Keys Federal Credit Union started with $110 in a shoebox
This 1960’s sign was located at the Navy KWest Federal Credit Union office on Truman Annex, across from the old Marine barracks.
This past Wednesday, Scott Duszynski, President and CEO of Keys Federal Credit Union (KFCU), stood before a standing-room-only City Commission meeting to accept a proclamation naming October 26th as “Keys Federal Credit Union Day” in Key West, Florida. The declaration, which is just the first of many honors that KFCU will be celebrating this month, marks the 75 anniversary of Monroe County’s oldest financial institution.
By the end of the 1930’s, The Great Depression reluctantly loosened its devastating grip on the nation and thousands of service workers flocked to Key West for employment opportunities on military bases. With only one bank on the island and recognizing a need for affordable financial services, nine Civil Service employees collectively gathered $110 in a shoebox to promote a sahred value —“people helping people,” which has remained at the core of the institution’s values for 75 years.
“Our philosophy has been consistent,” said Duszynski. “We take profits and we give it back to our members. If you’re a member of the credit union, you own it. Instead of making a CEO or stockholders reaping the benefits, our profits allow us to offer lower loan rates, higher interest on savings and offer free services. And that was the goal from day one.”
On October 26th, 1940 Keys Federal opened their doors (known as NAVSTA FEFCU) using unpaid volunteers to serve federal employees. During that decade, Monroe County Commissioner and Mayor Emeritus of Monroe County, Wilhelmina Harvey, served on the board and as treasurer, using a cash box in her personal desk drawer. By the late ’50s the credit union opened its doors to military personnel, with a volunteer making daily visits to each base for deposit pickups.
To better reflect the general membership, the credit union became Navy Key West Federal Credit Union in 1960, servicing local military and their families living or working south of the Seven Mile Bridge in Monroe County. And by the 1970s, after the military closed the Key West Submarine Base, KFCU adapted by offering financial services to anyone living or working that designated area.
Eventually, Key West Federal opened a small office, using a guard shack in Peary Court. Over the next few decades, the small credit union continued to flourish, changing their name to Keys Federal Credit Union in 1993. At that point, the financial institution was open to everyone living and working in the Florida Keys.
Today, KFCU serves more than 10,000 members working or living in Monroe County with three locations and a fourth is set to re-open in Big Pine during 2016 (currently an ATM location). And while KFCU maintains their community-minded roots, they have adapted with technology, offering online signatures, mobile banking, mobile apps and other electronic services.
But for Mary Lou Carn, Director of Marketing, the ability for “locals to help locals” is what separates KFCU from most banks.
“It’s almost unheard of in today’s financial industry, but we are proud of the fact that our members can come in and visit directly with [CEO] Scott Duszynski and discuss any issue or idea,” said Carn. “Not to mention, every one of our employees lives in Monroe County, so every dollar we earn and spend truly stays in the community.”
Keys Federal continues to give back to the community. This year, they will kick off their third Community Challenge, which is a refinancing initiative that has already saved their members more than $2.2 million over the past two years. Portions of those proceeds are given back to local organizations, including Womankind, Florida Keys SPCA and United Way—and of course, KFCU members choose the recipients.
Most of all, for Scott Duszynski, who began as a teller at KFCU 25 years ago, he firmly believes the next 75 years of business will be just as successful as the last.
“We have a new board, we’re reopening our Big Pine location and we’ll be exploring options to expand up the Keys,” said Duszynski. “I feel like we’re born again. And we’re just getting started.”
— Special thanks to Mary Lou Carn of KFCU contributing portions of information contained in this article.