Want Growth? Check Your Corporate Culture
As far as Jay Magulski and Mark Hudzik are concerned, growth isn’t something you turn over to the marketing or corporate development department and figure the job is done.
Both Magulski, president/CEO of the $2 billion Landmark Credit Union in New Berlin, Wisc., and Hudzik, chief development officer at $525 million Member One Federal Credit Union in Roanoke, Va., emphasize growth flows from the overall corporate culture, meaning, it must be part of an overall strategic plan.
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“It’s not something you turn on and off,” Magulski said. “It has to be a consistent mindset in the culture of the organization. It won’t be perfectly symmetrical in any comparison of one year to the next, but it’s always part of the framework of what you believe is important for the organization.”
Magulski credits Ron Kase, who just retired as president/CEO of Landmark, for establishing the credit union’s culture.
“We believe it’s important to maintain a growth-oriented philosophy within our organization,” Magulski said. “We don’t believe we can sit back and say our growth strategy is focused on one component and that’s all we’re going to be concerned with. Each day we come to work knowing we’ve got to do a great job taking care of our existing members and finding ways to share our story.”
If Landmark continues to successfully grow, this allows it to deliver on its brand promise to its members by continuing to reinvest in new technology solutions, new product development as well as expanding the credit union’s branch network and other delivery channels, Magulski noted.
In addition, he believes Landmark associates get advantages because there are additional employment and promotion opportunities. An expanding company creates excitement for employees. Finally, it allows Landmark to give back even more in the way of volunteer hours and dollars invested in the communities it serves.
Magulski added strategic growth focuses on organic growth, which means continuing to expand existing relationships and boosting share of wallet. There is usually some way to expand that share, he stated.
Attracting new members is also part of the strategy, and that involves word-of-mouth as well as marketing, he continued.
“By Landmark doing things so well, at some point, members want to expand their relationship with us and tell their family and friends about us,” Magulski said.
“We’ve also been able to put ourselves in a position where we’ve been able to partner with some other financial institutions and do some mergers and acquisitions that have allowed us to strategically grow the organization.”
Lending, for instance, is an extremely important component of the growth plan, Magulski offered. He describes a good loan as the best investment Landmark can make. The credit union is top auto lender in southeast Wisconsin and also boasts a significant mortgage loan portfolio, he added.
However, pursuing growth for the sake of growth just to say you want to be a certain size or announce you have opened a new branch or completed a merger, is not the best route, Magulski cautioned. All growth is not sound and all growth is not profitable, he indicated.
It’s important to never take organic growth for granted and to make sure members love their experience at Landmark, Magulski said. That feeds new member growth as existing members tout the credit union. As for acquisitions and mergers, he advised, don’t get caught up in a frenzy that you simply must complete a certain number of mergers in a given time period. A merger should be a good fit for both institutions and it’s essential to perform due diligence.
Hudzik at Member One also decries growth for the sake of growth.
“What my team and I do is focus on membership growth,” he explained. “Once you understand what membership growth means, you create a strategy going forward from there. We’re really trying to define our target market and match up services we offer.”
Instead of financial services, it can be financial education, Hudzik said. It can also be debt counseling or offering community sponsorships to help other nonprofits in the area.
Still, do most credit unions seem to be following a reasoned approach to growth?
“I talk to credit unions a lot,” Hudzik answered. “Unfortunately, some have a brick and mortar strategy – build it and they will come. But reaching into the community has changed. The community has changed. A lot of other financial institutions realize what we’re doing. I’m seeing more competition from banks for sponsorships or partner companies. A few years ago they were not visible.”
Retention is just as important as signing up new members, Hudzik continued, adding you have to keep the back door closed or there’s a draft sweeping through.
Hudzik also stressed the importance of staying up to date with the needs of partner companies. He cited the example of a select employee group that provides home health care. Employees must meet certification requirements and that takes money. So Member One has developed a targeted line of credit to help those employees pay for the necessary education.
When Hudzik approaches a company, he asks about their employees: what is their average age; are they homeowners or renters and is transportation a problem? Today, Member One lists 557 SEGs and that count has grown 28% in four years, he said.
Many credit unions are basing their growth plans on either community charters or adding SEGs, Hudzik indicated. Members One is doing both including expanding into Lynchburg, Va.
“The big hurdle for a lot of credit unions today is the planning process for growth,” Hudzik said. “Planning is not a one-time meeting or a weekend retreat any more. You have to constantly monitor the environment, consumer behavior, the competition, regulations, products and services.”