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Bethpage Credit Union seeks higher visibility

Kirk Kordeleski, president of the Bethpage Federal Credit

Kirk Kordeleski, president of the Bethpage Federal Credit Union, stands with the credit union's new mascots -- Beth and Paige, part of the organization's rebranding campaign that starts this month. (March 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / Mahala Gaylord

Bethpage Federal Credit Union had a dilemma, according to its marketing research.

Its 160,000 members thought the world of it, surveys showed, but other Long Islanders barely thought of it at all when they considered their banking options, said Kirk Kordeleski, the credit union's president and chief executive.

To combat that, Bethpage next week will embark on an image makeover. It will change its colors from blue to a vibrant orange and teal, to make it more visible, and increase its advertising to television, featuring the characters Beth and Paige to personify the institution.

Bethpage was founded in 1941 as a credit union for Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp. employees, but it has been available to almost all Long Islanders since 2003.

With assets of $3.7 billion, it is the nation's 21st largest credit union and the fifth largest financial institution based on Long Island, but Kordeleski said not enough Long Islanders are aware that it offers the same things as a full-service bank.

Credit unions are nonprofit groups owned by their members, instead of shareholders, and thus are usually able to offer better rates. In the past, many credit unions served employees of certain companies or industries, but more are opening their doors to all.

Two of the largest, Bethpage and Teachers Federal Credit Union, based in Farmingville, are open to most people who live or work on Long Island.

Robert Allen, president and chief executive of Teachers, said people are becoming more aware of credit union advantages.

"Most of our new business comes from referrals from existing members, which has been fantastic for us," Allen said. Still, he said, the credit union has had to stress in ads that it's not just for teachers.

Gerard Schmitt, vice president of marketing for Bethpage, said the new colors will stand out, and so will Beth and Paige.

"They're warm," he said. "They are friendly. They are approachable."

Robert Hoppenstedt, senior vice president for member services, said Bethpage has made an effort to serve middle- and low-income areas that traditional banks have avoided. There is only one other bank within a mile of its newest branch in Roosevelt, he said.

Meanwhile, a 22nd branch is due to open in Seaford in April.

Kordeleski said he's confident Bethpage can grow by 15 percent a year if Long Islanders come to know it as a banking option. "This is a big deal for us," he said.

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