MoneyWise Q&A with a Financial Expert: Bruce Foulke, CEO of American Heritage Credit Union

Bruce FoulkeHow long have you been the CEO of American Heritage Credit Union?
Since Moses was around – 38 years and counting.

Why do you like most about your job?
I like helping people. Either helping them to find financial stability, giving financial education or helping kids through our foundation, the Kids-N-Hope Foundation benefiting the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (we were the first credit union in the country to form its own charitable organization!)

What is the best part of every day for you?
Talking to members. We actually have a “talk to the CEO” button on our website and people can call me directly.

Can you explain to people who may not know, what are the main ways in which a credit union is different than a typical bank?
First, we’re not for profit. Our board of directors is made up of volunteers and everyone has one vote – every decision is made through a democratic process, it doesn’t matter how much money you have in your account. We don’t treat our members like numbers, we treat them like owners, and that’s really important to us – our members have clout. They give us suggestions and we listen to them and make changes based on their feedback. We also invest back in our members through higher dividend rates and less fees.

What is something surprising about credit unions that people might not know?
We’re a lot more tech-savvy than people may think. Sometimes people think of credit unions as mom-and-pop shops, but we rely heavily on technology like e-deposits, a mobile app and much more. One of the coolest things is our video teller machine – a member can connect via video to a member services rep who’s at our main office from their local teller machine. Through facial recognition the service rep can be sure that it’s the member they’re talking to.

What do you think is best way for young people to stay financially literate?
Don’t just listen to your friends – I think sometimes young people tend to believe their peers more than professionals. Especially with things like social media it’s easy to get input from a lot of people, but it’s important to find someone with expert knowledge. Find someone who can help you develop a budget and give input on how to invest.

What is the best money management advice you could give someone who is just starting out?
You need to save something, period. Whether it’s just $5 or $50 from every pay, put it away. After you get to a certain level, invest it.

What would you say is the current status of the American Dream? Do you believe that someone starting out now will have the opportunity for upward mobility financially?
The Millennial generation has to be committed to be saving. I think seeing their parents go through rough financial times in the past 10 years has made young people unsure of what the future holds financially. What’s different is this generation has access to so much information to help them understand how to save. They have so many choices that previous generations never had when it comes to career paths, where and how to bank, how to invest. It’s how they take advantage of it all that will determine whether or not they can achieve the American Dream.