`Do It Right the First Time' at South Carolina FCU; For Woods It's a Way of Life
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. - Scott Woods' first memory of South Carolina Federal Credit Union is a sea of blue workpants. The credit union was then Navy Yard Employees Credit Union. Woods' father worked at the Charleston Naval Shipyard, and when payday rolled around, he joined the ranks of other employees...
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – Scott Woods’ first memory of South Carolina Federal Credit Union is a sea of blue workpants. The credit union was then Navy Yard Employees Credit Union. Woods’ father worked at the Charleston Naval Shipyard, and when payday rolled around, he joined the ranks of other employees streaming across the street from the main gate to cash their checks. “I remember we would wait in the shipyard parking lot with my mom outside the main gate. My dad would come to the car and say, `Well, I’m going to go over to the credit union to cash my check. Anybody want to go?’ ” Woods recalls. “ I would go with dad and we’d walk across to the credit union. It was wall to wall people. I was just a kid, no higher than my dad’s waist. I would stand there in a sea of blue trousers, people lined up to cash their check or make a loan payment.” Today Woods, who joined the credit union when he was six-years-old, is president/CEO. SCFCU has grown beyond what probably any member expected when Woods was young. Along with the growth has come not only $1 billion in assets, but new challenges. For example, as SCFCU has rolled out new branches, the credit union has been juggling several factors. One is balancing technology with member desires in specific locations. New facilities in Southampton and North Charleston feature remote teller systems that use pneumatics and two-way, closed-circuit television to connect members with tellers. The branches also feature PassVault, a self-service vault access system, and television monitors in the lobby providing ongoing marketing messages and local news that help pass the time in line. Many branches will be retrofitted with these features, and they will likely be incorporated in other new offices. But SCFCU will be assessing them over time to gauge member reaction. “Each branch is individual. You have to look at the size of the branch and where it’s located. In some locations members may want face-to-face high-touch versus high-tech,” Woods says. At the same time, the credit union will be working to roll out brand identity. The idea is the appearance of branches will be consistent enough that a member driving through an area looking for a branch will easily spot it. Each branch will be as inviting as any other. Woods readily recites data illustrating the broad spectrum of people represented in the membership. Twenty percent earn less than $30,000 a year. Twelve percent earn more than $100,000. That leaves 68% who earn $30,000 to $100,000. About 34% are middle-market people who are key to the SCFCU loan volume. Forty-one percent use auto loans, 16% mortgage or home equity loans, 42% carry one of the credit union’s credit cards, and 64% have an SCFCU checking account. “We try to focus on having a range of products that will appeal to almost all our segments – credit-driven members, middle-market, fee-driven and upscale. We know who these people are and we try to target them in terms of what we can offer them,” Woods says. “At our size, we cannot paint them with a broad brush. You can’t be all things to all people. You simply can’t do that – you’ll go broke trying. We try to have products that appeal to each of those major segments.” The SCFCU strategy focuses on retaining current membership, following the often-repeated dictum it’s much less expensive to keep an existing consumer than attract a new one. As Woods puts it, you don’t want to lose sight of those who brought you to the dance. Engaging Volunteers To further involve members, SCFCU has introduced a volunteer advisor position. In fact, there are now two volunteer advisors. The idea is to identify members with skill sets that will augment existing board committees. For example, someone with strong human resources background would sit in on the HR salary committee. The volunteer advisor slot is actually a step on a ladder that could lead to a slot on the supervisory committee, then perhaps the board. Candidates are found through personal recommendations as well as notices in the credit union newsletter. “It’s a way for volunteers to see if this is something they would like to do, and for us to assess their skill sets and contributions,” Woods says. “We don’t look for volunteers who want that once-a-month meal and a rubber stamp. It can be demanding on your time. We want volunteers who are going to be involved. Finding those types of people in today’s busy world is a challenge.” Then there’s Do It Right The First Time, known as Dirtfoot. It’s part of what Woods describes as an effort to provide world-class service. A quality improvement team drawn from various levels of the credit union focuses monthly on answering the questions: What can we do better? What can we do differently? As far as Woods is concerned, new employees are a key source of ideas. They generally come in without preconceived notions of how things should be done. If they have background at other financial institutions, they may have seen a better way to carry out a task. “I can’t put a number in front of you, but I can say without a doubt our quality initiative has contributed significantly to the credit union’s strong growth in the past four or five years,” Woods states. Being a force on the political scene is also high on the agenda. In fact, last year the board formally adopted a stance that SCFCU will be politically active. “Credit unions have to be vigilant about maintaining our tax-exempt status,” Woods says. “We are a creature of legislation. We cannot have an inherent right to our tax-exempt status. We have to constantly keep our good works in front of lawmakers and powers-that-be. It’s when we become complacent we are most vulnerable.” Woods has followed a career path that seems appropriate for a man introduced to credit unions at his father’s side. He joined SCFCU when he was six years old, and has spent most of his career in credit unions. After graduating from college with an accounting major – he earned degrees from the College of Charleston and from Auburn University – he worked for KPMG Peat Marwick as a financial institution auditor. Several years later he went to work for one of his clients, SC Telco Federal Credit Union in Greenville. Then he was hired by Savannah River Plant Federal Credit Union in North Augusta as senior vp/finance. Four years later he and his wife decided they wanted to return to Charleston. In 1999 he accepted a job as vice president/finance at SCFCU, later becoming CFO. When then CEO Robert Dargan left on medical disability, Woods was named acting CEO. Dargan retired, and after a national search, the board named Woods president/CEO in 2004. In his spare time he enjoys tinkering in his workshop, which he considers a welcome break from the mental activity that consumes his workweek. He’s often closely observed by his daughters, who range in age from one to seven. By the time they’re grown, he observes, they’re going to know their way around hand and power tools. His hands-on work includes maintaining a 1974 Pontiac LaMans. Overall, Woods comes across as a man devoted to the credit union movement in general and to SCFCU. “My love goes well beyond it just being a job. This was my credit union and my family’s credit union. My grandfather was a member of this credit union. This credit union has been a large part of my life,” he declares. -
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