Clearwater Credit Union’s mission is to be a force for good in banking, in the communities we serve, and in the lives of our members. Established in 1956 – today, Clearwater is Montana’s second-largest credit union and its largest US Treasury Department certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). A member-owned, not-for-profit banking cooperative, Clearwater proudly serves over 54,633 members across 20 counties in Western Montana and is committed to donating 5% of net income each year to local organizations and non-profits.
It was 1956, and many Missoula Police Officers faced a similar problem. While they were thrilled to serve as police officers, their average salary barely covered the basics for burgeoning families, and it was hard to get ahead financially. That's when eight enterprising Missoula Police Officers pooled their savings and made loans to one another, at cheaper rates than they could get at the local banks. They incorporated as Missoula Federal Credit Union (MFCU), and each of the original eight members contributed $40. That $320 was the first cooperative capital on the credit union's balance sheet. As membership grew, the charter was expanded to include state employees (in 1963) and public-school employees (in 1965).
Steady growth continued and picked up considerably throughout the 1980s, when the credit union merged with the University of Montana Credit Union bringing its total membership to over 8,500 and total assets to more than $7 million. MFCU changed to a community charter in 1981 that expanded the field of membership to serve anyone who lived or worked in Missoula County or parts of Ravalli County. Switching to a community charter, the 1984 merger with Missoula Northern Pacific Federal Credit Union, and the expansion into Lake County, contributed to MFCU being ranked first in the nation for loan growth among credit unions in 1992. In 2002, the credit union charter was expanded again to serve anyone who lives, works, worships, attends school, volunteers in, or participates in membership-based organizations headquartered in Missoula, Ravalli, and Lake Counties. Along with serving more Montanans, the credit union became Montana's largest CDFI, a member of Inclusiv, and in 2017, was invited to join the Global Alliance for Banking on Values. The strategic focus on values-based banking, along with the continued expansion of service to new communities, was the catalyst for the MFCU rebranding to Clearwater Credit Union (Clearwater) on September 3, 2019.
As of 2022, Clearwater's field of membership includes 20 counties across Western Montana - serving more than 54,633 members, and we manage more than $875 million in assets on Balance Sheet and $265 million in assets off Balance Sheet. Clearwater has seen a lot of changes in the last 66 years. Guiding us through these changes has been our commitment to our members, being transparent, investing in our communities, and being a force for good.
Photo of the 1956 Missoula Police Department featuring eight of the founding members of Missoula Federal Credit Union – now Clearwater Credit Union.
CEO and President, Jack Lawson, presenting the new Clearwater Credit Union brand to credit union staff in the spring of 2019.
August 2021 – Clearwater staff mark the 1-year anniversary of the Clearwater Credit Union branch in Uptown Butte, Montana with a community celebration and a donation to Habitat for Humanity of Southwest Montana.