Since New Covenant Dominion Credit Union came to life in 2007, Rachel Macarthy has worn many different hats. She served as one of the credit union’s founding board members, and in 2019, she stepped in as the organization’s acting CEO. Despite becoming the permanent CEO in 2021, Rachel has done everything from working as a teller to serving as a loan officer for the Bronx-based credit union. However, Rachel wouldn’t have it any other way. She also isn’t the only one who wears more than one hat at New Covenant Dominion Credit Union.
For the vast majority of its 16-year existence, the credit union has operated with a staff of two and volunteers as available. Last year, the credit union received grant funding enabling it to hire additional staff members—a marketing specialist and member service representative. As a team of four, they work together to provide amazing customer service and outreach to community members. “Our team is amazing,” Rachel said, “and it’s exciting when you wear these multiple hats, because you’re able to hear the frontline stories of what’s really happening with our membership. There’s more work on the backend, but we can make decisions knowing who we’re serving and what would reach them best.”
New Covenant Dominion Credit Union was founded in March 2007, when the New Covenant Faith and Miracle Arena, Inc. decided to do something to address one of its community’s most daunting challenges: intergenerational cycles of poverty. According to Rachel, who’s been a member of New Covenant Faith for decades, the South Bronx is an underserved, forgotten neighborhood with “bad statistics all around.” To develop economic stability in its community, the church launched a three-pronged approach that included opening schools, developing a community center, and launching a credit union. Initially, the credit union’s members only consisted of the church’s congregation; however, over the years, the credit union has expanded to serve other churches and other community based organizations in the Bronx.
Soon after Rachel became New Covenant Dominion Credit Union’s CEO, the credit union’s leadership applied to be certified as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). New Covenant Dominion Credit Union received its CDFI designation in December of 2019, adding to its status as a low-income, black-led credit union and as a minority depository institution. According to Rachel, the timing of those credentials proved significant. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, New Covenant Dominion Credit Union was poised to benefit from the unprecedented amount of federal relief dollars flowing through the CDFI Fund and later in 2021, the Emergency Capital Investment Program (ECIP).
New Covenant Dominion Credit Union used COVID-era grant money to do a number of things, including increasing its staff, investing in technology, and making the shift to digital banking. The credit union was also able to pass along some of those relief dollars onto borrowers in the form of a three-month payment relief program. The credit union has also quadrupled its lending volume, and its loan portfolio has grown from primarily personal consumer loans to include more small business loans and vehicle loans.
The credit union also used grant money to reorganize, rebrand, and reopen in a new 1,500-square foot location that has two member service desks, a financial counseling conference area and an eye-catching facade, which Rachel hopes will attract prospective members who stand to benefit from free financial counseling and the credit union’s other programmatic offerings. “The pandemic was terrible for our country and nation and world,” Rachel said, “but it created opportunities for us as a credit union that we didn’t have access to before. Because we were able to benefit from grant funding, that really changed everything about our credit union, from the ground up.”
Although New Covenant Dominion Credit Union continues to primarily serve members of the church community, Rachel says that at least 80% of new accounts opened in the past four months belong to non-church members. For Rachel and her team, that influx demonstrates that their presence in the community is growing, and in the coming year, it plans to focus on reaching and serving its target demographic: churches, nonprofits, and other community-based organizations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Westchester County. In the future, it would like to expand its field of membership even more.
Rachel and her small-but-mighty team at New Covenant Dominion Credit Union anticipate plenty of challenges on the road ahead; however, they have faith that their determination and passion will propel them toward achieving their goals. Part of that determination is rooted in the fact that the credit union came out of the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than it was before. Rachel and her financial leadership skills stepped in and took a struggling credit union through a pandemic and showed tremendous growth on the other side of it. “Without the funding and resources that we got as part of our CDFI certification,” Rachel said, “we probably wouldn’t be here right now. It’s a blessing and an opportunity that we want to pass on to others.”
- New Covenant Dominion Credit Union (NCD CU) is a member-driven financial institution whose goal is to develop economic stability within the community and its membership. NCD CU was chartered on March 23, 2007 by the National Credit Union Administration because of the diligent efforts of the church leadership of New Covenant Faith and Miracle Arena, Inc.
- CNote is a women-led investment platform that empowers individuals and institutions to invest locally to further economic equality, racial justice, gender equity, and address climate change.