Phillips Focuses on Service to Others First: T40B
Chris Phillips’ preference for possibilities over obstacles is infectous.
“Never miss an opportunity to show up. Ninety percent of anything is just being there, whether it's community involvement, networking, just do whatever you can to make yourself a better person and your organization the best it can be,” he said.
Those aren't just words to Phillips.
The latest Trailblazer 40 Below has always been driven by the belief that if he can help, he must.
“I love helping and inspiring others to do well,” said the vice president of marketing at the Decatur, Ill.-based Land of Lincoln Credit Union. “Whether it's in the community or professionally I have this need to help. For me it's about solving the puzzle. To see something come to fruition and just be a part of the process, I love it.”
Phillips said to never underestimate the power of trusting and believing in someone on your team. He added that prefers to focus on identifying and developing individual strengths and recognition even if it means someone may move on to another organization.
“I always tell my people, ‘You know what? I’d rather have awesome people that everyone wants than people no one wants,’” he said. “So I want to help them get the skills, training, experience, whatever it is they need to achieve their goals.”
Service can be a double-edge sword, as it keeps him busy and he has a hard time saying no. But, he said it suits him, as he has always been an avid learner.
“I’ve never regretted something I’ve tried to do even if it fails,” he said. “It's about go big or go home. I think in order to see if something will work you can't do it halfway. Put your best idea on the table and see if you can make it happen.”
A careful listener, Phillips welcomes and incorporates feedback as part of the process to get the buy-in needed to further initiatives. Since joining the credit union some seven years ago, it has grown from $85 million in assets and serving 20,000 members to more than $199 million and 27,302 members.
Land of Lincoln has also earned numerous marketing awards from the CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council, Illinois Credit Union League, CUES and NAFCU. Philips has also been honored by his local credit union chapter in recognition of his contributions and service to the industry.
A community-focused rebranding helped Land of Lincoln CU build awareness as a true resource and local partner.
From creating a 21 Film Project, a competition which has provided local filmmakers a platform to showcase their talent during the popular Decatur Celebration, to WeSaveProject.org, which not only provides members financial tools to save money but also offers local merchant coupons and opportunities for members to trade everything from mugs to books, the credit union has continued to evolve its community interactions.
“Marketing is like a cog in a watch and we were just missing that gear. When they added that gear in it made everything else work easier and faster,” Phillips said. “I’m so lucky to have such a progressive board and CEO who understand how branding and marketing can help the organization as a whole.”
Selected as a member of the Filene i3 program helped further his lessons in effective collaboration and getting ideas off the ground. To Phillips, the creation and implementation of products and services such as The Big Payoff Loan, a credit card and debt reduction program, and HomeTracks, an online program for tracking home repairs and expenses, represent a step in the right direction for the industry to distinguish itself from competitors.
“We could do better with building a national awareness, but what immediately comes to mind is that we have to talk philosophy, membership and why consumers should belong to a credit union. If those messages are so important to consumers why do we only own 6% of the market share? If it's such an exciting differentiation point, we should have people knocking down our doors. We don't because it's not a motivator,” Phillips said. “It is after we get them in the door but it's not going to drive them in. “We as an industry should have a product and service focus on what we do, take a risk and create something disruptive that gives consumers a reason to walk in the door. Then we can share our stories, philosophy, show them how it's a better member experience and that credit unions really care, after they walk in.”
Phillips said he has been encouraged by credit union media attention over the past few years, which has resulted in greater awareness compared to just 10 years ago. But, he said, more can still be done in terms of collaboration. For example, he suggested strategic conversations that develop solutions around topics like mobile payments, national branding and drawing talent from outside the industry.
“Sometimes we drink our own Kool-Aid and can forget the way others in the world think and act upon things,” he said. “Price, service, convenience are just table stakes now. We have to create and present our products and services in a way that is tangible and meaningful that answers the question why you should bank with us instead of a bank.”
Land of Lincoln CU, for example, doesn't just tout lower auto loan rates but also the speed of its loan approvals (15 minutes) and how much interest it has saved members (more than $1 million and counting).
He added that credit unions should ask how they are perceived outside of their walls and how to infuse new ideas and expertise by drawing top talent from other industries.
“We could have the best rates, but pricing is only one factor. How many people would switch their hairdresser simply because of a $3 coupon from another hairdresser? Loyalty, service, all of it matters,” Phillips said. “How can we attract expertise we need, for example, in technology to be a part of our industry as employees? If we want different perspectives then we need to look beyond hiring the same people with the same financial services industry background.”