ELLISVILE, Mo. – Losing? Well, it happens to the best. But not trying? That’s simply not acceptable to Glenn Barks, CEO of First Community Credit Union. “It bothers me when people don’t try,” he declares. “At least try. Give it your best shot. Not everybody is going to succeed, but if you don’t try, you never know. I just think it’s too easy for people not to make the effort. When we hire employees I look for people who have a drive to make the members as happy as they can be and to make themselves the best they can be. “I played a lot of sports in school, I’ve coached a lot of sports, and I don’t think there’s anything between winning and losing. I don’t care if you lose if you tried hard. Look at the sports scene today and some of these athletes. If they break a fingernail, it’s all over. A great coach is somebody who doesn’t have all the talent and makes them winners,” Barks declares. Winning at FCCU means meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse membership. Chartered in 1934, the credit union was formed to serve Monsanto Company employees. The name was changed to Monsanto Community, then First Community in the early 1980s even before community charters became the lure they are today. One result is the CU’s field of membership has definitely become more diverse, Barks confirms. “It makes it a little more difficult to be able to appease everyone and give them what they need and want,” he says. On the other hand, he’s seen the positive impact of growth since he joined the credit union as vice president in 1985. “It’s totally different,” Barks recalls. “We weren’t trying to expand into the community as much as we are today. We had just a few branches, primarily to serve Monsanto employees. They were mostly in the southern part of the county, so that’s where our branches were.” Then a familiar story unfolded. Monsanto restructured and downsized during the 1990s. If FCCU wanted to survive, it became obvious the community approach would be critical. It would have to take place in a competitive marketplace. “I came out of the savings and loan world. A credit union was a whole different animal. When I was on the other side, I thought a credit union was a closet and somebody standing there with a cashbox. I didn’t know any better,” Barks says. After graduating from Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Barks worked at an S&L in St. Louis for 12 years. As the savings and loan world crumbled he moved on to a brief stint in mortgage lending before joining FCCU as vice president in 1985. At that time the credit union could claim $167 million in assets. Barks was promoted to executive vice president, then named CEO in 2001. “It was a change for me because I had accepted the principles of what we were doing on the other side,” Barks says. “I think credit unions were a little more down home. We needed to become more professional. Credit unions have had to make that move. The small ma and pa shops are very difficult to keep in existence because of the ever-changing economy.” So expansion remains critical. Overall FCCU has grown 78% during the past five years, with annual gains over 12% boosting it into the Billionaires Club in February 2004. Part of that increase has come from adding counties including, thanks to reciprocal agreements by state regulators, three in Illinois. Barks believes indirect lending has also helped – but with some limitations. “They (people signed up as members at a dealership) are interested in car loans. They don’t want anything else. They really don’t know who we are. It’s been a real challenge to convert those people to full-fledged members. Once they are signed up for a loan we contact them and try to get them interested in bringing their checking and savings to us. That will always be an uphill thing,” he says. Barks doesn’t think it’s possible to be a full-service financial institution if you’re not convenient. It may not be realistic to compete with Bank of America or U.S. Bank in branch count. But you can put branches in locations that offer members easy access. At the same time, he continues, FCCU tries to retain as much personal touch as possible in member services. Although many credit unions make that boast, Barks believes it is indeed what sets credit unions apart from banks in the St. Louis area. Employees are encouraged to address each member by name as much as possible. Little kids can get lollipops, and even Fido can look forward to a dog biscuit in the drive-up lane. Barks is convinced the human resources side plays a key role in creating a member-friendly approach. That means bringing top talent on board, then grooming and educating that talent. He knows he then has to delegate, but he finds it difficult. “It’s a hard thing for me to do. I still work on that every day. I have a very good management staff. Fortunately I was able to bring most of them in, and had worked with a couple of them previously,” Barks says. “Trust is important to me. I have to have a feeling of trust. They’re on the same page and want the credit union to grow. I couldn’t ask for a better team than what we have. It may sound corny, but I’m proud of our people. They put in extra effort to do as much as they do.” If there’s a negative, Barks points to himself and feels he sometimes hasn’t moved quickly enough on certain issues and has been a little too conservative. For example, he wishes the credit union had moved into business lending maybe a couple years ago. But he expects that will be on the menu within the next year. When he’s not tending to credit union business, Barks says he enjoys simply hanging around with his wife, traveling and going to movies. He’s also an avid sports fan who follows the Cardinals and Rams. When his three children, one now in college and the others college graduates launching their careers, were young Barks coached youth sports including baseball and hockey. When it comes to youth sports, move over soccer moms for a hockey dad. With time tightly booked at local arenas, practice times were 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. weekends. “We did that for about 10 years and I don’t think I ever caught up on my sleep. I don’t think I ever will,” Banks sighs. -

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