After 23 years
August 31, 2011 | One of the first things I did after starting work at HP was to open an account at the HP Employees Federal Credit Union.
It made sense. The credit union was small and specialized in friendly, excellent service, low rates on loans, and high rates on savings.
Marketing materials from the credit union, such as they were, used recycled paper and public-domain clip art. Nothing glossy, and certainly not mass mailings.
I used the HP credit union a lot, for everything from savings accounts, to car loans, home-equity loans, bill paying, checking, whatever. In fact, I closed out all my other bank accounts and used the HPCU as my only bank.
As HP grew, so did the credit union. And with the Agilent spin-off, the "HP Employees Federal Credit Union" became "Addison Avenue Federal Credit Union" so as to not offend the sensibility of all those thousands of former HP, now Agilent, employees who still belonged to the credit union. The new name was taken from the street in Palo Alto where Bill and Dave started the company in a garage. (Thanks to friend Tony for refreshing my memory. What can I say, other than 'senior moment'?)
Over time, more and more money was spent producing slick, 4-color, glossy marketing materials. The monthly statement envelopes started to resemble the ones from the cable company or telephone company with all the inserts.
With relatively few branch offices and widely-dispersed members, the credit union did do some things right. For example, for many years now the credit union had what they called e-deposits: I could deposit a check simply by scanning it at home and uploading the images on the credit union website. Sure beats snail mail! And if I used a "foreign" ATM machine that charged me a fee, the credit union reimbursed it.
A year or so ago, however, the credit union "merged" with the First Tech credit union. Although it was positioned as a mutually-beneficial merger of equals, in reality the merger was more a case of the big fish swallowing up the small fish. As friend Jim was quick to point out, about the only concession to the HP/Addison-Avenue credit union is that little triangle of "HP blue" in the "new" logo.
And First Tech adopted all the trappings of a big-bank wannabe. The straw that broke this camel's back was when I tried to order new checks with my new address and the new name of the credit union on them. I tried to do it on the "new" website, but after filling in all my information, I was told that the order could not be completed and I would have to call 1-800..., which I did, but when 1-800... finally answered, I was told that they couldn't help me, I'd have to call the credit union (which I had thought I was doing!). After navigating a long complex voice-menu and having already input such crucial data as account number and password, I finally reached a live person who then wanted to ask me additional "security questions" before even talking to me.
When we got to the third such question, "How did you originally qualify as a member of the credit union?" I put my foot down and just plain refused to answer any more security questions. After a bit of back and forth, it came down to "Are you going to help me, or am I going to go to the bank down the street and move my accounts there?"
She didn't, and so I did. Once I had my new checkbook and debit card in hand, I withdrew most of my money from First Tech and deposited it in the new bank. Today I called to close the accounts and get the last $5.38. (The interest from the last month First Tech had my money and the $5 used to open the original HP credit union "share account.")
23 years. There's just a limit to just how much nonsense a person is willing to put up with.
Last updated on Jun 5, 2016