UMassFive offers unique banking experience to thousands of students

By Shelby Ashline

Daily Collegian Photo Archive
(Daily Collegian Photo Archive)

Walking between the Student Union and the Campus Center, many students pass by the UMassFive College Federal Credit Union each day without a second thought. Unlike the new Amazon @ UMass store next to it, UMassFive seems to have been there all along and has blended into the Campus Center’s natural environment.

Yet, to 1,500 undergraduates and 1,100 graduate students at the University of Massachusetts, UMassFive is their bank of choice, providing a banking experience completely unique to that offered by other institutions that abound in the Amherst area.

According to Kathy Hutchinson, president and CEO of UMassFive, what sets UMassFive apart is its structure as a cooperative credit union whereby each member is essentially an owner of the institution.

“What that means is when you join, you have a share in the credit union – in our case, it’s a $5 savings account – and you have a vote for the board of directors,” Hutchinson said. “The board of directors then sets the general direction of the credit union, so it is truly democratically controlled in that respect.”

Any member in good standing can run to be on the nine-member board, which currently includes six men and three women, thus giving them a chance to become more involved in UMassFive’s leadership. Meeting monthly, the board sets the credit union’s business plan and approves the financial budget, with Hutchinson reporting to them for direction.

Hutchinson believes UMassFive’s unique structure changes the motivation of its workers, like herself, who she says are truly focused on the best interest of the credit union’s owners – the account holders.

When UMassFive was founded as a one-room operation on campus back in 1967, it was intended to be used solely by UMass employees and their immediate family members. However, by 1971, the other Five Colleges – Hampshire, Amherst, Mount Holyoke and Smith Colleges – were added to the field of membership, and it has only continued to grow.

“Over time, we’ve added groups that we think complement that original kind of core group of the Five Colleges,” Hutchinson said.

(Graphic by Randy Crandon/Daily Collegian)
(Graphic by Randy Crandon/Daily Collegian)

Eligible individuals include employees of various organizations like libraries, schools, police offices and town halls.

Student membership through UMassFive was not made possible until 1996, when it merged with one of the first student-run credit unions in the country that had also formed at UMass.

“That was when we really started to focus on not only the employees of the Five Colleges,” Hutchinson said. “We felt very strongly then and still do that that’s part of our future as a credit union and that we have products and services that very much, hopefully, speak to the younger generation and that we can make a difference for them as well.”

She added that members of UMassFive benefit from better rates, lower fees and decisions that are made with the member in mind.

While membership has swelled to amass 35,000 account holders today, students and employees of UMass and the other Five Colleges continue to hold the majority. There are now five branches located in the UMass Campus Center, Hadley, Northampton, on the UMass Worcester campus and at the Mercy Medical Center in Springfield. UMassFive ATMs can also be found at Amherst, Hampshire and Mount Holyoke Colleges.

UMassFive has also invested in online banking and “shared branching” in order to increase convenience for members. Through the CO-OP Shared Branching Network, members of UMassFive have access to the teller services of over 5,000 credit union branches nationwide.

Hutchinson encourages those who are eligible and interested in banking with UMassFive to visit one of the five branches or submit an online membership application by going to the UMass Five website.

Shelby Ashline can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Shelby_Ashline.