Education, Innovation Pave Glenn's Path to Success
Hanging in Adele Glenn's office is her framed college diploma. At home hangs another degree for her two daughters to see. The two frames serve as small, but powerful reminders of her accomplishments that she tirelessly worked to achieve – all while working full-time.
After completing just a few classes, Glenn will be able to add another frame to the wall, this time for a master's degree in business administration. Since having her second daughter this past year, time has been even tighter, but the reward of setting a positive example for her children is well worth it for her, she said.
Glenn, emerging channels innovation architect at the $2.8 billion San Antonio Federal Credit Union in San Antonio, said she was determined to get her degrees before her girls graduated with their own.
And she completed her degrees free from student loan debt.
“Our credit union has 100% tuition assistance,” the most recent Women to Watch honoree said. “It took me five years, but I was able to graduate with two undergraduate degrees.”
Glenn said she wishes someone would have told her how hard it was to go to school as a working mom.
“I’ve gone back to the 16-year-old me and felt that I should have just gone to college then … however, I wouldn't trade it for the world: How everything fell into place, and it did fall into place,” she emphasized.
She said the degrees didn't happen without struggle, but she now has a huge sense of accomplishment.
Her entry into the professional world started early. Glenn graduated high school at 16 and wasn't quite ready for college, so instead, she opened up a catering and wedding planning business.
After moving the business to California, intelligence, fate and good timing intersected when she was making a deposit for her business at her local credit union.
“The branch manager's email was down and I ended up fixing her email,” she recalled. “She ended up offering me a job in the computer room.”
The thought of extra money was enticing and she loved computers and technology, so Glenn accepted a position in the credit union's data center, where she was given the flexibility to test and develop new tools.
“They let me play, and the more I played, the more I loved what I could make the system do,” she said. “When people found out I could do things, they were asking for a ton.”
Her then CEO provided some career-changing advice: Stop giving people what they ask for and give them what they actually need.
“It was a completely different spin. What if I started asking questions back, and what if I found out what they need?” Glenn emphasized. “Sometimes people are asking for something but they don't realize the big picture; so if I use inquisitive lines of questioning and get down to what needs to be done, I stay in the solution space.”
She took this piece of helpful advice and integrated it into her current position at SACU.
The credit union launched a kiosk initiative that allows members to perform self-service options that they would traditionally have to complete with a teller at a branch location. Glenn wanted to figure out what members needed, so the credit union identified the top 25 transactions that were taking place in the branch and whether they could be automated through self-service.
But when Glenn went looking for a self-service kiosk for the credit union, she couldn't find one.
“I was looking for a solution and it didn't exist, so I was actually able to partner up with some thought leaders in the industry,” she recalled. “We were able to conceptualize and design a kiosk solution for credit unions – it took us 18 months from start to finish.”
On day one of the kiosk launch, the credit union implemented 21 of its top 25 transactions. Phase two of the project will include an additional 15 functionalities.
“The kiosks enable members to do transactions in the easiest way, or the way they want to do them,” Glenn said.
The kiosks are fully automated and available to members in branches and at off-site locations.
Thus far, member satisfaction with self-service kiosks has been high, Glenn said. In 2014, the CUNA Technology Counsel honored SACU with the Excellence in Technology Award for the kiosks.
Glenn said she is also excited about a new product she's been working on called Card Control. When it launches at SACU this summer, members will be able to control their credit and debit card preferences from their mobile phones. Glenn said the solution will be great for families or anyone else concerned about card fraud.
With Card Control, members will be able to take complete control of their cards and monitor their children's cards. Members who rarely complete online purchases can elect to turn them off, and if they do decide to buy something from an online retailer, they can turn it on and back off again when they’re done.
Glenn said she is always trying to stay a step ahead of security and regulations. She partners with the credit union's governmental affairs team to stay in tune with what's coming next.
“We’re faced with insurmountable regulations,” she said. “If we can be a step ahead of the CFPB and ahead of the regulators when those regulations come down, we don't have to spend all of our time patching, fixing or doing those things to get caught up in regulations,” she said.
Glenn emphasized managing the complexity and enormity of regulations is one of the biggest challenges facing smaller credit unions. Bigger credit unions have more capacity to handle regulations because of larger staff, but they’re also at higher risk of being targeted by banks, she said.
“For credit unions that are staying true to their social mission, the fear of being targeted by banks isn't as much of a focus,” she emphasized. “We try to stay true to our social mission and provide financial solutions to our members and … that goes a long way in being viable.”
Because her focus is staying true to the social mission, the sky is the limit for the projects she gets to work on, Glenn said. It's not just about whether something is profitable; it's about whether it's going to help members achieve their goals.