When a small group of Southern Bell employees formed the Florida Telco Credit Union in January 1935 with $155 in initial deposits, they probably had no idea of the growth of the nonprofit financial institution over the next 87 years.
With more people joining the telephone company and its equipment suppliers, as well as some strategic mergers over the decades, the credit union now has approximately 140 employees, eight branches, nearly 50,000 members and $678 million in revenue. assets.
“We’re the fourth-largest credit union headquartered in Jacksonville,” said David Marovich, CEO of 121 Financial Credit Union, the name it adopted in 2010.
A merger with Gulf Life Employees Federal Credit Union in 1991 expanded local membership eligibility to include insurance industry professionals and their families.
In 1999, 121 Financial was approved for a community credit union charter, expanding its membership eligibility to include anyone who lives, works or worships in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau or St. Johns counties, as well as active and retired employees of telephone companies. and their families.
Eligibility for membership was again expanded in 2006 to include people who live, work, or attend school in Alachua, Bradford, Columbia, Flagler, Putnam, or Union counties.
For greater inclusivity, the credit union has also redefined “family members” to include anyone related to the primary member by blood or marriage.
It added business loan services in 2006 to help finance small businesses in the Jacksonville area.
Marovich left Compass Bank to join Florida Telco in 2007 as Vice President of Business Services.
“We’re trying to serve a niche in the market with small businesses,” he said.
“We will do larger loans, but the majority of ours are under $1 million. We have succeeded in this market where many large lenders do not want to be.
In 2015, 121 Financial merged with Duval Federal Credit Union.
Marovich was promoted to chief operating officer in 2015 and then CEO in 2020.
The business relationship with its depositors is what makes a credit union the choice of many people, he said.
“Our members are our shareholders, our owners. There is a big difference between the for-profit model and the not-for-profit model,” Marovich said.
The difference became clear when the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the country from March 2020, when many businesses were forced to close and lay off employees.
121 Financial has facilitated approximately $55 million in Federal Paycheck Protection Program loans to help support its small business clients and has also worked with individual members.
“During the pandemic, we were proactive in helping members who were having financial difficulties. If a member comes to us and says they can’t pay their mortgage or they’ve lost their job, we start working on a plan together. We don’t just send them out the door,” Marovich said.
Make your mark at the ballpark
A few years after Ken Babby bought the Jacksonville Suns, now the Jumbo Shrimp, from the Bragan family in 2015, talks began to extend and expand the minor league baseball franchise’s sponsorship deal with the credit union. , Marovich said.
In 2020, 121 Financial put its name on the old Jacksonville baseball field, renaming it 121 Financial Ballpark until 2033.
“It’s been a long partnership that goes back long before I started with the credit union. We had Florida Telco on schedules, signs on the field, and we sponsored ballpark parties. We see it as a good place for us. We got huge name recognition. It exceeded our initial expectations,” Marovich said.
Navigating the Economy
Like other financial institutions, Financière 121 adapts to changes in the economy that affect businesses and individuals.
Marovich said the combination of inflation at its highest level in 40 years and increases in lending rates imposed by the Federal Reserve Bank were increasing the cost of living for members of the credit union.
“The first mortgages at 7% interest, double what they were in January, are a big swing and it changes what people can afford,” Marovich said.
“We are also at a unique moment in the automotive market. For most credit unions, auto lending is bread and butter. In addition to supply shortages, average loan amounts have increased to around $40,000 from around $30,000 a few years ago.
The credit union maintains its commitment to community service while helping its members deal with current economic challenges, Marovich said.
121 Financial donated approximately $90,000 to local organizations in 2021, and employees and leaders volunteered at local nonprofits, collected school supplies and backpacks for students and holiday gifts for homeless and at-risk children.
The credit union also plans to expand its presence beyond Jacksonville and Clay County and continues to help its members make more use of the digital options developed by the financial industry during the pandemic as technology evolves.
“It’s been an interesting two years to be the CEO,” Marovich said.
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