In 1934, eight Denver teachers pooled their funds to form a credit union to provide others a source of credit at reasonable rates and a safe place to save their money.
Our country was in the midst of a Great Depression. Since that time, the credit union has changed in ways that could not even have been imagined in 1934…
…from cash…to paper checks with check guarantee cards…to electronic funds
…from passbooks…to printed statements…to online banking and mobile banking
…from 8 members to more than 125,000 members across the Denver metro area
…from a handful of pooled dollars and change to over $1.5 billion in assets
That passion to help people continues to drive our credit union today. Each of the credit unions that joined together to become Westerra brought a shared commitment to meeting members’ needs—and a strong local heritage.
- May 25 - The State of Colorado issued credit union charter #20 to Denver Public School Employees’ Credit Union to serve the financial needs of school district employees. There were eight members.
- June 26 – President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Federal Credit Union Act paving the way for the growth of credit unions nationwide.
- The credit union office was located in the school district administration building at 414 Fourteenth Street in Denver. The credit union operated in this location until 1956.
- The credit union logo illustrates the credit union’s philosophy of People Helping People and captures the mood of the Great Depression era from which the credit union was born—it reads, Hardtimes, Sickness, Financial Distress.
- December 31 – The credit union grew to serve 170 members with $4,971.03 in assets and posted net earnings of $17.09.
Did you know in 1934...
- RCA Victor released the first 33 1/3 rpm recording – Beethoven's 5th
- The Fuji Photo Film company was established
- The first x-ray photo on the human body was developed – in Rochester, New York
- The first "Washateria" (laundromat) opened – in Fort Worth, Texas
- TWA and Continental Airlines began commercial service
In the Movies:
- The first Donald Duck cartoon was released, Wise Little Hen
- Shirley Temple appeared in her first movie, Stand Up & Cheer
- Clark Gable was named Best Actor, It Happened One Night
- America’s favorite pastime was baseball
- Babe Ruth played his final game as a New York Yankee in front of 2,500 fans
In the World:
- Adolf Hitler became commander-in-chief in Germany
- The chain-reaction design for the atomic bomb was patented
- The country was in the midst of a Great Depression
- The Great Dustbowl Storm swept across the western prairies
- Colorado state credit union charter #20 was issued to our credit union
- The credit union’s assets reach $100,000.
- January 30 - The Jefferson County School Employees Credit Union was formed to provide the school district’s teachers and support staff a place to save and borrow at fair and reasonable rates. After one full month of operation the credit union had 22 members and $275 in assets. Not until the second month of operation could the first loan request for $350 be granted.
- Passing the $400,000 mark in total assets was a noteworthy achievement for Denver Public School Employees’ Credit Union during 1949.
- March 21 - Lowry Federal Credit Union was created to serve civilian personnel of Lowry Air Force Base in Denver. Ten members, who each borrowed $100 and deposited it to their share accounts, first transacted business with the credit union. At the end of the first month, the credit union had 51 members, $1,845.99 in assets and 10 loans outstanding. At year-end, a dividend of 3% was declared. The credit union was located in a corner of the civilian personnel office and was open for business one hour per day. Often the money collected from outstanding loans from one week was all that was available for new loans the next week.
- May 17 - Safeway Denver Employees Federal Credit Union was founded by employees in the Denver Division of Safeway Stores, Inc. For the first four years, it was run by part-time managers. In 1955, the credit union was given a small office in the Safeway Stores administrative office building.
- Denver Public School Employees’ Credit Union members celebrate assets reaching $1 million!
- The Denver Public School Employees’ Credit Union moves its office to 1457 Ogden Street in Denver.
- Membership exceeds 4,000 and assets top $2 million at Denver Public School Employees’ Credit Union.
- Lowry Federal Credit Union membership was expanded to include the military personnel on Lowry Air Force Base. Before the decade ended, the credit union reached one million dollars in assets.
- October - The Denver Public School Employees’ Credit Union moves into its own building at 1535 High Street in Denver.
- October 30 - SMW No. 9 Federal Credit Union was formed to serve members and employees of the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association Local Union Number 9 in Denver.
- Jefferson County School Employees Credit Union assets reach
$1.5 million and the credit union serves 2,085 members.
- Lowry Federal Credit Union assets reached $5 million, and ended the decade with over 8,000 members.
- Denver Public School Employees' Credit Union membership reaches 10,259 and assets are $12.25 million at year end.
- Credit union member funds become federally insured as Congress creates the National Credit Union Administration and the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund.
- Denver Public School Employees’ Credit Union purchases its own computer programs and has a local computer service bureau. With this change, quarterly member statements take the place of passbooks.
- Celebrating 25 years, Jefferson County School Employees Credit Union had grown to $3.95 million in assets serving more than 4,100 members. The credit union converted to data processing of member records through a service bureau.
- Safeway Denver Employees Federal Credit Union moved into a new building at Jasmine and Evans streets in Denver.
- Favorable changes to Colorado state law provide for “once a member, always a member,”
which allows members who leave the credit union’s field of membership (employment by the school district, Safeway stores or military) to continue to use the credit union.
- Denver Public School Employees’ Credit Union's field of membership is extended to the first group beyond Denver Public Schools – Colorado Women’s College.
- Laws allow credit unions to begin offering new services, including mortgage lending and share certificates.
- Christmas Club accounts are introduced at Denver Public School Employees’ Credit Union.
The 1980s was a decade of deregulation. Laws that dramatically changed banking regulations went into effect at the beginning of the decade. The economy was expanding and experiencing record inflation and interest rates, creating pressure for bankers to take more risk. This decade was perhaps the most infamous (to date) for the U.S. financial system. The worst single year for bank failures since the introduction of the FDIC came in 1989 at the height of the savings and loan crisis.
- Credit unions benefitted from this decade of deregulation in the banking industry and from 1980 – 1989, the Denver Public School Employees’ Credit Union grew from $44,449,929 in assets to $131,532,767. Membership grew from 18,320 to 22,923.
- Federal laws changed to allow credit unions to offer “Share Draft Deposit Accounts.” More than 700 accounts are established at Denver Public School Employees' Credit Union with many members having appointments to sign up for the service. Check Guarantee Cards are available for members who maintain a $500 balance in their regular share account. The Share Draft Deposit (Checking) Account is a big step to becoming a full service financial institution.
- Safeway Denver Employees Federal Credit Union opened their first off-site branch which was located inside the Safeway Warehouse. The credit union also introduced share drafts/checks to members.
- IRAs are introduced to the Denver Public School Employees' Credit Union membership in 1981 as a result of new federal laws.
- Jumbo Certificates are introduced for deposits of $100,000 or more.
- Membership reaches 19,233 and assets exceed $50 million at Denver Public School Employees' Credit Union.
- Redfield Credit Union merged with Safeway Denver Employees Federal Credit Union.
- Safeway Denver Employees Federal Credit Union first in-house computer system becomes a reality.
- ATMs become available to members through the MINIBANK ATM™ Network – 200 are available in Colorado.
Safeway Denver Employees Federal Credit Union changes its name to Safeway Rocky Mountain Federal Credit Union to better identify the six state region of the Safeway Stores Denver Division – Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico.
- October - The Denver Public School Employees’ Credit Union breaks ground on its new Cherry Creek headquarters.
- Membership reaches nearly 22,000 and assets exceed $100 million!
- Jefferson County School Employees Credit Union changes its name to Jeffco Schools Credit Union and adopts a new logo.
- The ribbon cutting takes place on the new Denver Public School Employees' Credit Union Cherry Creek office and members enjoy the convenience of drive-up facilities and safe deposit boxes.
- Nine Denver area credit unions join together to introduce Members Mortgage, enabling the credit unions to offer complete mortgage loan services at comparable, and in many cases lower, rates than those offered by competing mortgage companies.
- Jeffco Schools Credit Union moves from the trailer on Quail Street to their new headquarters at 355 Union Boulevard in Lakewood. The credit union now could add the staff and space needed to “officially” market checking accounts. The membership responded to this needed, new service. After just 18 months, one out of every ten credit union members was using a checking account at the credit union. The credit union introduces a Visa debit card.
- Lowry Federal Credit Union opens its new corporate building at 14305 East Alameda in Aurora.
- Robco Federal Credit Union merged with Safeway Rocky Mountain Federal Credit Union.
- Mile High Federal Credit Union merged with Safeway Rocky Mountain Federal Credit Union.
- Credit unions grew at a faster pace than banks and savings & loans. Alarming numbers of bank and savings & loan failures made credit unions an attractive alternative for many people.
- MIA Federal Credit Union merged with Safeway Rocky Mountain Federal Credit Union.
- Denver Public School Employees’ Credit Union membership grows to 23,474 as assets exceed $150 million, ending the year at $151.1 million.
- The Denver Public School Employees’ Credit Union launched several new services:
- Brought data processing in-house. This new technologically-advanced system provides more tools
to support a wider range of product offerings.
- Touchtone Teller is introduced offering members automated phone banking 24 hours a day.
- A Telephone Service Center is created and focused entirely on answering calls from members.
- A Minibank™ ATM is installed on the credit union premises.
- Traveler’s Cheques become free of charge.
- The credit union receives its first 5-Star financial rating from Bauer Financial for capital adequacy,
profitability, and asset quality, which the credit union has continued to earn every quarter since 1992.
- Safeway Rocky Mountain Federal Credit Union sold its Jasmine Street office and moved to a new building on Parker Road.
- Denver Public School Employees' Credit Union's VISA credit cards are introduced.
- January 7 – Lowry Credit Union converted from a federally chartered credit union to a state charter and, with the closure of the Lowry Air Force Base, added the City of Aurora to its field of membership. On April 1, the credit union changed its name to Gateway Credit Union, more closely associating the credit union with the City of Aurora, the "Gateway to the Rockies."
- Members began accessing their accounts through Credit Union Service Centers, a cooperative effort among 22 Colorado credit unions enabling members to access their accounts at branches of other participating credit unions.
- Members of Denver Public School Employees' Credit Union saw these changes:
- VISA check cards are introduced and later became known as Visa debit cards.
- The dividends returned to members on savings are increased by changing from quarterly to monthly payment
- Money Market Accounts offering members a new, higher yield savings option are introduced within an
environment of rising interest rates.
Safeway Rocky Mountain Federal Credit Union gained approval from the National Credit Union Administration to expand its field of membership to serve a seniors group known as the Prime Times Club, offering credit union membership to all seniors who live within 25 miles of a branch and make a deposit of at least $100.
- Students and their families and alumni were added to the Denver Public School Employees' Credit Union field of membership.
- Jeffco Schools Credit Union and Denver Public School Employees' Credit Union partnered through the Making $ense program to provide financial literacy resources including presentations in classrooms.
- Credit card rewards program introduced to Denver Public School Employees' Credit Union members.
- Credit unions support the credit union Consumer’s Choice Campaign at the state and national level. This campaign was established to help credit unions fend off ongoing banker attacks on credit union field of membership. The success of this campaign holds great significance for preserving the consumer’s right to use a credit union as their financial institution of choice.
- Total member accounts reach 29,839 and assets exceed $200 million at Denver Public School Employees' Credit Union!
- Safeway Rocky Mountain Federal Credit Union promotional material stated “Even though technology is important for the members and staff, personal service has not been forgotten.” The credit union offers P.O.E.T. On-line homebanking and H.O.T. Line telephone audio response service for members.
- Denver Public School Employees' Credit Union, now known as DPS Credit Union, is serving 30,750 total member accounts and assets exceed $300 million.
- DPS Credit Union's tiered money market account is introduced, enabling members to earn more for larger deposits.
- DPS Credit Union introduces its first website.
- Safeway Rocky Mountain Federal Credit Union serves 22,500 members and holds assets of $124 million.
- Credit unions statewide work together to defeat HB 1338 in the face of enormous pressure from the banking industry. This legislation would have adversely affected the future of your credit union and the credit union industry.
- Y2K computer transition is seamless.
- DPS Credit Union Online Banking launched.
- Safeway Rocky Mountain Federal Credit Union moved to a new building on Arapahoe Road.
- DPS Credit Union's free Online Bill Pay introduced. Marketing materials note that you could use it with Internet Explorer 4.01 and Netscape navigator 4.0!
- Over 40 educators attend the Jeffco Schools Credit Union annual workshop featuring the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) High School Financial Planning Program (HSFPP). The credit union was among the first credit unions nationwide to partner with NEFE.
- Jeffco Schools Credit Union has over $115 million in assets and over 19,800 members.
- DPS Credit Union's total assets exceed $500 million.
- Jeffco Schools Credit Union changes its name to Jeffco Credit Union and introduces a new logo.
- Jeffco Credit Union wins the National Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award for the Making $ense program.
- The Boards of Directors of DPS Credit Union and Safeway Rocky Mountain Federal Credit Union both unanimously approve a merger of the credit unions to offer members more branches, enhanced technology and expanded products and services. The merger was completed on October 1.
- The Boards of Directors of Gateway Credit Union and DPS Credit Union/Safeway Rocky Mountain Federal Credit Union also unanimously approve a merger to enhance products, services and convenience for all members.
| Five Colorado credit unions merged together to offer members more branches,
enhanced technology and expanded products and services:
| DPS Credit Union
|| $565 million
| Safeway Rocky Mountain Federal Credit Union
|| $145 million
| Gateway Credit Union
|| $180 million
| Jeffco Credit Union
|| $163 million
| SMW #9 Federal Credit Union
|| $2.5 million
- The credit union introduces its new name - Westerra Credit Union.
This new name was built on the west (our region) and terra
(the land) – reflecting our deep local roots and growing membership base.
- New tagline introduced, “Working For You.”
- Westerra Credit Union and Gateway Credit Union merger is completed October 1.
- The credit union eliminates a fee which then provides members unlimited free CO-OP ATM transactions. Free ATM locations reach 600 across Colorado and thousands more across the U.S.
- Federal legislation raised deposit insurance to $250,000 per member. IRAs are insured separately up to an additional $250,000. This action is in response to economic conditions resulting from the 2008 financial crisis.
- Westerra’s field of membership is expanded to include those who live or work in Denver, Arapahoe and Jefferson Counties.
- FoolProof Financial Literacy program is introduced. This visionary program provides financial literacy tools for students, parents and teachers.
- Colorado Credit Union Service Center locations reach 160 and surcharge-free ATMs reach 800.
- The Boards of Directors of Jeffco Credit Union and Westerra Credit Union unanimously approve a merger to bring together the credit unions serving the two largest school districts in the state of Colorado. With this partnership, membership reaches 88,000, four additional branches are available in Jefferson County and Westerra Credit Union’s assets surpass $1 billion. The merger is completed on July 1.
- Westerra is recognized by the Denver Business Journal as one of Denver’s Top 10 “Best Places to Work.”
- Westerra School Grant Program introduced. School grants of $400 - $700 help schools fund valuable and worthwhile causes such as school supplies, positive behavior programs, musical instruments, classroom materials, sports equipment and after school programs.
- The State of Colorado Division of Financial Services approves expansion of Westerra’s field of membership to include Douglas County and Adams County – opening the door to Westerra Credit Union membership to everyone who lives or works in the entire 5-county Denver metro area.
- Westerra becomes the Season Presenting Sponsor of the Colorado Rapids. This partnership of shared values in support of Colorado children and families allows the credit union to extend its reach and make a difference through community, youth and educational initiatives.
- New branch opens in Parker to enhance convenience for members in Douglas County. The Parker branch was voted the Best Financial Institution in Parker by readers of the Parker Chronicle in its first year of operation.
- Business account services are now available to assist members who operate their own business.
- New value proposition introduced – Low fees and top notch service – we make it easy to choose Westerra!
- Your School Your Money Financial Awareness and Fundraising Program introduced to schools in Denver, Jefferson and Douglas counties. The program has grown to provide financial education and fundraising for sports and activities in 40 schools.
- Debit and credit cards can be issued immediately to members in branches! Members can also choose from a gallery of over 30 themed card designs, including Colorado scenes.
- Free Mobile Banking App launched – members can easily and securely view account balances and history, transfer funds, make payments, pay bills and deposit checks through their iPhone or Android smartphone and iPad.
- SMW #9 Federal Credit Union – the credit union serving the Sheet Metal Workers Union – merged with Westerra Credit Union.
- 15,075 new members join Westerra Credit Union in 2013. This record growth through member referrals helps member accounts reach more than 90,000.
For its 80th anniversary, Westerra had much to celebrate!
- 5-Star Bauer Financial rating – consistently achieve Sustained Superiority Award ranking Westerra among top 10% of credit unions nationwide
- Westerra returned $16.7 million in the prior year to members in lower fees and better rates compared to banking institutions in Colorado:
- $9.4 million in lower fees
- $6.9 million in lower loan rates
- $416,000 in higher dividends on savings
- Earned highest service quality scores ever in 2013
- Achieved record numbers for member growth – 15,075 in 2013
- Westerra continues to be a local not-for-profit Colorado credit union
- Everyone in the 5-county Denver metro area can join
- The State of Colorado Division of Financial Services approves expansion of Westerra's field of membership to include Boulder County and Broomfield County, opening the door for everyone who lives or works in the full 7-county Denver metro area to choose Westerra Credit Union.
- Westerra introduced the opportunity for members and potential members to open and fund accounts online--nearly 1,000 members did so in the first seven months!
- Westerra's new website was introduced to optimize the experience with easier navigation and more educational articles and resources.
- A new branch opened in Castle Rock featuring an inviting atmosphere for members to relax and discuss their financial needs.
- New nontraditional mortgage products were introduced to provide more flexibility for first-time homebuyers and for borrowers who are self-employed.
- Westerra was featured in the Best of Bauer Credit Unions listing as one of only five Colorado credit unions that has earned Bauer Financial's Top 5-Star Ratings for 100 quarters or longer--since 1992.
- Westerra's Community Fundraising Program continued to help schools in Denver, Jeffco and Douglas counties as well as organizations throughout the Denver metro area. Westerra donated over $14,000 to 35 fundraising groups--each group received $52.80 for every account they referred to the credit union.
- Through its annual grant program, Westerra provided grants to 102 schools.