When Robert Cashman talks about members who have been with Metro Credit Union for two or three generations, he pretty much knows what he’s talking about.
After graduating from Boston University School of Management, he wasn’t certain what he wanted to do, so he figured he’d spend about six months at Metro in Chelsea, Mass. He had already worked at the credit union part-time even while he was in high school, and did have some ties there.
The credit union was founded by his grandfather, George Cashman, as Chelsea Credit Union. By the time Robert joined the staff, his father Marvin was CEO. So maybe he’d like working there.
Evidently he did. He’s been there since 1983. Starting in marketing he scurried to build SEG relationships, then served stints in accounting, collections, lending and other departments. Today he’s the one sitting in the CEO’s office, and his father Marvin is on the board of directors.
“From something I thought I might give a try for six months, in a few months I’ll be celebrating 30 years,” he muses. He’s been CEO for 15 years.
Actually, Cashman noted, many employees have been there 15, 20, 30 even 40 years.
“The managers I work with at all levels consider ourselves to be working managers,” he said. “My managerial style calls for strong communication. One of the challenges these days is that everyone seems to like to do things over the phone or by e-mail. But I really enjoy doing it in person.”
“We have quarterly meetings with all the managers, and I have weekly staff meetings with our senior management team. I spend a great deal of time walking throughout the building and visiting the branches. A lot of employees communicate with me whether it be in person or through the CEO suggestion box. I think communication goes a long way.” Today, with $1.1 billion in assets, Metro is one of the largest credit unions in Massachusetts and Cashman doesn’t see any limits on further growth.
“We’re always looking for opportunities,” he said. “We’re fortunate our field of membership is pretty broad. We’re a state-chartered community credit union which covers a variety of counties. We’re also a leader in terms of select employee groups and have 1,800 SEGs.”
“In addition, I think Metro has built a very strong reputation, a very strong brand. We’re well-known for providing good products and services with competitive pricing. We get a lot of referral business and have members who have been with us for many years. We’re working on the second and third generation.”
These members represent a broad demographic profile, Cashman said. Branches are located in low- to moderate-income communities as well as middle- to upper-income areas. Although Metro did see some gains from the tendency of people who disillusioned with large banks to seek options, Cashman believes membership has grown from Metro’s aggressive effort to get its message out.
The credit union is involved in a number of community efforts. Last year the CONNECT program drew a lot of media attention. CONNECT was established as a one-stop resource offering financial education, savings and employment programs.
In addition to Metro, other organizations providing services include CareerSource, Centro Latino, Bunker Hill Community College, Chelsea Neighborhood Developers and Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership.
Such positive publicity can’t hurt growth. Mergers have also contributed to the credit union’s expansion. Last September, Metro joined with Massachusetts State Employees Credit Union, which had $61 million in assets. The latest alliance was completed March 3 with $1 million Fenwal Credit Union in Ashland, Mass. Mergers, Cashman indicated, have often provided branches in new locations, although the Ashland area will now be served by a nearby Metro branch.
Despite the economic downturn and slow recovery, Metro is currently hovering around a 100% loan-to-share ratio. Delinquency and charge-offs are low. Mortgage lending, commercial loans and indirect lending continue to blossom.
Another plus for the credit union has been its My Reward Checking product. Members who select direct deposit have all ATM fees refunded no matter who owns the ATM or where in the world they punch the buttons. My Reward also offers cash back up to $250 a year on debit card purchases and a linked My Reward Savings currently paying 4 percent APY on daily balances up to $3,000. There’s also free on-line banking and bill pay.
Every financial institution struggles with technology, Cashman noted. It demands considerable effort to make certain what the credit union lists on its products and services menu actually matches consumer behavior. A growing regulatory burden adds to the headaches.
“The time and energy required for compliance being placed on credit unions, the time spend on documentation, risk management–a variety of things are taking up a tremendous amount of time and human resources,” Cashman stated.
“More people need to be hired. If you hire more people that creates more expense, and that puts additional earning pressure on the institution. You hear from many of the smaller credit unions that they’re not able to get to some of the day-to-day stuff because they’re doing reporting and tracking for government and audit purposes.”
But Cashman is bullish on Metro’s future. Five or ten years from now he expects the credit union will continue to be strong and financially secure with a strong capital ratio and even more branches.
Cashman states he believes in a work hard, play hard philosophy. He’s involved with the fund-raising activities of various philanthropic organizations. He enjoys running and spinning, and after exercising spending time with family and friends.
“I like to enjoy a nice meal and being with people I want to spend my down time with,” he said.
About Metro Credit Union
Assets $1.1 billion
Capital-to-asset ratio 10.78%
Loan portfolio $887 million
About Robert Cashman
Graduate of Boston University
Third generation with the credit union
CEO since 1998