CHARLOTTE, N.C. (12/29/08)--Despite a turbulent economy, First Legacy Community CU, Charlotte, N.C., recently changed to a community charter, added a new branch, and is seeking an expansion to a new location. Saundra Scales, president/CEO of the credit union, recently discussed her credit union’s charter change, success and the credit union difference with The Charlotte Observer Dec. 21. First Legacy was originally chartered as School Workers FCU to serve black teachers in the Charlotte-Mecklenberg area. In September 2006, the credit union opened to anyone who lives, works, attends school or worships in the 10-county area around Charlotte. “We felt that we were missing out on a lot of people who wanted credit,” Scales told the Observer. After the change, the credit union averaged 100 new members in the first month, compared with 30 or 40 previously. The difference between First Legacy and a bank--besides offering better rates on loans and higher dividends--is in developing relationships with members, which minimizes defaults, she said. The economic downturn has affected First Legacy’s loan delinquencies--0.75% of 1%, compared with half of 1% previously—but it is overall very healthy, Scales said. Many of First Legacy’s members do not have 600 to 700 credit scores, so the credit union looks beyond the scores when lending. A member’s rental history, utility payments, and job stability are taken into consideration, Scales said. The credit union also offers financial counseling, she added. During her work as president/CEO, Scales said she has learned that credit unions need to understand their target market to be successful. They also need to be responsive. “I can’t change the world but I’m maybe able to influence one person at a time,” she told the newspaper.