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ETHPAGE, N.Y. – For 50 years a single employer field of membership worked well for Bethpage Federal Credit Union. After all, that employer was Grumman Aerospace, the largest company on Long Island, N.Y. Then Grumman was purchased by Northrop and the employee count shrank from 29,000 worldwide to about 2,500 on Long Island. Bethpage FCU’s response? Diversify. Today Bethpage FCU serves some 140 SEGs, a list that includes some of Long Island’s largest firms in high tech, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and legal services. The result? Two years ago BFCU hit $1 billion in assets. So life is good for BFCU. That’s also true for Kirk Kordeleski, president/CEO, who declares he has a “passion’ for credit unions that makes coming to work a pleasure, not a chore. Kordeleski, 45, has cultivated that passion for more than two decades. He’s a native of Virginia, grew up just outside Washington, D.C., and majored in business at George Mason University. “It sounds antiquated, but my focus was accounting information systems, and I pursued an accounting technology degree. After a couple of years I decided accounting was not my favorite subject, so I morphed it into a degree that would still let me get out of business school,” he explains. While in college Kordeleski started working as a part-time summer employee for what was then a small credit union, Bank-Fund Staff Federal Credit Union, which serves employees of the International Monetary Fund. “I was everything from a teller through member services through accounting through operational responsibilities,” Kordeleski says. “The first year or so I was part-time. Then I went to work full-time and attended school at night to finish my degree,” said Kordeleski. He briefly left the credit union field to work for a computer company, ending up as head of their regional customer service operation. But he soon returned to Bank-Fund Staff FCU. “I was very fortunate,” he declares. “I had the chance to work for a wonderful leader, (the CEO) Richard Osius, who grew the credit union substantially. So I was able to work on everything from the start of checking accounts and certificates of deposit to eventually credit cards and mortgages. I also learned technology and computer operations. “I got a great base of knowledge about the business as that credit union grew from $20 or $25 million to the point where they’re now bigger than we are, about $1.5 billion.” Kordeleski encountered still another mentor 10 years ago when he joined Bethpage FCU as executive vice president under Peter Seitz. “Again I was very fortunate, working under him for seven years,” he says. Three years ago Kordeleski became BFCU’s CEO, a post he considers “one of the perfect jobs in the country. We have a wonderful board that is supportive, we have a very strong financial base, and we have a great plan.” In turn, Kordeleski hopes the board and staff would describe him as passionate about the business, dedicated to the job, and pretty aggressive. He also figures he brings a strong work ethic to the job. “We work hard here,” he declares. Today the native of the South seems to thrive in Long Island, one of the nation’s top retail markets. Although Long Island is only 110 miles long and 20 miles wide, the population is 2.2 million. “Because of its consumer and retail strength, it’s just a great market to be in,” Kordeleski says. “We’ve seen here the classic story that’s happening around the country. Most of the local banks have merged away. We have been able to provide better value to the consumer than many of our competitors.” As a billion-dollar credit union, BFCU has the resources of a full-service financial institution. But the billion dollar figure doesn’t exactly daunt the giant rival financial institutions with a presence on Long Island. So Kordeleski figures service is really the edge. “We think service is the only real difference we can offer,” he says. “So we do extensive work in mystery shopping, transaction surveys and member surveys. “When you start looking at our competitors, which are Citibank, Fleet and Chase, you’re talking about folks that are much larger – and have no personal touch at all. We pride ourselves on the ability to provide extraordinary value. We push that difference every day,” he says. Kordeleski doesn’t really see any disadvantage to being a member of the Billionaires Club, but he does see some challenges. While BFCU ranks among the nation’s largest credit unions, it has only captured about 2% of the deposit base and 5% of the household base on Long Island. Expanding SEG by SEG is a complicated way of doing business, Kordeleski says. “Our strongest positioning has always been in convenience at work. That has eroded. There just aren’t as many large companies as there used to be, and we got most of those large companies. As we move down the scale of employees per company, it gets harder to get a book of business out there. I think we’re going to have to redefine our market to be more broadbased,” he says. So Kordeleski and the Bethpage FCU Board will continue to pursue 20% growth each year, and work to hike the loan-to-share ratio from the current 62% to 65% and eventually 70%. They’re after the mid-market niche which has always been the credit union’s base. Two branches are located in very underserved communities, where the typical member walking in probably works in a plant manufacturing computer circuits or alarm systems. At other branches you will likely find middle-income, white-collar employees from high-tech industries. “If you visited this branch, you would find the mid-market consumer – people who have a family, own a home, have a couple cars and a decent job,” Kordeleski says. To a large extent, that profile seems to describe Kordeleski himself. He’s married – he met his wife at a credit union – and until recently she also worked in the credit union business. They now have a three and a half year old son, Zachary, who keeps his mother busy at home. Kordeleski’s interests range from sports to art and music. He and his wife do some art collecting, particularly of Western impressionists whose work they see in galleries or on trips through the West. “Most of my time is spent on family issues and growing this business,” he says. What is he proudest of in his credit union career? Kordeleski ponders a moment. “I hope it’s still in the future,” he answers. “Perhaps it’s continuing to motivate this credit union to look at its full potential.” [email protected]

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