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Fairwinds Credit Union's COO forecasts more growth ahead

Phil Tischer, senior executive vice president and COO for Fairwinds Credit Union, knows a thing or two about growth. Over the 30 years he’s worked for Fairwinds, the Orlando-based credit union has grown from $240 million in assets and 70,000 members to more than $4 billion in assets and 211,000 members. In a recent conversation with FLORIDA TREND, he talked about the credit union’s history, its second bank acquisition and opportunities and challenges in the industry.

  • Bank’s Evolution: “Fairwinds came to Central Florida in 1965 from Port Washington, N.Y., where it had established itself 16 years earlier. The move to Florida was part of the relocation of the Naval Training Center Devices Center, the founding sponsor of the credit union. With the closing of the Navy base in 1995, the credit union changed its name from Navy Orlando Federal Credit Union to Fairwinds. The term comes from the naval greeting, 'fair winds and following seas,' a phrase of well wishes. The credit union opened membership to include most of Central Florida and today serves customers nationwide.”
  • Citizens Bank Acquisition: “This is the second acquisition for Fairwinds. Our first (Friends Bank in New Smyrna Beach in 2019) allowed the credit union to enter an adjacent market that we have been looking to enter for many years. Our current acquisition of Citizens Bank of Florida in Seminole County is an in-market acquisition in one of the most desirable segments of our market. With the combination of the bank deposits, we anticipate a market share over 20%. A significant opportunity is the ability to grow our commercial loan portfolio to over $600 million, which is about 30% of our loan portfolio. Our combined assets will be approximately $4.6 billion.”
  • Opportunities for Credit Unions: “We’ve seen an increase in digital new accounts, digital mortgages, virtual appointments and other transactions through electronic channels. Our brick-and-mortar branches are still vital in serving and offering guidance to our members, while we continue to develop and provide the technology and virtual services that consumers demand. We also see a growing unmet need in the small-business community.”
  • Biggest Challenges: “Inflation will last well into 2022. We continue to stay focused on preparing our members to have an emergency savings account with at least $1,000, save three to six months of expenses and work to pay off debt as quickly as possible.”