CPM to close 3 branch offices Credit union cites need for tech investment

CPM Federal Credit Union dates to 1955. It is paring back its branch network, including the closure of its East Montague Avenue location, based on a year-long review of its expenses.

Tyrone Walker

One of the region’s oldest credit unions is paring back its branch network, saying it needs to cut its brick-and-mortar expenses as it looks to invest more in technology that customers want.

CPM Federal Credit Union will close three offices next month, including one down the street from its North Charleston headquarters.

The closings will take effect June 7, the 65,000-member lender announced this week.

The restructuring was based on the findings of an “extensive analysis” that began about a year ago, according to a statement posted on CPM’s website.

“In order to ensure long-term success for our members and to continue to improve our financial position, we must make tough decisions in order to reduce operating expenses,” the company said in the statement.

The local CPM branch to be closed is at 1078 E. Montague Ave., near CPM’s corporate offices at 1066 E. Montague. The others are in Easley and Greenville.

The closings will leave CPM with 11 branches around the state, and just two within its home region.

“It’s unfortunate we have to close the branches, but it’s the right thing to do for the future,” said Tracy W. Knight, the credit union’s sales and marketing director.

At the same time, CPM said it will be investing in “significant improvements” to its phone and online-banking services and to its automated-teller-machine network. It also plans to introduce a mobile app for members.

“Technology is growing. ... We want to be able to provide these things and take care of our members,” Knight said Wednesday.

CPM was started in 1955 in a shed on the grounds of the former Westvaco paper mill in North Charleston to provide workers with a place to save and borrow at affordable rates. The nonprofit lending cooperative began expanding outside the region in the 1980s.

CPM has been under new management since December, when credit union turnaround specialist Jane E. Dobbs was named interim CEO to replace George Lockwood.

Knight said Dobbs was not available to comment Wednesday.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.