California Coast Credit Union walks the talk when it comes to customer and community service

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California Coast Credit Union is the oldest financial institution in San Diego County. It was started in 1929 by teachers as a teachers’ credit union, has grown and now serves anyone living in Riverside and San Diego counties. It has around 150,000 members and more than $2 billion in assets. It is the third largest credit union institution in the county. Cal Coast’s Community & Public Relations Manager Robert Scheid said he respected all of these accomplishments within the institution when he came onboard.

California Coast Credit Union is the oldest financial institution in San Diego County. It was started in 1929 by teachers as a teachers’ credit union, has grown and now serves anyone living in Riverside and San Diego counties. It has around 150,000 members and more than $2 billion in assets. It is the third largest credit union institution in the county. Cal Coast’s Community & Public Relations Manager Robert Scheid said he respected all of these accomplishments within the institution when he came onboard. Yet there was something else that struck a chord with him—Cal Coast’s commitment to its employees and the community.

Scheid said a thing that separates Cal Coast from other companies is within its commitment to its community, it that it “walks the talk.”

“We are involved not only financially, but more important physically,” said Scheid. “Our employees are highly involved in community volunteerism. We have Cal Coast Cares, an internal system to engage all of our employees and community partners with us out in the community. We have around 500 employees and they can look at our internal calendar and find events and organizations and register to volunteer for specific events. We track volunteer hours and give them additional credit for time off in addition to their benefits. It is a very strong commitment from the executive level to get our staff engaged in productive ways within their community.”

Scheid said the banking industry is changing with the new age of apps and how the younger generation does its banking. Cal Coast gets 1 million mobile bank logins per month. Scheid said it used to develop products and services online, and then tweak them for mobile. Now, it develops for mobile and adjusts for online and that goes directly with the younger generation and the way that they do banking. Scheid said that making an investment in the younger generation is making an investment in the future.

Cal Coast recently finished its Bite of Reality program at Helix High School with all 640 freshmen over the course of two days. Through it Cal Coast Cares Foundation it awarded a list of scholarships to high school and college students, along with grants for teachers. He said this is where the walk the talk comes in. Bite of Reality has taken off.

“We’ve never seen a response to a program like we are with this one right now,” he said. “It is designed for high school students to learn financial literacy and financial management. It is an interactive experiential type of approach. Instead of chalk and talk, they live this experience.”

Bite of Reality is a free program that Cal Coast offers to high school students and is moving to community colleges and youth organizations teaching them financial literacy in a reality based program.

Beginning with an hour and a half workshop, students come in with a smart phone or it provides a tablet with the Bite of Reality app. When the session starts, every student gets a whole new personality. For example it will say, “Congratulations, you are a teacher and your wife is a zookeeper. Here is your monthly income. You have a child. Here are your expenses, your credit card debt and this is what you have to spend per month.”

There are 10 tables. Child care, entertainment, housing and different aspects of everyday life that they have to go to and live within their budget. Scheid said kids live on their phones anyway, so they really like the immediate feedback. They can see exactly where they are on their budget with a pie chart, and ultimately, they get into financial trouble. Then they go to the credit union table and get professional advice on where they stand with their over budget and the options that they have to fix it.

“So they learn how to make these choices and there are two things that are interesting,” he said. “Watching them interact with each other. They will talk to each other on what they did for transportation, and how did you cut back your expenses. They compare notes and learn from each other.”

When it is all done, students are required to end the session in the black. They have to have at least $100 and then decide to whether to pay it towards an outstanding debt or put it into savings. Sometimes these students struggle to get back into balance. “It is always fun and it is interesting watching these kids go through the process,” he said.

At Helix, Scheid said the students were cautious, consciences and they asked questions he had never been asked before. Students asked about charitable donations and how it would affect their taxes. He said it shows that these students have some financial information already, but most of them are blank slates.

“It shows they have a lot of learning when it comes to handling finances and usually the feedback we get at the end is that the kids are astonished at the costs for child care. The costs that are built into this are very realistic,” he said.

Initially designed for high schools Bite of Reality caught the attention of community colleges. It has done sessions at Mesa College with more coming up, the Girl Scouts, the mentoring program for the City of San Diego at the central library, and San Diego County branch libraries.

“This program is growing in popularity,” he said. “We are crazy busy with this for several reasons. Educators are realizing a deep need for this at all levels because there is really no required curriculum in California schools to teach financial literacy and it is popular because it is basically a mobile version of (Junior Achievement’s) BizTown. We can bring it to you and with a lot of the budget cuts schools are facing, transportation is an issue. We train, we facilitate, its app based so it is not paper or labor intensive to whomever is hosting it.”

Cal Coast has many community partners, many of them are educational because that is its foundation and still a priority. It also partners with the San Diego Humane Society, the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Unified School District, SDSU, CSU San Marcos, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Grossmont-Cuyamaca and San Diego Community College districts, Home Start and the San Diego Blood Bank. It is a presenting sponsor for the San Diego Gulls and the San Diego Sockers. Scheid said it is not a straight forward corporate sponsorship.

“We make it where it becomes and interactive partnership between our staff and the team to make it community outreach effort,” he said. “For the Gulls we created the Cal Coast High-Five Tunnel. So for every game, the Gulls give us a certain amount of tickets that we send to non-profits that work with underprivileged, at risk children and children with special needs. We invite them to the Gulls game and the kids get to go into the High-Five Tunnel. They get to high-five the players as they skate out onto the ice, then get to go sit and watch the game.”

Scheid said it also teamed with the Gulls and the Sockers for its sock drive for homeless kids’ campaign. Last year its goal was to raise 5,000 pairs of socks, but with the unique and engaging partnership, the support from the teams and their fans was incredible and in combined efforts raised more than 23,000 pairs.

“We know that we can write checks to sponsor community events, but many others that do so do just that and they don’t walk the talk. This is what distinguishes us from any other financial institution and that is the direction from the CEO and down that we want to be out in the community literally, physically making a difference in the communities that we serve,” said Scheid.

For more information about California Coast Credit Union and the Cal Coast Cares Foundation visit www.calcoastcu.org 

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