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West Hartford Credit Union Goes Belly Up — The Hartford Just Goes Up

Posted by whforums on December 7, 2008

I know, I know.  Your first thought was probably the same as mine — West Hartford had a credit union?  And it was called the West Hartford Credit Union?

Obvioulsy, none of us likes to see a local business fail, but what really stand out to me about this story (as reported in the Courant version, anyway) is the relative obscurity of the business itself.  When Lane and Lenge left The Center, and when Simmer shuttered, well, those were quasi-big deals to me — local businesses that were looking to protect their profit margins by leaving high rents behind (well, I thought that was the deal with Simmer).  But in this case, I’m really struck by the anonymity of this apparently veteran small business — the credit union was 58 years old, had somewhere between 2 and 4 million dollars in assets (depending on the version of the story you read)  and somewhere between 1,200 and 1,400 customers.  If we ridiculously assume that all of those customers were residents, we’re talking about roughly 2% of the population of the town (granted, that market share is a lot bigger than the market share of this blog — but then, I’m not trying to make a profit, either). It’s not that I’m saying that market share was uber-small — I guess I’m saying, in a market like West Hartford, and even with a name like West Hartford (on your bank, no less), I’m really taken aback that I never even knew the institution existed.

In some ways, I guess I also feel a twisted guilt.  I bank with several mammoth institutions, each of which is essentially devoid of local roots (not that my accounts would have made a difference for “our” credit union, and not that “our” credit union would have done me much good while traveling, either).  But there’s another weird fact in this whole situation that gives me pause.  The West Hartford Credit Union?  Yeah.  Its offices were in Farmington.

As the “WHCU” was going under, shares of the The Hartford went through “the roof” (though the roof has been lowered by, oh, about 90%, recently).  This is good for many in my family (and for many in yours, I’m sure — The Hartford is a mammoth employer for residents of West Hartford), but it serves as a stark reminder of the fog we’re in — a fog in which a bank I’ve never heard of seems to have as tenuous a grasp on existence as a mega-major company upon which our entire region depends.

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