TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Bill Birdwell hasn't exactly eased his way into the CEO position at Southeast Corporate FCU. Instead he's thundered in with his competitive guns blazing. Change has come swiftly at the $2.8 billion Southeast Corporate FCU under the guidance of Birdwell, who assumed the CEO position in June. Birdwell doesn't like to use the term "sleeping giant", but said there is a lot of untapped potential for SECORP just waiting to explode. "I don't know if we're a `giant' at $2.8 billion, but I can tell you we are no longer sleeping. We've given this place a dose of smelling salts," said Birdwell, who emphasized that he is having the time of his life moving SECORP in new directions. "I feel like my career has been 25 years of training for this job. We now have to go out and gain a reputation. We want to earn that reputation," said Birdwell. The multitude of changes Birdwell has made in a short three-month span are all aimed at making SECORP instantly more competitive, he said. "We had to rapidly increase our ability to compete. At first we had a defensive strategy because we had some offerings that had a void or gap. That was primarily item processing. Southwest Corporate was in here aggressively marketing item processing." SECORP did move fast with item processing. Its item processing center is now up and running in Jacksonville, and is currently processing over two million items a month for approximately 33 credit unions. Southwest Corporate also has an item processing facility in Jacksonville, so the competitive lines are drawn, said Birdwell. "We're now taking on a more offensive strategy. We have changed around our account offerings and investment offering mix." Case in point. SECORP has unveiled a new high-yield overnight account called Funds Plus. Members can sweep their transaction accounts each day into Funds Plus for a premium yield on their liquid funds. It's a tiered account that can give both its full-fledged members and associate members higher yield opportunities. Birdwell has also made innovative changes to turn SECORP members on to the Internet channel. The corporate's Web site (www.secorp.com) has been completely revamped, with an emphasis on more functionality – functionality Birdwell wants to reward CUs for using. "We now incent credit unions to use the site on a self-service basis. If they invest in their Funds Plus account through the Internet, they get one basis point more for doing so. We'll be happy to do it for them over the phone, but they'll lose one basis point. We're trying to incent behavior," said Birdwell. Birdwell is also beefing up the corporate's management ranks. He recently brought over three senior staffers from VolCorp, where Birdwell was once CEO, and one from CNBS. Birdwell said he only recruited one of the VolCorp hires directly, while the other two sort of recruited SECORP. "We've strengthened our staff considerably. Our next big challenge is on the investment side. We'll be beefing up our investment staff and increasing our offerings." The corporate is actively looking for a chief investment officer and a portfolio manager. Membership requirements are also changing. Credit unions used to need one-half of 1% of their assets in MCA to join the corporate. That threshold has been bumped down to just one-tenth of 1% of assets. With a national FOM, the move makes it easier for CUs across the country looking to diversify, to join SECORP. After six months of being with SECORP, the membership requirement changes. "They can join for as little as one-tenth of 1%, then (after a full six-month period) it is based on their usage. It changes to 4% of their deposits with the corporate," said Birdwell. "We'll be switching everyone to this new method in 2003." That method is not for associate members, which can join for as little as $100 and receive all services, expect they earn 5BP less on investments (not on transaction accounts). No revamping would be complete without a brand makeover. "We're going to try and reposition our whole image. Part of that is a new logo with a modern look and feel. Before we didn't really have a brand, we just had a name," said Birdwell. The new SECORP logo (shown on this page) is now in play, but Birdwell said a marketing company is currently shoring up the corporate's new slogan. Birdwell even has his eye on garnering expanded investment powers from NCUA, but having gone through the process at WesCorp he knows it's a slow, careful process. "I don't want to put a timeline on it, but it's something we'll get done." SECORP has 443 CU members. The majority are in Florida, with members also coming from Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, California, Puerto Rico, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. [email protected]

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