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BALTIMORE – Someone should probably tell Rod Staatz that the saying `the shortest distance between two points is a straight line’ often holds true with career paths. Staatz’s road to working with credit unions, specifically as president/CEO of State Employees CU of Maryland, has been anything but straight. In fact, it’s been more of a `grow-where-you’re-planted life’ for him, and that seems just fine with him. When Staaz was a student at University of Northern Colorado in Greeley with an Air Force ROTC scholarship, he dreamed of becoming a pilot. A knee injury suffered while playing intramural basketball ended that possibility. After receiving his B.A. in finance, Staatz went home to Missouri to check out the job market there and review his career goals. The next move was to California where he became a branch manager trainee for a savings and loan. He rose through the ranks to run the S&L’s network of 90 California branches. When the S&L folded, it was on to Seattle to work for a Bank of America subsidiary. Then he headed for Denver to take a job as an executive vice president of what is now U.S. Bank. In 1996 Staatz made the shift from banks to credit unions when he joined Bellco Federal Credit Union in Denver, Colo. as executive vice president. “Having grown up in the for-profit world, and now being able to work in a financial cooperative, I’ve been able to adapt. But I don’t think I’ve had to adapt much. You’re still trying to provide quality products and services. “Everything I learned in the banking world – and I learned one heck of a lot – I think I’ve been able to apply for the benefit of the members,” Staatz says. Then it was on to Madison and the University of Wisconsin Credit Union as CEO for two years. Finally in 2004 he was hired by SECU of Maryland. “I think this is a very good fit,” Staatz declares. “My wife and I really enjoy it here, and I like working with this board. When I looked at the fact the credit union was in very good shape, and the potential for the future, this seemed like an outstanding opportunity.” Staatz and his wife currently call a western suburb of Baltimore their home now. Their daughter is a senior at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and their son is a sophomore at a junior college in Iowa. Experienced at moving around and adjusting to new areas, Staatz and his wife enjoy exploring the East Coast and taking in the attractions of cities such as New York and Washington, D.C. Golf and skiing also rank high on the list of activities, but Staatz admits he does miss the Rocky Mountains. Staatz indicates when he moved in to the CEO’s job at SECU of Maryland last May, he inherited a robust organization. “From a financial standpoint it is a very strong credit union, and has done a number of things absolutely wonderfully over the past few years. From this point forward there are lots of possibilities and lots of ways we can serve members,” he says. “What we’ve done over the past few months is kind of take a step back to make sure we understand who our members are and what sort of business they do with us. Then we can identify how what we offer can match their needs.” During that process the staff has determined there are a number of areas where the members could do more business with the credit union. Products per member could be improved. No specific goal has been set, but the credit union does want to make sure this data is tracked and employees are working with members to achieve incremental improvements. To accomplish that, SECU is examining loan pricing to make sure loans are attractive. The credit union has measured up very well in secured products, but not been as competitive in unsecured loans. SECU credit cards may be enhanced. The home banking site, which Staatz already considers good, may be enriched. “We’re probably not looking at completely new products and services,” Staatz explains. “It’s tweaking existing products and services to make certain we’re very competitive with what’s in the marketplace.” That competition, he adds, comes primarily from national and regional banks. Yes, SECU also stays alert to what other credit unions are offering, but “at the end of the day, our potential or existing members doing business elsewhere are doing business with banks. We want to make sure we have a much better alternative.” Like most credit unions, SECU is working with thinner margins than ever. Fees have not contributed heavily to income, and the credit union plans on keeping it that way. In addition, “When we compare ourselves to our banking friends, we believe we can compete and beat them on service and pricing of products. What’s difficult at times is to beat them on convenience,” Staatz says. “We have 60-plus ATMs but that doesn’t compare with even some of the regional banks. We’re not going to have as many physical outlets as they have.” During the past few years SECU has updated some branches and moved into new markets. During 2004 one branch will be relocated and two new ones will open. Over time, Staatz explains, the credit union wants the branches to stress working with members on more complex transactions. Yes, there will be teller lines, but emphasis on those lines will shrink. Instead, members will be introduced to their credit union’s full array of services and products. That underscores the always ongoing need to attract and retain highly-talented staff. SECU also hopes the Web branch will prove to be a great equalizer with rival banks. In addition to service, Staatz believes a strong tie to the State of Maryland has helped SECU succeed. Over the past few years the FOM has expanded to include students and alumni of most Maryland colleges. Hundreds of SEGs have been added. In fact, most Marylanders qualify for membership. The typical member is probably 30 to 55 years old, and members’ economic circumstances vary greatly. Staatz agrees that’s a pretty good position for the credit union to occupy, with some members in their peak borrowing years and others saving for retirement. They bring peak demand for mortgages, secured and unsecured credit, insurance and investments. -

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