Gabriels credit union still to close — but banking services and a community space are coming

MSUFCU’s takeover includes plans for a video teller, financial counseling and 'makers'


MONDAY, Jan. 22 — The former Gabriels Community Credit Union will still close on Feb. 29 — but will reopen with a video teller and ATM for banking and a community facility that will offer financial advice and space for “maker events,” April Clobes, MSU Federal Credit Union’s president and CEO, said.

 “We’ve been working on the idea since November,” Clobes said, which is when MSUFCU announced its merger with Gabriels, an apparently troubled thrift institution at 1901 E. Michigan Ave. on Lansing’s east side.

“We are trying to make it an engaging space where you can learn financial education as well as (make) financial transactions and have community conversations and discussions and also (provide) some opportunities for retail,” she said in a telephone interview.

She described it as “a new delivery model,” adding that MSUFCU is also “doing one like this on campus” at Michigan State University.

“People don’t come to the branches as often as they used to,” Clobes said. “That’s the problem.”

Clobes spoke late Friday after having just received “board support” for the concept, she said. City Pulse reported Jan. 8 that Clobes said the former Gabriels will close Feb. 29. Clobes explained Friday that she was limited before then to saying only that the site would close and that MSUFCU was looking at ideas for the building’s use. MSUFCU’s board will vote Thursday on the plan, she said.

Clobes shared details as former Gabriels’ customers were opening mail from MSUFCU explaining the steps they need to take if they wish their accounts to be converted to MSUFCU memberships. MSUFCU is hoping to complete that conversion by March 1.

Gabriels had 2,700 members, some of whom had expressed disappointment about the impending closure, especially in light of MSUFCU’s announced plans to open five branches on the north side of Chicago in 2024 to serve 2,500 customers, according to its website.

Clobes said MSUFCU has 5,000 members in the “global Chicago region,” with assets of $90 million on deposit, versus the $32 million that former Gabriels customers have. She said 40 to 50 of them visited the branch daily, compared to 400 to 500 at other MSUFCU branches.

"The economics of running a branch is more than half a million dollars a year in salary,” plus overhead, she said.

Moreover, only 300 or so former Gabriels members live within a mile of the eastside Lansing location — the same distance to MSUFCU’s downtown Lansing location on Washington Square, she added. (However,  an email to former Gabriels customers said the distance is 1.5 miles, and  Google map measured it as 1.8 miles.)

Clobes suggested that MSUFCU had come to the rescue by merging with Gabriels. “We’re trying to make the best out of it that we can,” she said.

No money changed hands in the acquisition, she said.

“That’s not how mergers work for credit unions,” she explained. “The board agreed to combine the institutions. And we assume their operations in order for the members to be served by a credit union.” By combining, she said she meant that MSUFCU took control of both Gabriels’ “assets and their losses.”

She didn’t elaborate on what those losses were. Earlier, though, she had told City Pulse, ““We don't go seek out acquisitions like this, but in this situation, Gabriels had separated with their CEO and was finding that it was becoming difficult to survive on their own. It was just a matter of happenstance and timing.”

As for the future, Clobes said that the “new space will evolve over the next three months. The video teller equipment is on order, and that takes a few months.” She likened the video teller to what is available at drive-throughs at some MSUFCU branches and other banks. Customers can complete basic transactions electronically while talking to a remote teller.

Also, “We want to do maker events,” she said, that will give “community makers” to retail opportunities.

She said MSUFCU will offer an in-person program called “The Culture of Finances” at the branch, which has course offerings for both adults and under-18 participants.

MSUFCU’s website describes it as a “diverse community outreach program that supports, develops, and encourages financial growth through tailored education courses.”

Clobes said the program offers “opportunities for specific counseling.”

The MSUFCU website also says that the program offers education to “underserved communities,” which the former Gabriels was doing with African immigrants who have settled on Lansing’s east side.

“We actually serve more,” Clobes said, referring to MSUFCU. She said it serves 8,300 immigrants, among whom the largest group speaks Spanish, followed by Swahili.

She said MSUFCU works with two local social-service nonprofit organizations, St. Vincent Catholic Charities and Samaritas, in assisting refugees with financial counseling.

She also said that MSUFCU has a “longterm partnership” with the Allen Neighborhood Center, a pillar of Lansing’s eastside community, and is “looking to partner” with the Eastside Neighborhood Organization.

 (What could MSUFCU’s merger with Gabriels Community Credit Union mean to the eastside’s future? Pick up Wednesday’s City Pulse to read what Joan Nelson thinks.

What does one eastsider who has banked at Gabriels for more than a decade think? Click here.)


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