Zest Loves Credit Unions: Addition Financial
Tell us about your credit union and the community you serve? What is your favorite part of your community? What makes it unique?
Addition Financial was formed in 1937 when 23 educators from Orange County came together to create a better financial alternative to banks. We have since grown to $2.6 billion in assets and serve 163,000 members in 25 counties throughout the state of Florida! We are committed to providing meaningful service and resources to our members and community. More than 800 people per day are relocating to the state of Florida. This presents us with a great opportunity to interact with and serve a very diverse group of people.
As a credit union founded by teachers, we have maintained a strong focus on education. We continue to partner with local school districts, colleges and nonprofit organizations that support our youth and underserved communities.
Can you tell us more on what your Credit Union is doing to serve your community? Is there anything specific you do to serve your community during these uncertain economic times?
Addition Financial believes in giving back! From our scholarship programs to financial education seminars to our classroom renovations, we are here to help our community thrive. We encourage our employees to find a cause that is important to them and volunteer their time. To support this effort, we give all employees 16 hours of paid time to devote to volunteer work in the community.
What were some of the biggest challenges your credit union faced during those times? What have you learned from those experiences?
The pandemic was tough on our local businesses. Central Florida is all about the hospitality industry, and as we all know, that sector suffered during the pandemic. Addition Financial didn’t waste any time when it came to helping our members. From loan payment deferrals to loan restructures, we were there for our members when times were tough.
How can a credit union help the members of their community during uncertain economic times?
Credit unions were created for the people. Everything we do stems from helping our members and our community become better together. Credit unions should listen to their members. We should be their trusted advisor in good times and bad times. Sometimes simply taking the time to listen to our members or those in the community can lead to deeper conversations that result in better financial products for the member. Better financial products lead to financial wellness!
What does fair lending mean to your team? What does expanding credit accessibility look like for your members?
Fair lending means ensuring that everyone has equal access to credit at a fair price. We have to learn to look deeper than just a FICO score when making lending decisions. There are so many people that are unbanked or underbanked that we can help to achieve financial success if we are willing to change how we look at lending. To do this, we have to start looking at factors outside of the traditional credit metrics we have all relied on for so many years.
What software has your credit union implemented for fairer lending practices?
Addition Financial has partnered with Zest AI to expand our accessibility of credit to our members. We hope to leverage machine learning and AI to make better lending decisions while helping more members attain their financial goals.
Can you share a story of a member that has been impacted by the power of machine learning and Zest AI technology?
Our partnership with Zest is relatively new and we have taken a crawl, walk, run approach. Although we just launched the program, we are positive that this partnership will allow us to help many borrowers who may have traditionally been denied credit. The analytics have shown that we can drastically improve our lending and help a substantial amount of members while holding risk constant. We are looking forward to seeing the results after the first 90 days and continuously using the data to approve more loans!
How has Zest AI made an impact on your community?
Zest will help us to carry out the credit union philosophy of people helping people. We will be able to reach more borrowers that may have been denied for loans in the past.
What advice would you share with other credit unions looking to amplify their mission of financial inclusion?
Start by understanding your members. You have to take a data driven approach. Determine what your organization is doing that may be creating barriers to financial inclusion and see if there is anything you can change. Seek partners that can help you expand your current practices. There are so many resources available to help credit unions carry out our mission. We cannot sit on the sidelines and wait for things to change, we need to be the change.