The Student Federal Credit Union will celebrate its 35th anniversary next week during Homecoming Weekend.
The Student Federal Credit Union, the Ivy League’s only student-run credit union, is planning to host an event on Oct. 20 to celebrate 35 years of operation. State politicians, Philadelphia credit union experts, and Penn trustees are expected to join SFCU board members and current and past SFCU student employees at the event, which will be held at the Inn at Penn.
The SFCU — now a multi-million-dollar organization — is one of two remaining student-run credit unions in the country. The credit union exclusively serves the community of the University of Pennsylvania, including its students, alumni, and immediate relatives.
Founded in 1987 by three Wharton MBA students, Kenneth Beck, Steven Feld, and Robert Kaplan, the SFCU had to gain special permission from the National Credit Union Administration to begin its operations.
“Most student credit unions failed back then, so the NCUA had decided not to charter any more credit unions. We had to go down to Washington, D.C. and make a presentation to the NCUA Board to convince them to grant one more charter,” said Beck, now the CEO of CEO Connection and the Chair of the Wharton Club of New York.
To ensure that the SFCU did not end up like other credit unions of the time, the founders took precautions, Beck recalled.
“Our documentation was extensive — everything that had to be done was documented, so that anyone could step in and do it," he said.
Beck added that the SFCU created an advisory board and arranged the schedule for transitioning officers so that an overlap was always present between incoming and outgoing officers.
According to Beck, the SFCU also owes part of its success to Penn, since it started off in Houston Hall in the heart of campus. The president of the University at the time, Francis Sheldon Hackney was also instrumental in kickstarting the credit union.
“Sheldon introduced me to the VP of Finance, Marna Whittington, and Frank Claus. In fact, Claus, and the director of student life, Fran Walker, served on our first board. We were a recognized student organization, and that’s where we started,” said Beck. Frank Claus was the treasurer of the University at the time.
Over the years, the SFCU has prioritized innovation to adapt to the ever-changing banking market and has developed new projects.
“You get to work on new projects that benefit the credit union. You need to be creative and innovative," Wharton senior and CEO of the SFCU Michelle Xu said. "At the SFCU, we’re constantly thinking of new products and ideas that would let us make our members’ banking experiences better.”
She also pointed to its broad alumni network as a benefit of its 35-year-long tenure. The students meet quarterly with their board and Beck to discuss strategic direction, said Xu.
The SFCU’s primary goals at the moment are to lobby for a more centralized location on campus — preferably in Houston Hall — as well as to expand their online mobile banking services. Currently, it is located at 3401 Walnut Street.
“In addition to our online banking, we’re going to be transitioning our cards over the next year. We’re focused on making the change as frictionless as possible for our current members," said College senior and chairman of the SFCU board Andrew Wang.
Over the years, the SFCU has provided learning experiences to more than 4,000 students, and currently serves more than 1,000 members.
“Being able to interact directly with clients who have graduated, who are current students, or parents, has taught me a lot about the ins and outs about running a financial institution,” said Wharton junior and independent board member and member of the SFCU Operations Committee Scott Klein.
General Ledger Committee member at the SFCU Yomi Abdi, who is also an Opinion staffer at the Daily Pennsylvanian, echoed Klein’s sentiment.
“Our reception during Homecoming Weekend will celebrate the legacy of the SFCU and will bring together people that understand the mission of our organization and have contributed to it," Abdi said. "I’m looking forward to that."