The largest credit union in the Northeast is getting bigger.
Bethpage Federal Credit Union, which has 32 branches, is opening five more — in Queens, Ronkonkoma and New Jersey — over the next 12 months, which will include expanding outside of New York for the first time.
“It’s part of our strategy. … Our charter allows us to go anywhere in the country. And what makes sense to us is if we’re going to venture out of this area for diversification, to go into neighboring” areas, said Linda Armyn, president and chief executive officer of the credit union.
The credit union’s first Queens branch will have a grand opening in Sunnyside on Oct. 14, but a “soft opening” for the location took place Sept. 18. Also, an Ozone Park, Queens, branch will open in December.
The remaining three new branches — planned for Forest Hills, Queens; Cherry Hill, New Jersey; and Ronkonkoma — are projected to open in the first half of 2024, the credit union said.
The Ronkonkoma branch will open in the new $1 billion, Station Yards mixed-use project under construction. The 53-acre site, which surrounds the Ronkonkoma LIRR station, will have residential, retail, office, medical and hotel components.
All of the new branches except the one planned for Cherry Hill, a Philadelphia suburb, will be in walkable communities that are near rail stations, Armyn said.
The five branches each will employ three to four people and be in leased spaces, she said.
The credit union had been trying to break into the Queens market for at least a decade but it was unable to do so because it would always lose out on leasing the real estate because the market was so competitive, she said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the credit union began looking at leasing smaller spaces in order to expand its footprint more quickly, Armyn said.
The credit union hired a Georgia-based company, Financial Supermarkets Inc., to build prefabricated offices, with sustainable materials, for the new branches, which will average 1,500 square feet instead of the usual 3,500 square feet, she said.
The new model is a pilot that, if successful, will be extended to other new branches, she said.
“You can definitely serve the members coming to the branch with a smaller footprint,” said Armyn, who added that the credit union started a virtual branch — a staffed, video-based service — during the COVID-19 pandemic to offer enhanced remote services to customers.
Founded in 1941, Bethpage Federal Credit Union employs 800 people in New York and has about 450,000 members.
It is the largest credit union in the Northeast and 15th largest in the country, based on the size of its assets, $13 billion.