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WATERLOO, Iowa – After 21 years of being known as John Deere Community CU – and for 50 years before that as John Deere Employees Credit Union – the credit union will know by August 21 whether members vote to approve a new name for the CU of Veridian Credit Union. As John Deere- the largest credit union in Iowa – gets ready for its latest name change that would be effective Jan. 1, 2006, the credit union has been going through a drill it’s become accustomed to, reassuring its 128,000 members that the name change does not reflect on any strained relationship between the CU and Deere & Co. In fact, information provided to members about the name change has consistently stressed the relationship between the credit union and Deere & Company remains solid. Deere simply needed to clarify the credit union is not part of the company and avoid trademark confusion. “Like a parent selecting a name for a baby, we researched and brainstormed names. We contemplated the names, crossed names off and added new suggestions to the list,” President/CEO Jean Trainor explained to members in the credit union newsletter. Iowa bankers will have to make note of the new name. As the state’s largest credit union, JDCCU has been the banker’s number one target. In response, “The approach we have taken is to be involved with our legislators,” Trainor explains. “We have a very good relationship (with banks) here locally and we’re involved in activities together. But when it comes to some issues, we don’t agree.” While bankers may fret about credit unions reaching out to serve more and more people, as far as Trainor is concerned a community charter has been crucial to the success of JDCCU. “We’ve actually been a community credit union since 1984. There was an agricultural recession in our area and Deere & Company was laying off a number of our members. We needed to look at a different strategy in order to survive, so we adopted a community charter. Our members who were John Deere employees understood the need for that,” Trainor says. Even so, there is still some confusion about whether an individual can join the credit union if they’re not employed by John Deere. Deere & Company also has a division called Deere Credit. The name change may clarify both issues. However, challenges remain. Many are related to competition. “With the Internet, competition is very different than it was in the past,” Trainor notes. “One of our biggest challenges is we have been successful in the past. To succeed in the future we need to continue to change, improve and learn. We want to make sure we don’t get complacent.” Although the community charter does allow JDCCU to reach out to a wide range of potential members, the field of membership is not as demographically diverse as in some credit unions. That simply reflects Iowa’s population. One demographic factor that does stand out is the average age of JDCCU adult members is 43.1, below the average national average of 47.4. The credit union has been striving to attract younger members and to also boost market share in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines. Both are growing areas with a relatively youthful population. In Waterloo, word of mouth has brought in new members. But in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines, “That’s a whole new ballgame for us,” Trainor explains. “We’re not as well known in those markets, and we’ll have a whole new strategy and brand awareness campaign.” Trainor can speak knowledgeably about the state. She grew up in Iowa and graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in accounting. Her father was a CPA, so perhaps her career choice was a natural one. In fact, she considers him one of her mentors. She was introduced to credit unions when she was hired by a local accounting firm that audited JDCCU. After about six years she learned the credit union was looking for a comptroller. Convinced it would be a good place to work, she decided to try for the job and was hired in 1982. In 1990 the CEO position opened up. “I would not have applied for the position had it not been for the management team,” Trainor says. “They are all still here, except for one who recently retired. I’m proud of the fact we retained our team approach. I can’t do it on my own.” Ask Trainor about JDCCU’s goals and she responds readily. The board has formally adopted five specific goals: member satisfaction, diversification into new markets, multiple relationships with members, financial security of the credit union and employee satisfaction. Part of that focus on employee satisfaction has involved empowerment. “We have worked the past few years developing a leadership culture in our organization,” Trainor says. “We believe everyone is a leader. We want to make sure employees have the authority to make the decisions they need to make to exceed our members’ expectations. “That has really been a key to our success, especially as we now have employees in those new markets. We’ve found that having senior management here in the home office make decisions is not a successful way to run an operation.” At the same time, employees better be prepared to use some imagination and initiative. Trainor admits she gets irritated when she encounters people who live “inside the box” and don’t see possibilities. “I’m fortunate in that I have a 21-year-old son with disabilities. It taught me the importance of looking at things from a different perspective and being open to doing things in a different way,” Trainor says. “I’m very proud of the leadership culture we’re developing here. I’m very proud of our diversification efforts. I’m very proud of our board-management relationships. I’m also obviously very proud of our employees doing the great job they do every day with our members.” -

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