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FARMINGVILLE, N.Y. – President/CEO Robert Allen glances out the window of his office at Teachers Federal Credit Union and counts. “There are three banks within sight of my office,” he reports. “One prides itself on being open seven days a week. We’re open a full six days a week.” That’s reality on Long Island, where competition among financial institutions is simply a fact of life. After 50 years, TFCU has learned to cope. It has flourished as population spreads from east to west over the island. “One of the prime things that differentiates us is convenience and service. So what we’ve done is build parallel delivery methods, not one replacing another,” Allen says. “We have built our branch structure, we have increased our number of ATMs and belong to local organizations so we don’t surcharge, we have home banking, and we have constantly increased phone lines and automated response systems. “A few years back people were of a mind branches would go away and it would all be electronic. The marketplace has found out that is not the case.” In addition to assuring convenience, TFCU is looking for new avenues to gain revenue. While the last few years have been strong ones for credit unions and other financial institutions, down the road Allen expects interest rates will move up – and probably faster than they moved down. Spreads will tighten as consumers become less eager to shoulder major purchases such as homes and cars. Looking at demographic projections of an aging America, with a lot of money changing hands through inheritance, TFCU is eyeing potential promising areas such as trust services, aggregation services and fee-based income. The credit union has already moved toward indirect lending, something it had shied away from in the past, and is researching a similar approach on the real estate side with links to local realtors. Allen speculates that could become important if interest rates rise, refinancing slows, and the mortgage market is again driven by actual home sales. Through the years the credit union has added about 40 SEGs including a half-dozen hospitals. But its core remains teachers, other school employees, students and their families in educational institutions ranging from K-12 through colleges in Suffolk County. Approximately 90% of members live in the county. “In essence, public, private and parochial schools from elementary through the university level are included in our field of membership,” Allen says. “We do have some SEG groups, but for the size of our credit union we don’t have the number most credit unions would have.” Another factor that sets TFCU apart, he continues, is profitability. “We exceed the peer group there by a pretty good amount. Our return on assets is about 2 percent. Our analysis shows our dividend rates are not that different than most peer credit unions, and our gross revenues are probably similar. “But the net bottom line comes out a lot stronger. The missing ingredient is expense control. Our expense-to-asset ratio is typically lower than the peer group, and that provides a stronger bottom line. That has enabled us to have pretty strong, stable growth and maintain the capital level we’re comfortable with.” Controlled growth is the key, he continues. Yes, you can spur growth by hiking rates to attract money. But if you aren’t lending that money or putting it to work, you won’t maintain profitability. Allen draws on 32 years experience in the credit union industry to form that philosophy. TFCU is the fourth credit union he’s served, a list which includes United Nations Federal Credit Union, a small startup credit union, and PanAmerican Airlines Credit Union. “I’m proud of the fact that for more than thirty years we haven’t missed a beat. All the charts go in the right direction. I’m also proud of the staff building I’ve been able to do here and in prior places. Our policy is to promote from within whenever possible,” Allen says. “Because of my education, which came along the slow and hard way I guess, I stress to my own children and to employees the value of education. My daughters both have their masters, and I think one is getting close to a Ph.D.” Allen majored in business and finance at State University of New York on Long Island. For the most part he was a night student, juggling school, a job and responsibilities as a father. He started at a community college and moved on to SUNY. His first job out of college was as a management trainee and branch manager for Household Finance Corp. All the job moves have been in metro New York, so he happily notes new jobs haven’t required uprooting his family. He and his wife have two children and one grandchild. “I was fortunate I went into credit unions at a time when they were coming to their peak. I was able to grow and move with credit unions,” he says. “It’s also nice that in my position here I get to be more of a generalist than at most other financial institutions. I get to delve into various aspects of the operation.” In fact, he describes his management style as hands on – although that’s a challenge as TFCU expands. He takes pride in what he considers a strong management team. When Allen left UNFCU to join TFCU, it took ten months before a new CEO was on board. But thanks to the team in place, day to day operations didn’t miss a beat, he says. Allen was also pleased his current job brought him back to the suburbs, eliminating the commute into Manhattan. Allen is a native New Yorker and praises all the city has to offer. But he admits getting around can be a hassle, even on Long Island. One of his pet peeves – poor drivers. “It can’t be me,” he laughs. “We’re in dense traffic and traffic really moves when it moves and completely stops when it doesn’t. I like cars, and I’ve always been interested in them. As a kid, I used to do a little racing at a drag strip. As a break from traffic, he enjoys boating and fishing. In season there’s ample water around New York, and during the winter he sometimes flies south to pursue those interests. In Allen’s case, the clich that time passes swiftly when you’re having fun seems to hold true. “I like what I do,” he declares. “Every day flies by, and every year seems to fly by. Ten hours goes by when you snap your fingers around here. I get to see results, and I like to see people work together and watch the cumulative results and benefits. You notice the light bulbs go off when people grab hold of things and get to work.” -

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