Five Tips From the Billionaires’ Club
Credit Union Times regularly has the opportunity to connect with the leaders of the nation’s largest credit unions, and they’ve provided myriad nuggets of advice. Here we’ve rounded up some of the best of their business practices to share with our readers.
“It was an organization that needed a strategic plan,” Joe Brancucci said recounting when he took over as president/CEO of the $1.5 billion GTE FCU in Tampa, Fla., in 2010. Talent was in short supply, he said, merger discussions were going on with Suncoast Schools CU and GTE FCU wasn’t replacing people.
“We implemented it as part of who we are, and it focuses on creating engaged employees, who deliver a unique member experience that in turn creates engaged members,” according to Brancucci.
Not only did he introduce a strategic plan to the organization, but Brancucci was sure to communicate it with the staff to ensure they understood where GTE FCU was heading. He continues to email staff multiple times a week to keep them abreast, and GTE’s website has a link that goes directly to his email for member questions and comments. Brancucci has also taken action following member complaints about certain fees.
Balancing the old school simplicity of keeping operating expenses down and asset liability management in order to provide members a better deal is key for Fort Knox FCU President/CEO William Rissel. At his $1 billion Kentucky credit union that means offering above market savings and below market loans while maintaining a healthy return on assets.
But Fort Knox FCU isn’t content to remain old school in its products. The credit union moved into commercial lending a few years back as consumer markets dried up. The business loans aid existing members and the loans reset every three to five years, mitigating interest rate risk.
It’s your people that matter, Jim Warren, president/CEO of the $1.1 billion Tyndall Federal Credit Union in Panama City, Fla., acknowledges. When someone has a question, he can direct the person right to the person in charge of that area. And when the credit union is successful, it’s because of the employees.
"I feel very good about our management team. I believe we've built one of the best, if not the best, executive teams in the industry,” Warren said. “We have a fine group of talented people with experience from all four corners of the country. They have worked very well together. It isn't just one person who has made this place good."
Have a plan in place in case your credit union suddenly, or even not so suddenly as in the case of the $2.9 billion San Antonio Credit Union, loses its CEO. When Jeffrey Farver retired on Jan. 2, 2012, SACU was very prepared. Its transition plan had been in action for a decade.
Stephen Hennigan, previously serving as chief operating officer, is now serving as president/CEO.
Farver explained that for 10 years he had been discussing with the executive committee of the SACU board his thoughts on successors when he would head into retirement, including a range of potential interims to fully qualified candidates. SACU also brought in a recruitment specialist to discuss pros and cons of executive recruitment.
More than two years before Hennigan took over the helm, a document outlining the shift in leadership styles was distributed to the board and management.
Farver advocated for a fairly long transition period so the successor has time to implement new systems and processes for when the change occurs.
Keep pace with your unique members’ needs. The $1.2 billion NASA Federal Credit Union in Upper Marlboro, Md., has experienced the impact to its members of the budget and personnel highs and lows of its namesake. The credit union has diversified into more than 900 different SEGs that comprise mainly engineers and scientists. But that’s not all. There’s also the Montgomery County Road Runners Club or the American Consumer Council to qualify for membership.
Challenging economic times for the members meant that NASA FCU had to adapt its business. For example, the credit union launched an EarlyAccess Payroll option as part of a new premier checking program. President/CEO Doug Allman explained, “We developed EarlyAccess as an innovative way to provide NASA Federal members greater control of, and access to, their money during these challenging economic times. One day or more can make a big difference to those on tight budgets and facing financial challenges.”
NASA FCU also implemented a short-term loan program when the government debt default threatened member paychecks, and a 100% LTV mortgage program with no private mortgage insurance necessary.