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Q&A with Andrew Downin: The Credit Union Advantage

If you were to ask people what they think the difference is between a bank and a credit union, you would likely hear answers like, “It’s like a bank, only smaller,” or, “Credit unions are limited in who they serve,” as though they are exclusive clubs. Andrew Downin, Chief Marketing & Digital Officer, clarifies the unique benefits available to Vantage West members.

1. What are the main differences between big banks and Vantage West?

The primary difference between big banks and Vantage West is that banks exist to maximize profit for their shareholders, while as a financial cooperative, Vantage West exists solely to serve the unique needs of our Members. We put your best interests at the center of every decision we make. Or as we put it, “Banks Own You, You Own Us.®” By holding an account with us, you literally are an owner of Vantage West.

Another great benefit of Vantage West is that we are a local institution based in Arizona while big banks are often headquartered in New York, San Francisco, or other major cities. By becoming a Member, you are keeping your money local, which in turn helps fund local business and strengthens your community.

2. What benefits are available to Vantage West Members?

There are so many benefits available to Vantage West Members, it is hard to know where to begin. Fee-free checking account options, credit cards with no annual fees or balance transfer fees, the option to skip one payment on a loan per year, and we offer Overdraft Protection to protect our Members’ credit and reputation. We take the time to get to know our Members, which allows us to offer advice that is personalized to their specific wants and needs. Plus, Members have the right to vote in the annual Board of Directors election, which gives you a say in our leadership and direction. We also offer a referral program that rewards Members for telling their friends and family about Vantage West.

Our Member service specialists who assist you over the phone or online are based right here in Arizona, which helps ensure the service our Members receive is personalized and relevant to their specific questions and needs as a member of our community.

We even offer a variety of Member discounts including service and venue discounts, auto and life insurance offered through TruStage, admission to Reid Park Zoo, purchase of ADTHome Security, and more.

3. How can Vantage West continue to grow while also giving back to its Members, employees, and community at the same time?

From the very beginning, Vantage West was created to suit the needs of the community. Vantage West thrives when the community thrives. And our community thrives when we thrive. This cyclical relationship empowers us to invest in our Members and locally owned businesses. As we grow and expand our products, services, locations, and workforce, we can serve more of our community and expand the benefits for our Members.

4. How does Vantage West give back to its Members financially?

As a not-for-profit credit union, our profits go back to our Members in the form of better rates, lower fees, and investments in more convenient branches and technology. According to the 2021 Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Member Benefits Report, Vantage West provided almost $19 million in direct financial benefits to our Members, which is equal to an average of $239 per Member household. And, since we’re a financial cooperative owned by Members like you, the more you use the credit union for your financial needs the more we can return to you in increased benefits.

5. What is your favorite thing about being a leader at a local financial institution?

My favorite thing about being a leader at Vantage West is getting to live out our passion for investing in the local community and economy, especially by supporting our minority communities and minority-run businesses. We are in a unique position to enact positive social change by providing our services and support to those who are not always invited to have their voices heard. If you look at the population and culture of Arizona, we would be nothing without the contributions of our Black, Indigenous, and

People of Color (BIPOC) communities. Vantage West has made it a priority to improve financial access for traditionally overlooked communities and serve their needs. And, when you reflect on why volunteers gave tirelessly of their time and energy to start the United States credit union movement in the early twentieth century, that same priority stood at the center of their efforts—to offer fairly priced financial services to people who were overlooked and marginalized by the big banks.

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