First Northern Credit Union has opened its doors in a new location. The 1705 Sherman Ave. site is just around the corner from the Clark Street location where it had served its members since 2003 and another 100 yards or so from Rebecca Crown Center, where, in the 1930s under a different name, it began to serve Northwestern University faculty and staff.
The Sherman Avenue frontage and expanded office size give this nearly 75-year-old institution greater exposure, said Branch Manager James Smith. “We have a more visible presence. We were hard to find on Clark Street. Now we really stand out. People who want an alternative to big banks can come here. You can be a part owner and have more personal service,” he said.
First Northern Credit Union is authorized to serve those who live or work in zip codes 60201 and 60202 and Northwestern University faculty, staff, students and alumni. It has no fees, and a $5 deposit will open an account, said Mr. Smith. “Our members can access their accounts through any credit union – which opens up a network of about 70,000 ATMs that charge no fee,” he added.
First Northern offers many of the same services a bank does, said Mr. Smith, such as savings accounts, checking accounts, vehicle loans, first mortgages and home-equity loans.
There are distinctions, though, said Paul Biles, director of financial services for First Northern.
“We’re a not-for-profit, a financial cooperative. We do not have shareholders; each member is an owner,” he said, “The board of directors is all-volunteer. We return profits to our members in the form of competitive interest rates, free financial education and credit counseling and community service – both at Northwestern University and in the Evanston and greater Chicagoland communities,” said Mr. Biles.
“Wouldn’t you want to take out a loan from an institution you’re part owner of?” said Mr. Smith.
In addition to Evanston, First Northern has branches in Chicago, Rockford and Freeport. Members also have access to 6,800 shared branching locations nationwide
At a ribbon-cutting on Feb. 6, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl thanked First Northern for remaining in Evanston.
Jim Poskozion, chairman of First Northern said, “We’re very proud of our location here. It demonstrates our commitment to the community.”
CEO Ed Berg echoed that sentiment, “It’s wonderful to be in Evanston. The people of Evanston have treated us well. We have grown from a $3 million operation to one of more than $25 million over the past seven years. [The new location] is going to provide a lot of opportunity for our staff to grow, and it provides a better service to the community.”
“We’re here for the long term,” said Mr. Smith.