Bellingham Market Entry: City and Mountain

BECU Expert Q&A with Scott Strand: Bellingham Market Entry

For this month’s BECU Expert Q&A, we sat down with Chief Operating Officer Scott Strand to learn more about BECU’s expansion into Whatcom County this year.

What do you do at BECU and how long have you been with the credit union?

I joined BECU in 2008 and currently serve as its Chief Operating Officer (COO). I work with leaders across the organization to oversee BECU's lines of business, which includes consumer, indirect, mortgage and commercial lending, credit risk management, retail banking and wealth management, and contact centers. In my role, I am dedicated to providing our members with the right products and services to help improve their experience with BECU and increase their financial well-being.

Why is BECU expanding into Whatcom County/Bellingham? Will you be adding more locations?

We are excited to open our first Neighborhood Financial Center (NFC) in Bellingham, Washington on August 25. This will be BECU's first financial center in Whatcom County, serving more than 7,500 members who live in the area. To celebrate, we'll host a virtual grand opening event on September 16, 2020.

Our decision to enter the Bellingham community was in direct response to the growing needs of our members in Whatcom County. We heard our members are looking for easier access to their accounts, valuable products, and the high level of service credit unions are known for. As a member-owned cooperative, we're committed to showing everyone the benefits of being a credit union member and partnering with others in the area to improve the financial well-being of our communities.

As one of the largest cities in Washington, Bellingham is a vibrant, connected community with a strong network of credit unions and community programs. And, while we only have one location so far, we are looking forward to becoming a bigger part of the community.

What can members expect at the new Neighborhood Financial Center?

The new Bellingham NFC is 2,800 square-feet and is located at the Lakeway Shopping Center on Lakeway Drive. The branch will feature BECU's "tellerless" layout, which is designed to help members take care of simple transactions themselves through the support of ATMs and a robust online and mobile platform. Our NFC team will also offer one-on-one support for new deposit and loan accounts, while members will have access to product specialists to help meet their mortgage and wealth management needs.

In addition, our NFC will offer a full range of business deposits and loan products, including commercial real estate loans, business credit cards and lines of credit, and business term loans. We are also excited to support local auto dealers through our Indirect lending  program, which enables our members to obtain BECU financing at the point of sale.

With concerns around COVID-19, we are taking significant precautions at our locations to help keep our employees and members safe. We have policies regarding wearing facial coverings, regularly disinfecting surfaces and ATMs, utilizing acrylic shields where possible and abiding by social distancing standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health officials.

Does BECU plan to partner with local organizations or have any Bellingham-specific initiatives?

As a not-for-profit credit union, we're proud to give back to our members and communities by partnering with nonprofits and through financial education programs. For example, in 2019, we donated $6.4 million to nonprofit partners and community programs addressing important issues ranging from post-secondary education to affordable housing. We do all of this because we put members first-it's the philosophy that launched BECU in 1935 and permeates everything we do today.

With expansion into Bellingham, we want to put our "people helping people" philosophy in action. We have big plans in place to partner with local-area organizations to support our members and make a difference in Whatcom County. This includes working with the following nonprofits:

  • Junior Achievement (JA) of Washington - BECU has a longtime partnership with JA to deliver financial education programming to participating students and will now support JA Financial Literacy efforts in Bellingham.
  • NW Innovation Resource Center (NWIRC) - We will partner with the NWIRC to provide resources to entrepreneurs and inventors to help bring their ideas to life.
  • Opportunity Council - By working with Opportunity Council, we're looking forward to serving homeless and low-income families and individuals and helping improve their lives through education while also advocating for equitable communities.

What is your favorite memory of Western Washington University and Bellingham?

More years ago than I care to admit, I enrolled as an undergraduate student at Western Washington University (WWU) without ever having seen the campus and I still remember going there for the first time for freshman orientation. I couldn't believe how beautiful the campus was, especially the views overlooking the city and Bellingham Bay. I have great memories of my time there, and as a proud Viking, it was also gratifying to see my oldest son graduate from WWU.