Lots of companies talk about staff members as team players, but the $83 million South Bay Credit Union found an innovative way to rally its employees.
Maricela Jauregui, vice president of member services at the credit union in Redondo Beach, Calif., had an idea on a Friday night, when, coincidentally, South Bay CEO Jennifer Oliver was at a baseball game.
They worked out a game plan for a second quarter “baseball season” of in-house competition to increase consumer loans.
Fifteen employees at the 7,000-member credit union were divided into a red and blue team, with Oliver acting as umpire. The Brick House and Loan Ranger teams were captained by experienced loan closers, with the front line and support staff enthusiastically working to gain points to get on base.
Oliver and Maricela devised a system in which any staff member could earn singles, doubles, triples, home runs and even grand slams to earn “runs” for their teams.
Front line staff learned new tasks — from taking loan applications and opening new accounts to serving as notaries — to give the loan closers more time to close loans.
“There was a real synergy,” Oliver said. “People were thinking outside the box, learning new parts of their jobs.They were totally charged because they realized what we were trying to make happen. Where before people might have said ‘it’s not my job,’ they learned how and why their support is necessary.”
Oliver noted that during the competition, South Bay’s monthly average funding for consumer loans increased by 350% from the previous four-year monthly average. April, May and June were million-dollar months, for a total of $3.4 million in consumer loans, which equaled 91% of all consumer loans business in the previous year.
The employee teams were not promised anything beyond bragging rights, Jauregui noted. Teams were given free rein to have fun, to “trash talk” and to nominate co-workers for weekly MVP prizes. Staff wore team shirts to work and that generated interest and conversation with members, who, after all, are the beneficiaries of the extra loan business.
“All loans we generate help our members,” Jauregui said. “We are excited about the savings they have achieved.”
The season ended with teams being just two runs apart. South Bay’s Board of Directors was so pleased with the results that the staff was treated to a night out at a Dodgers game, along with closing ceremonies held on a local baseball field.
Buoyed by hitting it out of the park in the second quarter, SouthBay challenged other credit unions in the network to see who could fund the most consumer loans.They are currently vying with the $35 million, 7,800-member United Advantage Northwest FCU in Portland, Ore.
Plans are underway to find a competitor for the fourth quarter. If no credit union steps up, Oliver said, she plans another in-house competition with a football theme.
Oliver’s message is that “success happens with focus and fun.”
“It’s important that team members know why it’s important to make loans and how each employee can make a difference,” she said. “It’s part of a larger cultural change, encouraging staff members to think of themselves as business partners. Finances are boring, but the baseball game gave us a tangible way to show the same goals and numbers in a fun way.”