ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — There are a lot of things recently retired CEO of Texas Dow Employees Credit Union Ed Speed does not like. Collaboration, social media and e-commerce are just for starters. But he didn’t keep his credit union from getting involved in those things.
“I hate social media. I hate e-commerce,” Speed said during his address at the Credit Union Reality Check last Wednesday. “I know you’ve got to do it, but I hate it.” He said he prefers to be face-to-face with his members, and if he began his career again, he would want to run a $100 million credit union.
That didn’t keep him from growing TDECU from a $400 million credit union to nearly $2 billion in assets over his 10-year tenure. Speed and his team accomplished this with a relentless focus on lending. TDECU’s greatest growth acceleration was aduring the financial crisis. He simply said, “We showed up.” TDECU was making loans while other lenders were turning good risks away.
“I’m obsessed about loans,” Speed said, adding that it allowed him to run a successful credit union and retire well. “A lot of you will want to come up here and tell me why your credit union is different. I welcome you not to tell me why your credit union’s different,” he quipped.
Each credit union must carve out its own “EST.” Pick your superlative: fastest, nicest, cheapest, Speed advised, and relentlessly pursue that. “Will the one thing.”
Speed added, “If you’re a board member and if you’re in a board meeting and you’re talking about loans, unless you are a net borrower, unless you borrow more than you have on deposit at the credit union, you really just need to be quiet in board meetings.”
Responsible, high-level governance is important. In eight years of board meeting minutes, Speed emphasized, you will not find one reference to pricing. As CEO, he mostly delegated it. Emphasizing the credit in credit union, he said TDECU kept its loan rates in the lowest third of the market and its deposit rates in the lowest quarter.
The board also considered anything less than 100% loaned out a failure, Speed said.
TDECU was able to achieve this via a road map of pretty good rates and really good service, he explained. First, TDECU consistently studied what members wanted rather than offering what management thought members wanted. Second, management and support staff served the employees who served the members and regularly surveyed tellers and member services representatives on that as well. Janitorial scored the highest, he pointed out when sharing each department’s scores. Support staff was trained to do whatever was needed to make it easier for the frontline staff to serve their members, such as human resources checking on insurance claims for them.
Regarding EST, Speed clarified, “We can walk and chew gum. We’re just not going to be the best at it.” He continued, “It doesn’t mean you’re going to jettison the rest if your members. It just means you’re going to be the best at something.”
The reason for that is, he added, “If members think you’re pretty good at something they’re going to leave you when something better comes along.”
Surveying members for how you compare to other financial institutions is worthless because they’ve already told you by doing business with you, Speed asserted. What you want to know is how they like the member experience. “I want to make their routine financial transaction the best during the day,” he said, so compare the experience against their hairdressers or their veterinarian, not Bank of America.
But one of the things Speed was known for prior to his retirement was raising issues of regulation and examination. What he found worked for TDECU was not to address issues with the field staff but to respond in writing to that person’s boss when there was an issue. Speed admitted that TDECU had run under different Documents of Resolution for the last six years. His response was, “They can make you miserable but they can’t put you out of business.”