Spokane Valley, WA – 07/30/2019 – George Washington University Credit Union Initiative (GWUCUI), Washington, DC, selects Enhanced Software Products as their core processing vendor.
Sahil Pankhaniya, Founder and CEO of GWUCUI, contemplated starting a credit union while touring colleges. He noticed several institutions he visited had student-run credit unions but his college of choice, George Washington University (GWU), did not.
“I thought it would be really cool not only to learn about this space but to also have a real meaningful impact on college students. There were a number of deficiencies especially in financial literacy education and financial planning. When I started talking to people the first few months of school freshman year, they all kind of echoed those same sentiments and so, decided that it would be a great opportunity to get one started.”Sahil Pankhaniya – GWUCUI CEO
GWU is a private university chartered in 1821 and is located in Washington, DC – just a few blocks from the White House. Its three campuses: Foggy Bottom Campus, the Mount Vernon Campus, and the Virginia Science & Technology Campus serve roughly 27,000 students. The list of notable alumni is a who’s who of the worlds influential and powerful including Heads of State, U.S. Cabinet positions, Governors, U.S. Senators and Congressmen, media and sports personalities, and titans of industry.
With this history, influence, and illustrious alumni, GWU started a New Venture Competition in 2009 to provide a valuable real-world entrepreneurship opportunity to its students. Pankhaniya and his team including fellow students Chris Trummer and Allen Wang entered the competition with his student credit union concept. For their effort, their submission garnered $5,000 in seed money and over $15,000 in non-cash support. Over $319,000 in total prizes were awarded in the 2018 competition.
Pankhaniya found the key to a successful initiative to charter a student-run credit union was the recruitment of talented and dedicated staff. To get the concept off the ground, Pankhaniya looked at a number of other successful student-run credit unions to find out what they are doing to ensure a steady recruiting pipeline. For instance, he found Georgetown University Alumni & Student Federal Credit Union which has been around since the ’80s and they have been able to sustain themselves because they have really became rooted in the fiber of their school, including their business and consulting programs.
“Right off the bat, we began marketing GWUCUI as an internship opportunity for business and finance majors to learn and grow. This coming year we’re looking at 40 applications in our pipeline for the Fall.Sahil Pankhaniya – GWUCUI CEO I CEO
Through this effort, they brought on some very talented freshmen last year. They expect that as students learn about GWUCUI’s mission and impact on the GWU community, they will be able to charter a credit union by May 1st, 2020 that will continue well into the future.
A major focus for GWUCUI in the coming year will be to create an effective hiring system so that they will have staff ready to provide phone support at their office space any given time. In addition to dedicated office staff, they will provide a backup level of customer support. Dubbed “Mobile Support Technicians”, these on-call customer support staff will aid members via phone whenever they have free time.
One thing that is unique about this project is the incredibly low overhead. Because the credit union will be completely digital, Pankhaniya states there won’t be any fixed costs. All staffing at GWUCUI will be on a volunteer basis so their only potential costs are persistent. Plus, working with ESP and other vendors, they are going to come out having very little cost of operation at all for the first three to five years.
In June 2019 ESP, Inc. was chosen to be an integral part of the start and growth of GWUCUI. FORZA, ESP’s core platform, is a perfect fit for a staff that needs an easy-to-use interface. It provides the necessary vendor integration, database access, and security to facilitate a truly digital credit union. “After a good, open conversation about each other’s futures, both parties were able to come to an agreement”, stated ESP’s President Shaun Murray.
“Matt Lefler (ESP Vice President) and I flew to George Washington University in June, to meet with Sahil Pankhaniya and Christian Trummer;; we were blown away by their understanding and commitment to the credit union movement and financial literacy. I decided at that moment, at that dinner, that we would do everything in our power to be a part of The Initiative.Shaun Murray – ESP President
Mr. Pankhaniya and his Team took a new approach to choose a core processor – they looked to the digital banking provider first. ESP was lucky to be a part of the conversation because of its close partnership with Tyfone, the chosen digital banking provider for GWUCUI.
“We earned the nod because of our commitment to offering solutions in-house and our drive to ensure credit unions can partner with the vendors that will take them into the future. This is very exciting for us,”Shaun Murray – ESP President
In all, college-aged young adults are going to bring a new approach to the way ESP looks at projects, makes some decisions, and is pushed to change to adapt to the next generation. Everyone at ESP is elated to work with such a great group of future financial leaders.
Traditionally, credit unions generate income primarily by servicing home and car loans. For GWUCUI, those two means of income won’t occur – at least until after graduation. Still, they have identified a couple of very unique products that are specially tailored to GWU students: a credit building program, textbook loans, and internship loans.
The credit building program GWUCUI seeks to create will essentially be small personal loans provided to students to help build their credit score. Textbook and internship loans will perform like cash advances against on-campus jobs and paid internships, further building students’ credit. They will also offer savings and checking accounts with credit/debit cards.
The key to their digital experience will be their mobile banking platform, Tyfone. All of their products and services will be offered through their app. GWUCUI want to make it very easy for members to go online and apply for a loan. The application will come into the credit committee digitally where they will review the risk analysis, approve it, then send it off to underwriting.
“The mobile platform we have chosen, Tyfone, is state-of-the-art. It offers top-level security features and has a very lightweight interface for students to work with. We think it’s really going to be that well-rounded, greatest-degree experience for students. They’ll get all of their tailored and targeted products right on a clean 21st-century platform.”Sahil Pankhaniya – GWUCUI CEO
True to the credit union philosophy of “people helping people”, GWUCUI seeks to help its student members by providing financial literacy. They are working hard to fill the gap students face in their personal monetary education. A significant metric of their success will be credit scores. With a target on financial literacy, GWUCUI will look at members who are part of their credit building program and observe how their credit scores are developed over the long term and compare them to the rest of the market. Their goal is to help GWU students develop their credit in a safe and secure manner.
As they build their deposit base, GWUCUI will then be able to offer home loans and auto loans to their alumni. But now their core focus is the undergraduate population and their unique needs.
We’re starting out by focusing on undergraduate students. As those undergraduate students graduate, we hope they’ll continue their membership with the credit union. By building up a strong, consistent base of alumni members, we will be able to maintain our credit union, moving forward.Christian Trummer – GWUCUI CTO
Being a truly digital credit union will empower GWUCUI members to continue to connect with the university culture virtually anywhere. With a strong ATM network and shared branching, it will have the products and services to retain membership.
That’s one of the cool things about our model. A GWU student could move halfway across the world and could still access our services. They can still access to every single service wherever they are on the globe just like they could when they were just 10 minutes away from us living on campus.Sahil Pankhaniya – GWUCUI CEO
A vital piece to the success of this initiative is the acceptance and support they have received from its vendors including ESP.
We salute all those who are trying to make a difference in the credit union industry, founded to be safe havens for people to save, to build credit, and to responsibly spend.Sahil Pankhaniya – GWUCUI CEO
In all, GWUCUI believes the more student-run credit unions there are the better it is for the students and the better it is for the industry. To get involved with or donate to the initiative, please visit GWUCUI.com.