By: VyStar President/CEO Terry West
This month, VyStar Credit Union will celebrate 65 years of service to our members and the communities we serve in Northeast and Central Florida. In 1952, VyStar (formerly Jax Navy Federal) was founded to serve civil service members, military employees and their families at the Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax). At that time, obtaining financial services—particularly loans—was difficult for working men and women, who would often fall prey to unfair and deceptive lending practices. For that reason, our founding fathers chartered this credit union to provide military families with access to the financial services they needed. We began with 12 members and $60. Today, we serve over 552,000 members, whose assets total over $6.6 billion.
Sixty five years later, VyStar remains true to our founding fathers’ vision to provide a safe place for our members to borrow and save, and to help improve their financial well-being. Last year, we disbursed almost $1.5 billion in loans, helping our members buy homes, purchase automobiles and refinance existing higher-rate mortgages. Our mortgage loans totaled $2.2 billion—an increase of almost 8% since 2015—making VyStar the second largest mortgage lender by volume (dollar amount) in Northeast Florida according to the Jacksonville Business Journal. Wells Fargo was ranked first by volume of loans. In the same survey, however, VyStar produced twice the number of mortgages produced by Wells Fargo: 4,640 loans compared to 2,311. This indicates we are making far more mortgage loans at lower dollar loan amounts, further proving that we are serving our intended market: middle-class working families. VyStar is also consistently ranked the No. 1 used car lender, as well as one of the top five new car lenders in Northeast Florida, with approximately $800 million in auto loans made during 2016.
How do we accomplish this for our members? First, we offer competitive rates and a variety of options designed to serve the needs of our diverse membership. Next, we strive to make the loan process convenient and easy with an online application and approval process. A member can also apply over the phone or within Internet Banking, or they can visit any of our 41 conveniently located branches to complete the loan process. Our goal is to alleviate the stress that is sometimes associated with getting a loan by giving our members choices. VyStar also takes a consultative approach to lending: Our expert staff and online resources are available to help our members choose the best option for their needs.
The right time to make a large purchase, like a new home or automobile, is when you can afford it. If this is the right time for you financially, you will be glad to know there are other factors working in your favor. Even though the Federal Reserve has recently increased the Federal Funds rates, interest rates are still near historical lows, and they should remain relatively low even if the Federal Reserve continues to raise rates as predicted. (Credit unions and banks use the Fed Funds rate as a benchmark to set rates for loans, savings and more.) Our local and national economies continue to improve, especially the Northeast Florida job market. The Jacksonville housing market is also expected to continue increasing in sales and home values.
If you are ready for that new home, VyStar has a team of Mortgage Loan Consultants that can help your family realize the dream of homeownership. They will walk you through our full range of competitively priced mortgage loans. Our fixed- or adjustable-rate mortgages have origination fees that are generally lower than those of other lenders, and our escrow accounts earn interest. We maintain all of the loans we make, so your loan will not be sold to another institution for servicing in the future.
If it is time to purchase a new car, VyStar’s VIP Auto Loan is a convenient and affordable loan solution that will help lessen the pressure of shopping for a new vehicle. Our VIP program preapproves you for a certain amount and an approximate monthly payment. You are given a check for the approved limit that you have while you shop. With our VIP program, your financing is in place and you have a check in hand before you decide to buy. VyStar partners with over 200 auto dealerships in the area; last year, we worked with those dealerships to loan over $465 million, helping members find the right automobile and loan for their needs. Please visit the “Lending & Loan Protection” section of our website or stop by a branch near you for more details.
At VyStar, we pay attention to all your financial needs—not only when you need credit. Providing a safe place for our members to save and invest their money is equally important to us. Therefore, VyStar offers a wide range of savings and investment options. In March, VyStar raised rates on all certificate of deposit (CD) and money market accounts. We also created a 15-Month Certificate of Deposit designed to help you and your family safely reach your savings goals. This new CD is available for a limited time only. You can find specific details by clicking the link above.
We are proud of our commitment to our founding values, and we will continue to remain true to our fundamental purpose: to serve the financial needs of our members by providing quality, dependable and trustworthy products and services. Thank you for your membership and for making VyStar the success it is. We look forward to helping you reach your financial goals both in the present and in the future.
Terry R. West,
VyStar Credit Union