As we celebrate the beginning of a new year, I want to reflect on some of your credit union's accomplishments in 2022 and share how we will continue to support you in 2023.
Looking back at 2022
2022 was wrought with economic uncertainties - rising interest rates, continued elevated housing prices, inflation, stock market ups and downs, and higher costs at the gas pump and grocery store. Many of these challenges impacted you, our members, and our communities, and we worked hard to navigate them together. Whether it was offering solutions to help you adjust and better manage your finances, expanding our options to serve you, or donating our time and efforts to help those in greatest need, South Carolina Federal Credit Union stayed true to its 86-year heritage of people helping people.
One of our proudest moments last year was launching a financial wellness platform, offering personalized content, interactive tools, articles and videos, and engaging courses designed to help you identify solutions to your current and future financial needs. Offering this robust platform is just one of the ways we demonstrate how we are here to help – whether it's managing your day-to-day expenses, experiencing freedom from debt, weathering life's inevitable storms, protecting what you have worked hard for, or setting yourself up for financial agility in the future.
We had the incredible opportunity to expand our presence in the upstate by merging with G.H.S. Federal Credit Union. This merger enabled us to welcome 9,000 new members into the South Carolina Federal family and establish two financial centers in Greenville. Since opening our doors to this amazing community, we did what we do best - support a number of charitable organizations, connect our employees with local volunteer opportunities, and help thousands of folks achieve their financial goals.
Another highlight was something you, our loyal members, bestowed upon us: being honored with several local awards identifying us as a top financial institution. We were named the Best Financial Institution by readers of the Charleston City Paper and Summerville Journal Scene, and the Best Credit Union by readers of Charleston Living Magazine, Mt. Pleasant Magazine, and Lowcountry Parent Mom's Choice. We appreciate your recognition of the work we do to serve you well.
In addition to our "Best Place to Bank" awards, we were also recognized as a "Best Place to Work." American Banker selected us as one of the Best Credit Unions to Work For in 2022, ranking us No. 2 overall and No. 1 among credit unions in South Carolina. Finally, we were named one of the Best Places to Work by SC Biz News (for the 10th time!) and Glassdoor, the world's largest jobs and recruiting site. We are proud of who we hire and of the service they deliver each and every day.
Looking ahead to 2023
We are thrilled to continue expanding our footprint across the state this year. We will open our first financial center in Horry County in the spring, and we will open two additional financial centers in Greenville – one in Mauldin and another in Five Forks. Offering you convenient access is our goal – whether it is over the phone, via online or mobile banking, or through one of our convenient financial centers. Stay tuned for information on how we'll celebrate the opening of these new locations.
In 2023, we also look forward to further supporting our communities. One of my favorite ways we give back is through our scholarship program. We will begin accepting applications for our 12th annual scholarship program this month, awarding nine scholarships totaling $45,000 to students attending a traditional or technical college or university in South Carolina. You can learn more about our program at https://www.scfederal.org/scholarship.
From an economic perspective, interest rates and inflation will continue to have significant impacts on the budgets and purchasing power of South Carolinians in 2023. We remain in a rising interest rate environment, and we may see additional rate increases this year as the Fed continues its efforts to control inflation.
This is particularly important as the continued elevated costs of everyday products and services further put pressure on your wallet. This level of inflation is driving many to rely on credit cards to make ends meet; according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Americans' total credit card balance was $925 billion in the third quarter of 2022. This represents a 15% increase year-over-year, the largest increase in more than 20 years.
If you're concerned about your finances going into this year, please reach out to us to see how we can help. We are here to help and will connect you with the right products, tools, or services to ensure you are on the path to comprehensive financial wellness.
Thank you for being part of the South Carolina Federal family. We value your membership, appreciate your support, and look forward to working together for many years to come.
Happy New Year!