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Capital Credit Union turning 90 years young, with much more growing to do

Credit union celebrates nine decades of ‘Doing the right thing’

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June 3, 2024

NORTHEAST WISCONSIN – Wisconsin credit unions have a long history of being there to help build and strengthen the financial lives of their member-owners. 

For the past 90 years, Steve Zich, chief marketing officer, said Capital Credit Union has been doing just that. 

Capital Credit Union was incorporated in the State of Wisconsin as Kimberly Credit Union in 1934.

It was located inside the Kimberly-Clark Mill. 

“Our charter was changed to a community credit union in 1970,” Zich said. “That charter allowed us to service and serve multiple counties throughout our footprint.”

Zich said in 1996, the name was changed to Capital Credit Union.

On July 1, 2014, Capital Credit Union merged with Pioneer Credit Union but kept the Capital Credit Union name. 

Pioneer CU, Zich said, was the first credit union in the Green Bay area, holding its first organizational meeting Oct. 22, 1927.

Over the years, many other credit unions merged with Pioneer, he said, making it a strong, solid financial institution.

That foundation, Zich said, was even stronger with the Capital CU merger.

As a result of that merger, he said Capital CU’s assets came to more than $1 billion, making it – what was considered at the time to be – the largest credit union merger in the state.

Today, Zich said Capital CU has more than $2.6 billion in assets, more than 500 employees and serves some 120,000 members at 24 branches throughout the 12 counties in its footprint – Brown, Calumet, Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto, Outagamie, Shawano, Waupaca and Winnebago. 

Zich said there are many credit unions Capital CU could have merged with, but there was something about Pioneer CU that stuck out.

“I think it was the synergies the two credit unions had,” he said. “At the end of the day, if we looked at the mission and the vision of both credit unions, our mission of ‘doing the right thing, one member, one employee, one experience at a time,’ felt real for both credit unions.”

That mission, Zich said, was something both credit unions could get behind and bring into the communities of the Greater Green Bay area, Brown County and then the Valley.

“Capital CU has been on a fun journey over the last 90 years,” he said.

Change, challenges helped make it stronger

Those nine decades, Zich said, have seen much change and some rather big challenges for Capital CU. 

Shifts in the economy, he said, have been and continue to be on a rollercoaster – with changes in the financial industry changing how they had to do business.

Additionally, Zich said, Capital CU had to navigate a worldwide pandemic that crippled many businesses.

The credit union’s more recent history included a change in leadership – with Laurie Butz taking over as president & CEO when Tom Young, who served as CEO for 32 years, retired.

There was no roadmap or blueprint for maneuvering the challenges, but Zich said Capital CU did so by listening – not only to its members, but experts who were able to provide some direction. 

Originally starting as Kimberly Credit Union in 1934, the credit union changed its name to Capital Credit Union in 1996. Photo Courtesy of Capital CU

He said Capital CU also built upon its already strong foundation and culture by “doing the right thing” – a tagline and jingle that has dominated the credit union’s advertising message for at least a decade or more. 

Though the jingle has changed over the years, Zich said the brand and tagline of “doing the right thing” has not. 

“We’ve moved it along with the times, so to speak, but in doing so, we had to make sure it aligns with our vision and mission and what we want to stand for – how we want our members and those who are prospective members of Capital Credit Union members, to see us,” Zich said. “What’s important about all of this is we are community-oriented.”

In its entire 90 years of existence, Zich said Capital CU has never wavered from who it is as a credit union – “and that is being truly community-focused.”

“Our vision is to inspire financial well-being for all through access, care and collaboration,” he said. “We can only do that with our members.” 

Meeting members where they are

Zich said what’s changed over the years with Capital Credit Union is how its members think – “how they look to us to help them achieve their financial dreams.”

“That can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, especially when it comes to financial well-being,” he said. “As a credit union, we strive to meet our members where they’re at.”

For example, Zich said, some people today never want or feel the need to step foot in a branch – instead doing all their financial dealings online – while others may want only to have face-to-face contact with people at their local branch.

Some, he said, want a little of both options.

“The local branch is critically important to members so they have that face-to-face contact,” he said. “But, we also have to be there for members who want their information digitally, now more so than ever – so, we need to offer tools and services to our members (so they can handle their financial dealings the way they prefer and feel most comfortable).”

Capital CU members, Zich said, have the option to take out loans or open accounts solely online without ever going to a branch.

If they have trouble or questions and don’t want to call or take time to go into a branch, he said they can chat with someone online. 

“Again, it’s all about meeting the member or prospective member where they’re at today so we can service them better and provide them with the experience they’re looking for from their financial (institution),” he said. “Money is stressful. Money creates friction. We want to remove that friction so it doesn’t become any more stressful, and so it becomes easier to manage, easier to use and the person walks away feeling like (buying a car or applying for a loan or mortgage) wasn’t as bad as they thought it was going to be.”

Zich said there are things Capital CU cannot control – such as changes within the financial industry as a whole due to things like regulation or economic conditions.

However, though out of its control, he said Capital CU adjusts for those things internally, doing what it can to make processes seamless for members. 

“That’s something we pride ourselves on being able to do,” he said.

Zich said the evolution of Fintechs – financial technology companies that rely primarily or entirely on technology to conduct financial services functions for their customers – has affected how all traditional financial institutions serve consumers.

“Companies like SoFi, Acorn, Chime and Ally Bank take that 100% digital approach in servicing their customers,” he said. “That has changed the game for all financials. We, then, have to provide similar experiences and services that meet members’ needs, similar to Fintechs.” 

Over the last 90 years, Zich said Capital CU has evolved to be able to do that.

“It’s all about creating those touch points so the desired experience is met,” he said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to our dedication and commitment to our mission.”

Community impact efforts

In company with that, Zich said, is the importance of Capital CU strengthening the communities it serves.

“We’ve held to that from the start 90 years ago,” he said. “We’re community-focused because if our communities thrive, our members thrive.”

Being a good corporate neighbor and making an impact, Zich said, is the bedrock of what Capital CU does.

From the top of the organizational structure to the bottom, he said, every employee not only talks the talk, but walks the walk to make those communities and neighborhoods thrive.

In 2023, Zich said Capital CU gave $571,000 in total support to the various communities they serve, including more than 200 nonprofits, as well as other initiatives and activities Capital CU helps support.

On average, he said, Capital CU gives back about $600,000 each year.

“One of the big staples we’re proud of is our Elevate Communities program,” he said.

The program, Zich said, annually gives $100,000 to support initiatives brought forward by civic organizations, municipalities and other service organizations within Capital CU’s footprint to fill financial limitations that may otherwise prevent them from obtaining life-saving resources or completing projects of need. 

A large portion of the grants, he said, have gone to police and fire departments, public safety departments and EMTs. 

For police departments, Zich said, it might be money to help fund their K9 or D.A.R.E. programs.

Or, it could be to help fund the Explorer program offered by a local fire department.

Or, equipment used by police, fire or EMTs might be wearing out and needs to be replaced.   

The first grant, in 2017, ZIch said, was given to a local fire department that had purchased a new fire truck but wasn’t able to use it until they could fundraise the remaining cost for equipment.

Capital CU, he said, donated the remaining funds, and the truck has been used since then to protect the community.

In 2023, Zich said a total of 11 fire departments, police departments and public safety departments all shared in the $100,000 grant. 

“Those are a few things we attribute our support to, along with various other basic needs,” he said. “Another important thing we do from a community standpoint is financial education. We believe we’ve put our flag in the ground when it comes to financial education.”

Partnering with organizations like the YMCA of Greater Green Bay, or in the Fox Cities, Zich said Capital CU provides free financial education classes to the community.

The credit union, he said, also partners with individual schools, or school districts within its footprint, to help educate the next generation about the right ways to manage their money so they can be financially sound and successful.

Steve Zich

Each year, Zich said Capital CU awards $25,000 in scholarships to high school graduates who have demonstrated exemplary stewardship by volunteering, tutoring, club involvement and more.

Additionally, he said, Capital CU sponsors an annual Volunteer Day, usually in October, where credit union employees do various volunteer activities in the community.   

“They are encouraged to volunteer throughout the entire year, too,” he said. “Last year, our employees logged 4,550 volunteer hours in total.”

Zich said the Capital Credit Union website says: “From finances to volunteerism and everything in between, it’s about advocating for our members.”

He said it’s always been about its members – and it hasn’t changed in 90 years, nor will it change going forward.

Time to celebrate

To celebrate the credit union’s 90 years in operation, Capital CU is holding its Annual Meeting and Member Appreciation Event June 4 at Lambeau Field, 1265 Lombardi Ave. in Green Bay. 

“We’re going to try to knock it out of the park and have some fun by utilizing that great landmark here in Northeast Wisconsin that everybody knows and recognizes – like our brand,” Zich said.

The event will have activities for the kids, including face painting, and members will have the opportunity to win some cash.

Zich said Romeo Doubs, wide receiver for the Packers, will be signing autographs.  

The entire event runs from 4:30-8 p.m.

Food service begins at 5 p.m., with the business meeting starting promptly at 5:30 p.m.

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