marketplace needs with better digital technologies.”
Solarity has eight locations, with the majority in the Yakima area.
DeLuca said about 24 percent of customers seeking mortgages want to meet in-person to address their lending needs.
“The majority of marketplace needs can be met digitally,” he said.
As streamlined and expedient web-based applications continue to be adopted, Solarity is “not only looking at the existing needs of the marketplace, but the ever-changing needs. Our objective is to become a digital credit union.”
In the meantime, Solarity customers will find the new Richland branch staffed with five lending specialists who meet by appointment and who are supported by a larger network of professionals who are a call or click away.
The Tri-Cities has experienced tremendous growth, and as new residents continue to steadily stream into the region, demand for home mortgages has skyrocketed. “The Tri-Cities area has led in new mortgage market prospects for the past couple of years,” DeLuca said.
In addition to personal mortgages and commercial loans, DeLuca identified construction lending as a large portion of Solarity’s business in the rapidly expanding Tri-Cities.
Despite the established presence of larger credit unions in the area, such as Gesa and Numerica, DeLuca said the Yakima-based Solarity brings added value to the credit scene for its more than 55,000 members.
“Why compete with the larger credit unions? I say, ‘Why not?’” DeLuca said. “We’re always happy to compete with all lenders and we appreciate the roots of the top credit unions, banks and mortgage companies. That’s why we fit well here. We strive to bring the same services to the table.”
Offering both personal and commercial lending services, DeLuca said that although Solarity aims to compete with larger lenders, “We have a unique experience for each member; we don’t believe in one size fits all.”
Serving customers within Washington state school districts, DeLuca said Solarity boasts the highest performance scores he’s ever seen in the industry, which he attributes to the credit union’s primary objective of anticipating borrower needs and making customer experience a top priority.
DeLuca reported that mortgage lending accounted for 657 loans at about $117.5 million last year.
Key elements of Solarity’s success are its “great products, conforming and nonconforming loan options, shorter cycle times and in-house operations. We service all of our loans — we don’t sell them — in order to ensure a great member experience,” DeLuca said.
Solarity puts a major focus on mapping out what customers can expect at every step of the loan-seeking process, he said.
“This reduces anxiety and opens the door for a great experience all the way around,” he said.
Solarity also employs an uncommon, yet innovative tactic, according to DeLuca. Rather than seek input on customers’ experiences at the end of transactions, Solarity provides customers with a survey 10 days in, so customers can voice concerns.
“This allows us to address the situation and get it turned around,” DeLuca said.
Though Solarity is not planning to open more branches in the Tri-Cities, DeLuca said it’s still early and the company is always reassessing.
“Less brick and mortar, more focus on new services,” he said.
Solarity is investigating new lending operating systems, new front-end systems that are more user-friendly, and enhanced digital and video capabilities, he said.
“You’re either out front or behind,” DeLuca said. “We have forethought to where we’re going. We’re cutting edge. We desire to be integrated with everything that goes on in Tri-Cities.”
Solarity: 2590 Queensgate Drive, Richland; 800-347-9222; solaritycu.org/location/tri-cities-loan-production-office, Facebook.
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