MISSOULA — To better fit its geographical reach and embrace a more inclusive approach, Missoula Federal Credit Union is now known as Clearwater Credit Union.
Alert your member neighbors and friends – and don’t forget those in outlying areas, where the former Missoula FCU now serves seven contiguous counties in western Montana.
Ahead of the name change, the credit union board and administration garnered feedback from members via surveys and focus groups. Catching members off-guard with the name change is the last thing they wanted.
“Having the opportunity to hear directly from our members has really helped us set priorities to ensure we make this name change as hassle-free as possible,” said spokeswoman Gwen Landquist, the credit union’s brand and communications director.
Some longtime members reportedly love the new moniker; others said they were sad to see MFCU go. Some openly shared their unhappiness with the change.
“That is completely understandable, considering we were founded in 1956,” said Landquist. “Everyone who has reached out with feedback (positive or negative), we have reached back and talked to them about it. In most cases, even those who had an initial negative reaction ended up feeling positive by the end of the conversation. We’ve made a point to listen to all feedback with an open mind and a positive attitude. I think that has made a big difference.”
So why “Clearwater?”
“The name celebrates our roots in Missoula County, which is home to both Clearwater River and Clearwater Lake,” the credit union said in its June 18 announcement to members. “Water sustains us all, no matter where we’re from. The new name is universally appealing and a celebration of Montana’s lakes, rivers, and streams. The name gives us the opportunity to speak to a key element of our core values: transparency.”
Landquist and staff scurried mightily up until Labor Day weekend to complete the changeover, which officially occurs on Tuesday.
“Behind the scenes, we have been busy prepping everything for launch day,” she said. “This part of the brand transition is going to be much more of an instant change. Everything from exterior signage, the website, all the way down to our pens change to Clearwater. Some items will continue to be done in phases (new cards, checks, etc.), but we anticipate being pretty well transitioned before we close out the year.
“We have used these opportunities to design ads that also let people know what is coming,” said Landquist.
The credit union sponsors several events and nonprofits that require updated ads.
In other logistics, the credit union unveiled a new logo that more widely symbolizes Montana and uses state flag colors.
Reads the new Clearwater Credit Union website:
“Our new logo conveys transparency with the ability to see the mountains through the water drop. The mountains themselves reflect the beauty of our state, and even form an ‘M’ in honor of our roots here in Missoula.”
The blues, brown, green and yellow reflect state resources portrayed on the “Oro y Plata” flag depiction.
“Our new colors are inspired by the Montana state flag, reminding us of both the incredible natural environment that surrounds us as well as the people and industry that have shaped this amazing place we call home,” reads the company website.
But will the credit union’s current debit cards still work?
According to the new Clearwater website, the old debit and credit cards will continue to work until members activate the new cards the credit union mails in the weeks to come. The new cards will have a new expiration date.
As for leftover checks bearing the MFCU insignia and logo, members can continue to use them because their routing number and account numbers remain the same.
The next time you need to order new checks, Clearwater will provide those with the new name and logo. As of Sept. 3, members can turn in old checks at any branch, then staff will replace them with a box of new ones for free.
It’s the only name change in the 63-year history of the credit union, which now tallies over 50,000 members and manages over $500 million in assets.
After opening its first branch in Stevensville in 2006, the credit union opened branches in four more counties in 2018: Beaverhead, Deer Lodge, Granite and Silver Bow.
“We’ve been serving three counties for years now – Missoula, Lake and Ravalli,” said Landquist. “When our field of membership expanded to include seven counties, the question was raised of whether or not we should change our name to be more inclusive to all of the communities we serve.”
Eventually, the board decided a name change was in the best interest of the credit union’s long-term success.
“With that, a name that celebrated place and also spoke to our values, felt like the right direction,” she added.
Landquist said the credit union distributed emails to members, sent out press releases, launched an online microsite, and posted on social media to spread the word.
Specifically, staff let members know the word “federal” will no longer be included in the logo.
However, the credit union remains federally chartered.
“Regulations no longer require the inclusion of it (“federal”) for marketing purposes, and it makes it shorter and easier to say,” she added.
“We hope to be known as Clearwater, not CCU,” reads the new website in a user-friendly list of questions and answers. “It also gives us the flexibility to become a state-chartered credit union in the future, were we to agree together to make that shift.”
The credit union board said the survey process “revealed that while we will always love the name Missoula Federal Credit Union, it hinders a sense of belonging for non-Missoulians and limits our ability to demonstrate our values in new communities.”
Involving members in all outlying areas was key, said Landquist.
“And honestly, I think this is the best thing we could have done,” she said. “We are incredibly fortunate to have engaged members. They ask great questions and often have even better ideas. Having the opportunity to hear directly from our members has really helped us set priorities to ensure we make this name change as hassle free as possible.”
The new website is: www.missoulafcu.org/clearwater .
-Renata Birkenbuel reporting for the Missoula Current