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Big banks have a bad rap these days, with bailouts, fake account scandals and foreclosure fraud still fresh in the collective memory. But the banking ballgame is much different at credit unions, which are nonprofit, member-owned cooperatives governed by a board of directors that are all members as well. Among credit unions in Flagstaff, OneAZ Credit Union rose above the rest to be chosen the Best Credit Union in 2017.

“Because we are not-for-profit, when we’re taking care of members every day, we’re able to have conversations with them to find out how we can truly help them financially. Our bankers don’t come in and say ‘oh, we have to meet quotas, get checking accounts, get loans,’” said Paula Gilbert, manager of OneAZ’s east Flagstaff branch. “There is a genuine desire to help, not just push a bunch of products.”

Being a smaller bank that exists only in Arizona also means that members won’t get “lost in a huge conglomerate” if they need additional assistance from someone like a loan underwriter, Gilbert said.

“We offer an old-style banking feel to our members that I think has been lost.”

Part of that feel is making sure human tellers are always there to help members who come into the bank, even though the trend is toward mobile and online banking, she said.

“We’re here if people need us and if they want to do it online, we’re there as well.”

The credit union also tries to greet people in the lobby to make them feel welcome and, when the customer sits down with a banker, “we try to get to know the person in front of us,” Gilbert said.

OneAZ also makes a point to give back in many ways. 

The credit union’s foundation has a scholarship and grant program for local students and each branch is able to choose a winner in each category. Similarly, each branch is able to choose two nonprofits in town each year to receive a monetary donation from the credit union’s foundation 

“We get to be involved in our communities,” Gilbert said. “It’s refreshing to know this credit union cares about all of the community.”

Speaking of community, OneAZ is a big supporter of Northern Arizona University as well. The downtown branch is decked out in NAU flags, logos and posters and Gilbert said the credit union is a sponsor of university athletics.

OneAZ has two branches in Flagstaff, one downtown and one on the east side, with a total of about 30 employees between the two. In total, the credit union has 22 branches across Arizona.

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