Money & Career
The Banking Industry: Why Shift to a Local Institution?
12/1/2020 1:00:00 PM

There’s a certain appeal to banking with a national financial institution – wide name recognition, branches in most major cities, and convenient ATMs; but there’s much to be said for choosing a local bank to do business with, as well. This special banking section zeros in on the advantages of entrusting your financial resources to a community bank or credit union. Want a quick hint? Personalized customer service!

Lakeside Bank prides itself on being a locally owned, locally operated community bank that is "small enough to know you and big enough to serve you.” Never has that philosophy been more important than over the past year. First during the COVID-19 crisis and then during two major hurricanes, individuals and businesses in Southwest Louisiana turned to Lakeside for help navigating the financial challenges of multiple disasters.

"We are here for our customers during the good times and the bad times. This is our home, too. We’re committed to personal service and those are much more than just words to us,” says Roy M. Raftery, Jr., President and CEO of Lakeside Bank. "By helping our community through these tough times, we’ll all come out stronger, together.” 

In response to the COVID crisis, Lakeside bankers worked nonstop to help small local businesses get approved for the much-needed SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The bank also offered a skip-a-payment program to help their customers cope with the financial strain of the shut-down. "We were able to respond to this crisis immediately,” says Raftery, "because we have the liquidity, decisions are made right here, and our lenders are accessible and responsive.” 

When the hurricanes hit this year, Lakeside had branches open and bankers available immediately after the storm. "That’s when our customers needed us,” says Raftery. "Not weeks later, and not by calling a corporate office. We were right here.”

Lakeside took other immediate steps to help support hurricane recovery in Southwest Louisiana, including three-year unsecured personal loans, special rates on home equity lines of credit, deferred loan payments and more. A hurricane resource page was added to their website to provide information about Lakeside recovery support, as well as easy access to other information to assist with recovery.

With five locations across Southwest Louisiana, Lakeside offers a full range of personal and business banking services, including online and mobile banking technology. "Our customers, both individuals and businesses, want the convenience of managing their money quickly, securely and efficiently, from their homes, offices or on the go,” says Raftery. "We make this as easy as possible, along with a personal connection to their banker.”  

As an added boost of confidence in the value of local banking, Lakeside Bank was ranked one of the 200 healthiest banks in the United States (the only  one in Louisiana to be included) in DepositAccounts’ "Top 200 Healthiest Banks in America” 2020 annual report. 

Lakeside also received the Bauer 5-Star rating, the highest possible awarded by Bauer Financial, the nation’s leading independent bank rating firm. This rating denotes the absolute highest level of banking performance. 

Lakeside begins their second decade well positioned for future growth, reaching a remarkable $300,000,000 in assets in its first 10 years of operation.  "As we look toward the future, we see our footprint expanding to meet the needs of our community,” says Raftery. "We’re proud to be part of the region’s recovery and growth, providing the level of high quality, personal banking services our customers deserve.” 

Learn more about Lakeside Bank at

Southwest Louisiana Credit Union (SWLACU) has deep roots in the Southwest Louisiana community. It began as PPG Employees’ Credit Union in 1952, with a vision to put the member first and meet the needs of the average worker. SWLACU is now a full-service, multi-location credit union that caters to the unique needs of the people of Southwest Louisiana. From a small office at the PPG Industries production facility to the credit union it is today, the cornerstone of their philosophy remains the same: people helping people.

It starts with technology that rivals corporate banks. SWLACU offers members the convenience of 24/7 account access through online and mobile banking. Members can mobile-deposit checks, make transfers, set up automatic bill and loan payments, receive e-statements, find the nearest ATM or banking center, and more. 

But banking is much more than just a transactional relationship for the credit union—they seek to educate their members and make a difference in the community. "We obtained our CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) designation in 2018, allowing us to pour back into our communities through financial empowerment workshops, scholarships, a financial empowerment center, and a tuition loan plan for those pursuing fast-track programs to engage them into today’s workforce—especially high-demand skilled trades,” says Chad Miller, CEO. Through this grant funding, those with a tuition loan can also apply to receive a monthly stipend for childcare and housing costs—the two main barriers to earning a technical degree or certification.

Southwest Louisiana Credit Union aims to meet the needs of members from all different walks of life—and one of the many perks they tout over big banks is free one-on-one financial counseling. "We are committed to doing whatever is in the best interest of the member,” says Makeitta Citizen, Brand Ambassador for SWLACU. There’s no comparison to the care and personal touch local banks put into your financial experience.

SWLACU staff are people who live and work in the same community as you—and care about the things you care about. "Our board of volunteers are also members. The senior leadership of SWLACU are everyday people who have grown up in SWLA and who have built a relationship with our members over many years,” Citizen says. "We celebrate milestones like graduations, weddings, birthdays and the birth of babies with our members.”

When times get tough, the credit union has your back. "Because we are local, we know the needs of our community and can develop products and services that specifically address those needs,” says Miller. This was especially true during the COVID-19 outbreak early this year, and then again when Hurricanes Laura and Delta hit our area. By providing Hardship Loans during the coronavirus surge, and Disaster Loans after the hurricanes, SWLACU helped the community when it needed it most. 

"Perhaps what we do best is talk to the community,” Citizen adds. "We want you to come in, have a cup of coffee on us, and tell us how we can help. Whether you are looking for an auto loan or need help getting on your feet, we’ve got your back, and we are always looking for more ways to make your banking experience a little easier.”

For more information about Southwest Louisiana Credit Union, please call 477-9190 or visit

"Come on over” is not just a tag line here at First Federal Bank of Louisiana – it’s a cornerstone of everything we do. As we surpass the $1 billion mark in assets, we are constantly examining how we can better meet our customers’ financial needs. It is because of our team’s 70 years of ambition, strategy, and community support that this achievement has become a reality. Being a community-minded bank is bigger than the sum of its parts – it means that despite getting hit with a worldwide pandemic and back-to-back hurricanes, we strap on our boots and get to work. It’s now more important than ever that we remember our roots and continue our 70 years of unparalleled customer service.

First Federal Bank of Louisiana has deep roots in Lake Charles dating to July 20, 1949, when the institution was chartered as First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Lake Charles. The idea of creating a savings and loan was initiated by community-minded business and community leaders with the desire to see Lake Charles flourish. With this mission in mind, they saw the need for a savings and loan that allowed local money to be invested in the local economy. 

Today, First Federal Bank has a presence that reaches business and consumer markets in communities across Southwest and Central Louisiana. Headquartered in Lake Charles, our 16 branches are located in Sulphur, Carlyss, Vinton, Westlake, Moss Bluff, DeRidder, Oakdale, Natchitoches, Alexandria, and Pineville. First Federal Bank’s employment has grown to over 220 team members, and the bank has enjoyed a remarkable history of growth and success while remaining one of the top financial leaders in each of the markets it serves with assets in excess of $1 billion.

In addition to checking and savings accounts, loans, online banking, retirement options, and more, First Federal Bank also houses insurance and investment divisions to provide the full financial package for our customers. First Federal Bank is still governed by the same charter from 1949 and is still a mutually owned institution; therefore, customers of the bank play a major role in our local economy by investing money into their own community. This concept of neighbors helping neighbors is the premise on which savings and loan institutions were founded – to see the people within their own neighborhoods succeed financially.

Our leadership, employees, and commitment to the community are what make First Federal Bank different. We were created for our customers to invest back into the community. Over the decades, this has not changed. Whether it’s adapting to new procedures due to COVID-19 or finding a way to work through the devastation caused by Hurricanes Laura and Delta, First Federal Bank came together to serve our community.  We were one of the first banks to open after the storm, and we are still here to help rebuild your house, your business, and everything in between. Whatever it takes to rise again, First Federal Bank will be a part of the process, and together we will be better and stronger than ever. We are community strong.


JD Bank has been serving Southwest Louisiana for over 70 years. Founded in 1947 in Jennings, La., JD Bank is dedicated to improving the financial services available in our community. "Banking with a local community bank helps support your neighbors and the local economy,” says Ann Barilleaux, VP Marketing Director at JD Bank. "When banking with JD Bank, you receive personalized service from local people who understand the specific needs of SWLA. We are Louisiana’s Community Bank but offer products and services that compete with the larger, national banks.”

For example, online banking has revolutionized the way people manage their money. "JD Bank has invested millions of dollars over the past decade and offers an array of digital products  to enhance and streamline our customer’s banking experience,”  says Jeremy Guidry, VP Client Experience Director. "Services such as Mobile Check Deposit, Zelle for person-to-person payments, Bank to Bank Transfers, Bill Pay, Mobile Wallet (ie. Apple Pay), Real Time Account Alerts, Debit Card Fraud Controls, and Online Chat are all designed to reduce friction when customers need to move funds and manage their finances. We find that customers harness the full power of digital once they realize their mobile device allows them to deposit a check, send money to a friend, transfer funds to or from another bank, pay the electric bill, make a purchase without having to take out a debit card, and receive a real time text alert when a charge hits their account. These services became even more critical in 2020 when we needed to minimize contact and travel due to COVID-19. While our customers leverage digital more than ever due to these unfortunate events, we realize the importance of keeping the momentum going when it comes to enhancing and adding options to our digital lineup. JD Bank continues to assess new technologies and has plans to offer new digital solutions in the near future.”

While serving individuals with personalized banking services, JD Bank also caters to business owners and their needs, with products such as Automatic Clearing House Origination, Merchant Services and Merchant Capture, Business Bill Pay, an alert system called Notifi, Wire Transfers, Positive Pay to protect a company from check fraud, their new online loan pay program called Bill Matrix, and much more.

Pam Judson, VP of Treasury Management at JD Bank, finds that most banks offer similar products, but it is the ease of use and customer service that sets a local bank above the rest. "Larger banks use a Treasury Management platform for their business online banking that tends to be more complicated for the user with an overkill of information. Our system, like many other community banks, is robust and user friendly.”

With over two dozen community partners, JD Bank believes community service goes hand-in-hand with customer service, and they care about the communities they serve. They donate the time and effort of their employees, as well as provide financial resources to numerous philanthropic organizations in our region. "We are proud to be Louisiana’s Community Bank and know that we are only as successful as our neighbors,” says Barilleaux. "It is important that we play a role in supporting the needs of the communities we serve.”

Access of Louisiana Federal Credit Union was established in 1955 as the Olin Mathieson Lake Charles Employees Federal Credit Union by and for employees of Olin Chemical Plant in Lake Charles. Over the years, there were name changes and mergers with other credit unions, all in efforts to better serve the SWLA community. In February 2011, Access of Louisiana FCU was granted a community charter and membership was extended to individuals who live, work, worship, or attend school in Calcasieu Parish, in addition to the current field of membership and their immediate families. Their goal is to provide low-cost, high-quality financial services in a friendly, personal environment. 

"Over the years, we have had several acquisitions, and continue to serve all of them with the same level of service as our founding credit union,” says Kim Richard, Executive Vice President at Access of Louisiana FCU, who has witnessed the credit union rise above many challenges while continuing to grow to meet the needs of members over the past decade. "We are all one big family here – staff, volunteers, members.”

Janet Langley, Sr. Loan Officer/Mortgage Specialist, has helped many members in her 25 years at Access. Langley says they care about their members through personalized customer service. "For example, if someone applies for a $2,000 loan to fix their air conditioner that went out, we could simply process the application and send them on their way, whether approved or denied, based solely on what they requested. But Access has a different approach – we look at the bigger picture of their finances to see how we might improve their situation as a whole. Could we refinance their auto at a lower rate that also lowers the monthly payment, which includes the $2,000 cash needed for the new A/C? 

It’s certainly possible, and there is an overall improvement to their monthly budget, rather than a burden created by adding a new monthly payment.” 

Access strives to meet the needs of every generation in their membership by the various services and products they offer, from personal service to mobile apps. Amanda Youngblood has been a familiar face to many members throughout her 20 years at Access, from the teller line to her current role as Executive Assistant/Staff Notary. "If you have a need, we do our best to help; whether it’s how to get cash when you are out of town or where’s a good place to eat for lunch, we’ve got you. Are you getting a fair deal on a product you are purchasing? Our loan officers will be sure to let you know and can also provide valuations when you shop around. Can’t make it to our office during normal business hours because of traffic, life, etc? We do our best to accommodate. Is one of our services not working for you? We go out of our way to make sure you are taken care of. From COVID to hurricanes, we know you have other things to worry about. Our goal is to make dealing with your credit union the easiest item on your to-do list.”

Introducing Matt Koch, President/CEO of CSE Credit Union 

Tell us a bit about your background and career in banking. 

I chose a career in banking because I enjoy numbers and finance. I am from Shreveport/Bossier City but my wife is from Sulphur. We moved here in August 2015 after our first child was born. I have a bachelor’s degree in Finance from Louisiana Tech (Geaux Dawgs!) and my MBA from LSUS. I also earned a designation as a certified credit union executive from Cuna Management School at Madison, Wisconsin. I started my career as a teller/vault teller at a community bank in Shreveport. After a year, I went to ANECA Federal Credit Union as a loan processor. Soon after, I applied for an open position as staff accountant and have been enjoying accounting/finance ever since then. I have thoroughly enjoyed the culture, food and getting to know the Southwest Louisiana community.     

And now you’re at CSE Credit Union. 

Yes, our CEO Emeritus, Clark Yelverton, announced plans last year that he would be retiring at the end 2020. I decided a long time ago I would apply for that position when the time came. I became CEO right after Hurricane Laura – talk about timing! That was my first time having to decide to evacuate, close our branch locations, and wonder about the damage the hurricane would leave behind. Not only have we dealt with the Covid pandemic, but two hurricanes as well this year. Working remotely with our employees spread out in different states was certainly a challenge but we managed to open back up only 10 days after Hurricane Laura. Some of our staff stayed up until 11:00 p.m. to answer members’ questions via email or Facebook. It was stressful and difficult but a great learning experience in disaster recovery. We also learned how strong our community is. We will comeback even better.                            

As President/CEO of CSE, what are your goals for the credit union? 

My goals are to continue taking care of and serving our members, and to make sure we stay a tight-knit, family-oriented organization whose sole purpose is to build financial success for our members. We will continue adding products and services that our members need, continue investing in technology, and adding more branches in the future. The future is bright for CSE.            

What are the advantages of banking with a local credit union vs. a national bank? 

The advantages of a local credit union are not only the structure but the service you receive. Our board is an unpaid, volunteer board where members are the owners of the business instead of a select few stockholders. Our members enjoy higher deposit rates, and lower loan rates with fewer and lesser fees because of our structure and mission. Credit unions were created during the Great Depression to help those of moderate means.           

Is there anything else you would like to add?  

We want to thank our members for choosing CSE!  

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