KINGSPORT, Tenn. – At $1.15 billion in assets, Eastman Credit Union is the largest financial institution in northeastern Tennessee and the 56th largest credit union in the nation. One contributing factor, says Olan O. Jones, Jr., Eastman’s president and CEO, is the long-running success of Eastman Chemical Company, the largest employer in the area and the credit union’s sole sponsor until this year. Equally as important, Jones says, is the pervasive service culture that drives everything the credit union does and helps them earn a high percentage of every member’s pocketbook. That bias toward customer service consistently earns the credit union a top-10 ranking in multiple categories, including return on members, average account balance and average loan-to-share ratio, in Callahan & Associates’ Performance Leaders from America’s 100 Largest Credit Unions. “We pride ourselves on listening to members and, to the best of our ability, anticipating what they want. We don’t sell, but rather help members determine what they need,” Jones said. From factory worker to executive, male to female, young to old, the credit union strives to serve all members. “We take an egalitarian approach,” Jones explained, “a long-term view of relationships. If grandpa comes in with $50 trying to find the best place to put it, we’ll talk to him all afternoon if that’s what it takes to meet his needs. I feel pretty safe in saying that most of the employees have a good feeling when we go home at night that we’ve been able to help our members.” Much of the credit union’s success results from hiring the best people, according to Jones, and from a strong pay structure and benefit plan. Factor in an emphasis on promoting from within and the credit union has employee turnover of less than 1%. “We intentionally overpay our tellers, and we don’t hire them right out of school. We want them to have 3-4 years’ experience and success, so we often hire them away from banks,” Jones said. The credit union implements a group-based bonus plan, common to all employees, including the president/CEO. “Employees have the ability to earn an additional 0-20% over base pay. We have a good benefit package, too, and it’s not just for management,” he added. A team-based approach to decision making empowers staff members to contribute to the overall success of the organization. “Our philosophy at the credit union is, `Everyone does windows.’ We all contribute what we can to meet the members’ needs,” said Jones. “It’s exciting to watch committees pricing products and services. It creates a kind of innovation workshop, where everyone is contributing ideas on how we can do things better.” Prior to taking a position at the credit union in 1997 as chief operating officer, Jones was employed 20 years with Eastman Chemical Company/Eastman Kodak Company in finance and human resources. In January 1998, Jones replaced Jerry Arnold as the credit union’s president/CEO. Since Jones has been at the helm, change has been “cataclysmic.” In five years, the credit union has grown from $630 million to $1.15 billion in assets, and from 41,000 to 54,000 members. The credit union recently became a separate corporation; no longer are the credit union’s 225 employees on Eastman Chemical Company’s payroll. Also in 2002, the credit union expanded its field of membership beyond its single sponsor of 68 years to include a handful of new employee groups. The credit union has nine branches in four states, Tennessee, South Carolina, Texas, and Arkansas and will soon add a branch in Virginia. A new headquarters building in Kingsport also is being planned. A full service institution, Eastman focuses on integrating technology with products and services. With many high-tech members, it must stay out front with electronic services, such as bill pay, check imaging, online lending and nearly 40 ATMs. Internet penetration and usage runs about 18%. The credit union also has an investment brokerage, on-site insurance representatives, and a successful first-time homebuyers program. Perhaps most impressive to members are the dividends they receive at the credit union. “We are somewhat unique in that we pay dividends to both borrowers and savers,” Jones said. “We believe we have to have both to function as a successful financial institution. If we have more capital than safety and soundness require and you borrowed or saved with us during the year, you’ll receive your pro rata share in dividends. Members sometimes get substantial checks in January about the time Christmas bills come due. That doesn’t hurt the way they feel about us.” Aligned with the region’s largest employer, Eastman Credit Union has a “virtual community charter,” but Eastman Chemical Company has steadily downsized over recent years. To insure future growth, the credit union plans to expand membership opportunities to a small number of larger employee groups. “We’re not looking for rampant growth; quality growth is the focus,” Jones said. “We have mission and vision statements and a one-page business model that states where we are today and where we want to be five years out.” The credit union places a priority on efficient use of resources. “We pride ourselves on paying higher rates on deposits and lower rates on loans, while still maintaining a high return on assets. We do this by keeping our expenses down. We want to maintain operational excellence.” Jones said he and the credit union are the beneficiaries of a committed board of directors and other volunteers. He shows his own dedication by investing in the credit union movement and his community. Currently, he serves on the executive committee of the Credit Union Legislative Action Committee and on the boards of the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors Council, the Tennessee Credit Union League, the East Tennessee State University Foundation and numerous civic organizations. “At the credit union, we feel a social responsibility to donate our time and resources to charitable organizations. My employees have built a habitat, renovated a charitable organization through Day of Caring, and several employees have leadership roles in the area United Way campaign,” he said. The 50-year-old Jones calls himself “homegrown” and a “family man.” He can view his childhood neighborhood from his office window, and he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology and a master’s degree in business administration 20 miles away at East Tennessee State University. He and Sylvia, his wife of 28 years, have two college-age children, Kevin and Sarah. Jones enjoys reading, hiking, traveling and “the increasing challenge to stay fit.” Jones relishes his daily contact with members. He remembers a conversation with former credit union CEO Jerry Arnold. “Jerry told me, `This is the best job in the company, but nobody knows it. You’d better take it.’ My only regret is that I didn’t take this position 25 years ago instead of five years ago,” Jones said. -

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