RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- In the midst of upheavals within the financial services arena, Altura Credit Union is relying on its in-house talent to continue to keep the forward momentum going.
To make that happen, several key management changes were announced on June 5. Gerry Agnes, who recently served as president and chief operating officer of the $1 billion Altura, is now the chief financial officer. Agnes has held various posts at the credit union, including president of Altura Group Inc. and Patrion Insurance Services Inc.
Altura's CEO Mark Hawkins said that the difficulties throughout the financial services industry are creating opportunities for those willing to take the steps necessary to pursue them.
"Altura continues to grow, but we live in a rapidly changing world. We want to be prepared to respond to those changes quickly and effectively," Hawkins said. "It's about having the right people in the right spots while utilizing their talents to our best advantage."
Agnes said he was open to the idea of the senior team move. Hawkins sought out Agnes to bring Patrion Insurance and Patrion Mortgage LLC to profitability, he explained. In March 2007, Hawkins asked Agnes to become president of Altura. The request was unique in that it meant Hawkins, who had previously served as both CEO/president, would relinquish the latter role.
"This is not the first time Mark has asked me to do something," Agnes said. "There are a lot of challenges that credit unions are facing. My goal is to help shore up some of those challenges."
In other management shifts, Jennifer Binkley, formerly president of Auto Expert, a subsidiary of Altura, has moved over to the credit union and is now its new chief operating officer. Binkley has led Auto Expert's growth since 2003. Chris Andrus, vice president of Auto Expert, has been named its new president.
Auto Expert, an auto locator and buying service CUSO with more than 25 credit union clients, has seen its share of accolades. Earlier this year, it received both the California Governor's award for excellence and the gold level California award for performance excellence. The California Council on Excellence awarded auto expert with the gold level California award for performance excellence, or CAPE, the highest distinction that any organization can receive in California, according to CAPE awards. This was the second time Auto Expert has been recognized with a CAPE award.
"We do have some good people here," Hawkins said. "Gerry is one of the sharpest financial minds that I have the privilege to work with and I think he is the best person for the job."
In March 2007, Altura moved Auto Expert, Patrion Insurance, Patrion Mortgage and Amerit Escrow Inc. into one building in a move to consolidate operations and make way for future growth. All the shifts, be they management or operational, have one target--providing a buffer against difficulties that have affected not only banks but credit unions. Hawkins cited Callahan data that showed the nosedives in return on assets for credit union, banks and community banks at 60, 59 and negative 16 basis points, respectively. Capital at community banks remains in a death grip. Outside of credit union land, others are grappling with the squeeze. Hawkins said at a meeting with the local United Way, the CEO said fundraising over the past year was down 12%, the first decline in 20 years.
"It's a very tough marketplace out there. The Inland Empire is about as challenged in a lot of ways as any place in the nation," Hawkins said.
On the plus side, Hawkins said he is confident that the recent management adjustments are in Altura's best interest.
"We are very fortunate at Altura to have some outstanding talent," Hawkins said. "These changes address needs in our organization with people we already had on board. The appointments we [have announced] are focused on people who have demonstrated their expertise, talent and dedication to Altura. We look forward to further preparing ourselves to take full advantage of marketplace opportunities while maintaining our attention on the delivery of quality products and services to our members."