Global Credit Union Grows from Alaska to International Opportunities
In April, Alaska USA Federal Credit Union began operating under a new name—Global Credit Union—to symbolize its expanded service worldwide and bold aspirations for the future. The name change followed its August acquisition of Spokane, Washington-based Global Credit Union, which created one of the fifteen largest credit unions in the nation.
The rebranded financial institution now operates seventy-nine branches in Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Washington, and Italy; has more than 2,200 employees and 750,000 members; and holds $12 billion in assets. A member-owned, not-for-profit cooperative, Global Credit Union offers a full range of financial services, including checking and savings accounts, consumer loans, real estate loans, mortgage loans, credit cards, business services, and personal insurance.
When the two institutions officially merged last year, Alaska USA was operating sixty-seven branches in Alaska, Arizona, California, and Washington, with nearly 2,000 employees serving more than 700,000 members. Spokane’s Global had 45,000 members, twelve branches in Washington and Idaho, and three additional branches on US military installations in Italy. Although Global was the smaller of the two entities, Alaska USA opted to assume its name for various strategic reasons.
The name “Global Credit Union” supports Alaska USA’s future growth, according to President and CEO Geoff Lundfelt. The appellation is also recognizable, easy to associate, and matches the credit union’s geographic trajectory. “The Global Credit Union name reflects our future and represents the diversity of our membership, which spans all fifty states and over twenty countries,” Lundfelt says. “The new brand is a better representation of the geographical diversity that our membership represents.”
Jettisoning a brand that’s so familiar to Alaskans comes with some uncertainty. However, Lundfelt accepts the risk: “We’re changing our name because it’s important for the long-term financial health and stability of the organization. This was an inflection point, and I promise you it was not an easy decision. Important decisions are rarely easy in our personal or professional lives. We’re going to be a 75-year-old company this year. We don’t manage to financial quarters; we manage to quarter centuries so that we can continue to serve the generations to come.”
Commitment to Alaska
The name change ripples down to the credit union’s subsidiaries and other organizations. Alaska USA Insurance Brokers was changed to Global Credit Union Insurance Brokers, and Alaska USA Mortgage Company is now Global Credit Union Home Loans. Alaska USA Financial Planning and Investment Services has become Global Retirement and Investment Services. And the Alaska USA Foundation is now called Global Credit Union Foundation.
Likewise, Global Credit Union unveiled a new logo design that acknowledges and honors its deep roots in Alaska. The “A” in “Global” is a direct nod to the mountainous geography of the credit union’s Alaska beginnings. The blue and gold colors are also a gesture to the colors on the Alaska state flag. And the gold “summit” of the letter is an arrow, pointing to the future of its members’ financial well-being.
Other than new signage and letterhead, services for the credit union’s members remain the same. Members can continue to access account information and normal products and services in the same way they always have—in branches, online, and through a 24/7/365 contact center.
Another key aspect that the credit union is not altering is the location of its headquarters. “We are proud of our Alaska heritage,” Lundfelt explains. “Our headquarters will remain in Anchorage. Six of our seven board members reside in Southcentral Alaska. I was born and raised here. Most of our key executives live in Alaska.”
With more than 1,100 Alaska employees, Global Credit Union is a significant employer in the state. It operates in fourteen distinct communities and maintains a separate foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has given millions of dollars back to communities throughout Alaska. The institution also supports other nonprofits and charitable causes to help ensure that Alaska’s communities are better places to live, work, and play. “We run United Way campaigns and support smaller organizations that focus on needs-based charity work with children, including critical issues like food insecurity,” Lundfelt says. “And we support our junior enlisted men and women, making sure those families can put food on the table and provide school supplies for their kids. Our roots are firmly planted in Alaska, and that will not change,” Lundfelt says.
“The merger with Alaska USA and Global allows us to offer membership to all service members, active duty and retired, wherever they may reside… This gives them greater choice when selecting a financial institution.”
Long History of Growth
Established in 1948 as Alaskan Air Depot Federal Credit Union, the cooperative expanded into Washington under a merger with Whidbey Federal Credit Union in 1983. It began operating in California with the acquisitions of High Desert Federal Credit Union in 2009 and Arrowhead Credit Union in 2010. The credit union continued to grow its presence in the Lower 48 with branches in the Phoenix, Arizona area, including seven branches acquired from TCF Bank in 2020.
Last year’s merger further enhanced Alaska USA’s strength in the United States and beyond. The calculated move enabled the credit union to leverage the positive attributes of another complementary institution with a similar focus. Global, like Alaska USA, was initially established to cater to military service members and later underwent a strategic transformation. It was founded in 1954 as Fairchild Federal Credit Union to serve military and civil service employees on Fairchild Air Force Base. In 1988, the institution changed its name to Global Credit Union to better reflect its diverse membership and enhance potential for growth.
The recent merger expands the credit union’s presence in Spokane, in parts of northern Idaho, and on three US military bases in Italy. “With that merger came something else incredibly significant: an opportunity to expand beyond our original charter comprised of military members who were on specific installations in Alaska to anyone who works in the US Department of Defense worldwide,” Lundfelt says. “That includes civilians, active-duty military of every branch of our services, reservists and their family members—a group of over 6 million people who can join our organization now.”
Growth means strength—and a strong credit union is good for its members and the communities where it operates, Lundfelt says. “From humble beginnings, Alaska USA—now Global Credit Union—is honored to serve over 750,000 members, a large number of whom live in Alaska,” he says. “We have members who live in all fifty states and in over twenty foreign countries, a growing number of people who understand the benefits of being a member of a financial services cooperative.”
Elizabeth Rense Pavlas
Alaska USA’s consistent expansion has significantly enhanced its ability to provide products, services, and other benefits to a broader membership base. Over the years, the credit union has always focused on providing value to its members through competitive pricing on products, as well as superior service in the forms of convenient branch and ATM locations, contact center, and state-of-the-art mobile products, according to COO Elizabeth Rense Pavlas. “Those products and services are expensive to provide, yet we are able to maintain that service model with incredibly competitive pricing because of the scale of our large member base,” she says. “The merger adds to that base and expands our member charter, allowing more people to choose us as their financial institution. It’s a symbiotic relationship where growth does allow for enhancements to what we can provide.”
However, Alaska USA does not grow just for the sake of growth, says Pavlas, a lifelong Alaskan who has worked at the credit union for fifteen years. “We don’t accept every merger opportunity and only expand when it strategically makes sense for our members and for the health of the credit union,” she explains. “I’m proud to be part of the team that is leading us through an interesting economic time with factors the banking industry has never seen before. Our growth is an important factor in our future.”
“We’re changing our name because it’s important for the long-term financial health and stability of the organization. This was an inflection point, and I promise you it was not an easy decision.”
Former Global President and CEO Jack Fallis says he “could not be more pleased” with the merger with Alaska USA. “The members of Global Credit Union now have a greater number of world-class products and services that the smaller credit union simply could not afford to offer,” says Fallis, who currently serves as regional president of the Pacific Northwest and international markets for the merged credit union. “That—along with our 24/7/365, entirely US-based member call center—offers them personal service and access to information when it’s convenient for them.”
Fallis also emphasizes that the consolidation of the two financial institutions enhances Global’s ability to provide products and services to a broader membership base. “The merger with Alaska USA and Global allows us to offer membership to all service members, active duty and retired, wherever they may reside,” he explains. “This gives them greater choice when selecting a financial institution.”
For seventy-five years, Alaska USA has instituted a variety of practices to help its members reach their financial goals. For example, it was the first Alaska-based financial institution to remove non-sufficient fund fees for members who choose overdraft protection, according to Lundfelt. “We have lowered those costs as well,” he says. “For members looking to save, there are no maintenance fees on savings and money market accounts, and we have increased dividend rates on money market and CDs. The combination of those changes will put over $12 million annually back in our members’ pockets.”
“It’s a symbiotic relationship where growth does allow for enhancements to what we can provide… We don’t accept every merger opportunity and only expand when it strategically makes sense for our members and for the health of the credit union.”
Under its new identity, the credit union is capitalizing on its “strength in members” to provide better rates, lower fees, and the latest in banking technology with accessible, around-the-clock, entirely US-based member service. In fact, it recently opened a new 24/7 Member Service Center in Fairbanks—its second in Alaska. “Global Credit Union is positioned to grow with our members, to serve them wherever they are in the world,” Lundfelt says.In addition, Global Credit Union is currently rolling out new technology in the form of a mobile app that allows users to complete transactions and aggregate all their accounts—even their non-credit union accounts—so they can see a global financial picture of their finances. The new app also provides a variety of budgeting tools to help members manage their money.
While Global Credit Union now represents an institution that is 750,000 members strong globally, its inherent strength stems from one key factor: its focus on each individual member and their specific needs. This includes offering competitive deposit and borrowing rates, reducing and eliminating fees, providing state-of-the-art online banking technology, and being committed to member service, according to Lundfelt.
“During COVID, when many companies were giving up on providing contact centers staffed by humans, we doubled down, expanding our entirely US-based Member Service Center,” the CEO says. “We’re proud to say that if a member needs a problem solved, wherever they are in the world at any time of the day or night, they can reach us.”
As for the future, Global Credit Union aims to continue enhancing its services and expanding its geographic presence to better serve its members in Alaska and worldwide.
Setting the Price at the Pump
Gasoline and diesel prices fluctuate with the crude oil market and refinery capacity, and not always to the advantage of gas stations. “Whether the price of oil is low or high, it’s not necessarily driving profit,” Vitus Energy Co-founder Mark Smith says. “In fact, high prices consume more working capital, so we’re not a big fan of high prices, either.”