NerdWallet ("NW"): What is the role that credit unions play in the small business lending space, especially in comparison with other lenders (in particular, community banks and mid-sized banks, who also lend to their local communities)?
George Poitou, COO of SCE Federal Credit Union ("GP"): Many credit unions have the knowledge, experience and resources to fit in the same space that banks do with regard to lending to established businesses. But more than that, credit unions involved in business lending fill the void for smaller, new or minority-owned businesses that generally have little access to capital. SCE Federal Credit Union, in addition to making loans to small businesses and entrepreneurs, has focused significant resources on financial education and consulting to help small businesses position themselves to be successful.
NW: How do you see small business lending evolving in the next year?
GP: Small businesses are the key to economic growth in America for the foreseeable future. Many businesses have suffered during the economic downturn and their finances, while still solid, may not meet the specific requirements of many lenders. In making lending decisions, SCE Federal Credit Union goes beyond simply evaluating finances and business plans - we also take the time to evaluate the individual owner's needs, understand their commitment and character, and try to tailor the right solution.
NW: Please describe your credit union and its unique difference.
GP: SCE Federal Credit Union has a full line of traditional business services, and we also focus a significant portion of our efforts on helping businesses that are often excluded from traditional banking relationships.
NW: Does it serve any unique business industries?
GP: We do not focus on any specific type of business.
NW: Offer special services or rates?
GP: As a member-owned not-for-profit financial institution, SCE Federal Credit Union doesn't have shareholder responsibilities so we're able to offer members the lowest possible price for our loans and other services. Additionally, we continually monitor rates and, when they go down, we proactively contact business members offering to lower their rates without them needing to ask or refinance.
NW: What advice would you give a small business owner?
GP: Learn the business of the business. Many startup or fairly new business owners are experts in whatever products or services they want to offer but many times they don't know the intricacies of managing a business. SCE Federal Credit Union's advice is for them to surround themselves with a team of experts, such as a bookkeeper, attorney, management consultant, financial advisor, and others who can help them be less reactive and more strategic when making business decisions.