Trailblazer Award: Lender Corey Miller Puts Human Faces on Loans
For Corey Miller, the trailblazing consumer lending manager at Northwest Community Credit Union, the key word in his job title has been and remains “consumer.”
Not, he is quick to state, in the sense of encouraging out of control or over-limit consumption, but recognizing the importance of the consumer experience in the overall member relationship.
“I come from a retail background and I think I have that retail sensibility,” said the 2014 CU Times Trailblazer Lending Executive of the Year.
“You know, that old thing about the customer always being right and wanting to give customers an experience they are going to tell other people about later. I think that's a dimension I bring to lending,” Miller said.
This is something the 88,000-member, $831 million credit union in Eugene, Ore., noted in Miller's nomination as a Trailblazer, as well as the way he works with the front-line credit union staff to build those connections and ties with the third-party venders with which Northwest works.
Miller described his job as being something of a hybrid, concerned with both numbers and solid loan underwriting and with the interpersonal and human connection. Such an approach is part of the attitude he picked up not only while working in retail but also from living in a wide variety of places as part of a military family. These include Alaska where, he said, he had his first experience with the difference being part of credit union brings, joining Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union while living in Anchorage.
Every place he has lived, Miller explained, has broadened his experience and willingness to work with different people and helped prepare him for his position at Northwest.
But while Miller credits his retail and geographic backgrounds for helping him excel at this job, his results suggest determination, skill and enthusiasm play a role as well.
According to credit union records and backed up by NCUA data, consumer loans at Northwest grew by more than 27% in 2011-12 and almost 20% in 2012-13.
Rather than purchasing investments or keeping more cash on hand, Northwest makes loans to members, maintaining a 98% loan-to-deposit ratio that Miller is quick to point out did not start with him but which had been a significant tradition at the credit union since before his arrival more than 20 years ago.
“Being loaned out so much did not start with me,” Miller said, “But I think I have helped keep the tradition going.”
Among other accomplishments, balances on auto loans made in branches have increased just more than 13% and almost 36% in each of the past two years. Indirect lending with auto dealers also increased sharply as the credit union worked hard to strengthen existing relationships with dealers and build new ones and, at the same time, Northwest has seen balances on its Visa cards increase by 15% each of the past two years.
According to NCUA, Northwest closed 2013 with more than 17,000 card accounts and a total balance exceeding $40 million.
“It's not just getting an idea of what a member can afford in, for example, a Visa card,” Miller said. “It's what does a member really want and need from their Visa card. What are the card and the rate and the rewards that will make the card a real resource for the member, not just now, but into the future?”
Sometimes volunteering means taking part in fundraising auctions. But while Miller helped this cake bring more than $500, he confessed he did not bake it. “I am a pretty good cook, but not as good a baker,” he said.
Combining a member-centered focus and cooperation with other parts of the credit union such as data processing and marketing helped Miller create a cross selling program which put Visa cards in the hands of more new members than ever before, the credit union explained.
“Many people try to cross sell to new members, but they don't approach from a qualified offer or screen existing members with business intelligence to qualify them for the specific rate, term and limit to provide an individualized, pre-approved offer” wrote CEO John Iglesias in Miller's nomination.
And this sense of cooperation with other credit union professionals to reach overall goals does not stop at the doors to Northwest as Miller is known for his work with other credit unions in areas where he has achieved success in indirect lending and building a stronger, more member-centered sales culture, his nomination said.
In addition, Miller has helped Northwest achieve this success while being a single father of two sons, fully volunteering in their school and sports activities and going back to school to obtain a business degree.
Miller said he had always intended to go back to school, but the disruption and difficulty caused by the untimely death of his wife had prevented him from doing so until now, when his sons are older and he has more control over his time.
“Part of the volunteering was for them (his sons) of course, but part of it was also because community is a big part what credit unions do and what we’re about,” Miller said.
In addition to volunteering hundreds of hours at his son's school and to helping build their baseball program, Miller has also been a steady and enthusiastic volunteer for Children's Miracle Network and other causes which credit unions widely support.
“To weigh his success against his generosity with his time and his community commitment, is to realize that he is a builder of character as well as an exemplar of it,” wrote Iglesias, adding: “I am proud he serves Northwest Community Credit Union.”