STRENGTH TO STRENGTH: The Warwick Credit Union employs 50 staff members across its Warwick, Allora, Killarney, Dalby and
STRENGTH TO STRENGTH: The Warwick Credit Union employs 50 staff members across its Warwick, Allora, Killarney, Dalby and

From a humble start financial institution continues to grow

THERE was no such thing as internet banking, no automatic teller machines and only one way to deposit or withdraw money into an account when the Warwick Credit Union first opened its door more than 40 years ago.

The branch was situated in a tiny rented room in the Black Cat Casket Agency beside the Criterion Hotel.

The strong room was a tin box and the maximum loan $600.

Directors reported the total savings and members' funds in the first year to be $25, 543, total loans of $24,105 and cash on hand to be $784.

The branch grew quickly and relocated across the road to its current location at 101 Palmerin St in 1973, just three years after first starting out.

Fast forward to 2013 and the WCU employs 50 staff members across its Warwick, Allora, Killarney, Dalby and Inglewood branches and the Warwick Loan Centre.

Its assets total in excess of $220 million and they have $37 million in cash and short-term securities.

WCU CEO Lewis von Stieglitz has been working for the company for six years, holding the top job for the past three years.

"When it started out the tellers would have to write in a ledger to keep track of the money and a withdrawal form had to be filled out at the branch to take out money," Mr von Stieglitz said.

"Now we have Visa cards that go all over the world, it is such a huge change.

"To think that a town like Warwick can produce an operation of this size is impressive."

The Warwick Credit Union now offers lending, investment options, business banking, savings accounts, insurance and financial planning.

Mr von Stieglitz has always had a soft spot for the Warwick Credit Union.

"I started as a graduate at Commbank, which was a great experience," he said.

"I had a Bachelor of Arts majoring in modern history.

"But I went back to do a Masters in business administration.

"I then moved into the bank's strategies and marketing section and spent some time in the Northern Territory."

But during this time Mr von Stieglitz said he had kept a close eye on the WCU and was keen to make his way back to the Sunshine State.

"I grew up in Toowoomba and my family was still living there," here said.

"I had been following the Warwick Credit Union and was hoping for a chance to get to work there."

Soon his wish came true and Mr von Stieglitz got the chance

to tackle the role of head of sales and operations.

"I was delighted when I got the chance to start work here but it was a challenging time," he said.

"I arrived just in time for the global financial crisis and the challenge was to make sure that the business was built up strong and to come up with even better ways to protect members' money.

"We have just finished building a reserve bank re-purchase agreement, which is a very similar system to what the big banks have in place.

"It is like the fire or ambulance service, you hope you don't ever need them but when you do they have to work well."

Also among the changes was the renovation of the Warwick branch.

"We have expanded out the back and built out the top floor," he said.

"A couple of years ago we also put a lot of money into renovating the downstairs branch area."

And while the WCU is a business and their goal is to make profits to improve the products and services on offer, the staff also prides themselves on supporting local community events and groups.

"We sponsor and/or support over 100 community events and groups during each year," she said.

"We host bowls days, sponsor the Hoof and Hook, Warwick Cup, the rodeo street parade and the Warwick Redbacks.

"It is something the Warwick Credit Union has been doing from day one."

As a major sponsor for many events Mr von Stieglitz often gets invited to the events - he is even one of the judges for the floats at the rodeo street parade.

"It is a lot of fun and it is nice to get to go to so many events and meet so many people," he said.

"My family are very good about it and understand that several nights a week I will be home late and at weekends I will have to go to an event.

"But they are very supportive."

As CEO of a bank, Mr von Stieglitz is a familiar face to the Warwick business community and Chamber of Commerce and said the Rose City is a great place to do business.

"It is just in the right place, it is on the road to everywhere," he said.

"There is good land and a good supply of smart people.

"I think Warwick punches well above its weight as a town."

Looking into the future, the WCU now has plans to improve their digital presence.

Mr von Stieglitz said improved digital aspects would allow customers to access everything when they wanted and how they wanted, including loans.

"The last few years have seen things move quickly into digital and online through things such as BPAY," he said.

"We will be spending money on our website and modernising it and improving our access arrangements.

"It will make it easier for people to bank when and how they want to do it."

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