Arkansas Federal Credit Union*

City: Jacksonville
Category: Category III (76-300 Employees)
Year: 2008

Arkansas Federal Credit Union, like all credit unions, is actually a tax-exempt nonprofit organization. But with 75,000 members and assets that grew 25 percent last year to break the $700 million mark, AFCU is competing with the big boys.

"Things just continue to do well. Members just keep giving us a bigger share of their wallets and keep trusting us with their finances," CEO Larry Biernacki said.
Under Biernacki's leadership since mid-2005, AFCU has grown its assets by 75 percent and has added seven branches to the five that were already open.
The 12th branch, in Searcy, opened in December. And it won't be the last, Biernacki said. Sites for several new locations are being scouted, and ground has been broken on a permanent replacement for the temporary branch at the Little Rock Air Force Base at Jacksonville — which is where AFCU got its start in 1956.

"As long as the members continue to trust us and to allow us the opportunity to serve them, we'll look for ways to serve them efficiently," Biernacki said.
AFCU's core purpose, he said, is "to improve each member's financial life." That mission, he said, gives members "a different feeling."

"We treat people like people, not like a number of an account."

Arkansas Federal is by far the largest of Arkansas' 67 credit unions; it has more than three times the assets of its nearest rival, Telcoe Federal Credit Union of Little Rock. And if it were a bank, AFCU would be comfortably within the 15 largest in the state.

Credit unions have largely avoided the harsh spotlight cast on banks and mortgage companies in recent months, but Biernacki discounts that as a reason for AFCU's growth. Instead, he focuses on a basic principle:

"When you treat people the way you want to be treated, the organization thrives."

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