Community Ties Strengthen Klem's Career, Credit Union
Janikke Klem is one of those people who is adept at just figuring things out. She accepted the position as vice president of community and government relations at the $2.1 billion, San Jose, Calif.-based Technology Credit Union when she was pregnant with her now two-and-a-half-year-old twins. She said she wanted to work with then CEO Barbara Kamm and the opportunity was one she just couldn't pass up. So, she took the position and did what she always does: She figured it out.
The most recent Women to Watch honoree serves as the external voice of the credit union. She understands how building community partnerships and engaging with government officials is integral to the success of the credit union.
She left her job as director of alumni engagement at San Jose State University for her first job in the credit union industry at Tech CU. Klem brought her existing network, and built on her existing community partnerships and community engagements before taking maternity leave. When she returned, it was back to full steam ahead.
Shortly after starting at Tech CU three years ago, Klem formalized an employee volunteer program, which gives employees one day off per year to volunteer with one of the credit union's established community partners.
Thus far, it's been a success. In the last two years, employees have logged more than 450 volunteer hours.
“It's really brought a sense of pride to the organization. It's … building us as brand ambassadors, it's building a sense of camaraderie in our employees to work with our community partners that we’ve established,” Klem emphasized.
Klem engages with a variety of community members and legislators on various issues. She worked with community college districts and local and state officials on the passage of California Senate Bill 850, which established a statewide baccalaureate degree pilot program in each of California's community college districts. Klem said the passage of the bill will increase the number of trained workers in Silicon Valley.
“It's really important for us to focus on workforce development. We want to see the tech ecosystem thrive here and have a great pipeline of workers to come into that ecosystem,” she said.
Tech CU's roots are deeply embedded in the heart of Silicon Valley. The credit union was founded in 1960 by employees at Fairchild Camera and Instrument Semiconductor Corporation (now Fairchild Semiconductor), according to the credit union's website. It has stuck to its technology roots by promoting education about its background.
Since 2007, the credit union has invested nearly $1.3 million in Bay Area communities. This money goes to supporting local organizations in STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math), workforce development, financial literacy, affordable housing, and health and wellness.
When Tech CU opened up a branch in San Francisco in 2015, Klem created a community grant challenge in which the credit union awarded a total of $15,000 to three San Francisco-based non-profits.
The contest was launched primarily on social media and anyone could vote for the non-profit of their choice. Credit union members voted and non-profits reached out to their followers, which ultimately encouraged more participation in the contest.
“We wanted to come into the community and really let the community know we were here, not only from a business standpoint, but to let them know we were really coming in to be part of the community,” Klem recalled.
She said overall, it was a fun way to come into a new market, bring in the credit union's community presence, fund some great organizations and have people participate in the whole process.
Klem also serves on multiple boards, partly to increase the credit union's presence in the community. The impact is great and the financial cost is minimal, and Klem said she encourages other credit union leaders to do the same.
“You start to build a lot of relationships from this that aren't just sales relationships. Some really good business does end up coming from them because we develop these wonderful relationships. It's kind of a win-win. We get a lot of work done in the community and our name is also getting out there as well, which is fantastic,” Klem said.
As the tide shifts in the credit union industry, Klem said it's important for credit unions to be agile and stay up to date on current events and market trends.
“Really knowing what's going on is important because then you can respond to market changes and follow what the tech trends are. Folks around here are three steps ahead of us if we’re not careful,” she emphasized.
In a place like Silicon Valley, technology is king and competition can be fierce. There are more than 125 financial institutions that people can choose from in the valley, Klem said. Instead of running from the competition, Tech CU is embracing it.
“We’re in conversations with some of the [financial technology] companies to see what types of new technologies we can create with some of the new technology … we’re starting to embrace some of that and see how we can incorporate that into the work we’re doing, and how we can innovate and evolve, just as the companies around us are,” she said.