ceo of the year trailblazer awards tom gryp notre dame federal credit unionNot fearing failure and learning from past lessonshas paved the path to success for Tom Gryp, the 58-year-oldpresident/CEO of the $471 million Notre Dame Federal Credit Unionin Notre Dame, Ind.

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“Let's just say I've been fired from a job or two,” Gryp, thewinner of CU Times' 2016 Trailblazer Award for CEO of theYear, laughed. “In today's world, I think people are too afraid tofail. And then, when they do fail, they rationalize it becausethey've been taught they're not supposed to fail. But if you fail,you have to look at it for what it is. That can be a catharticexperience and you can come back stronger than ever.”

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In September 2010, Gryp came back home to South Bend, Ind.,where he was born, raised and graduated from the University ofNotre Dame.

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After college, he moved west to Arizona, where he worked from1982 to 2010 as a commercial lender, a corporate developmentexecutive for an oil refinery, the founder and president of apayroll service company and the Bank of the Southwest, a MerrillLynch business financial advisor and a managing director for theNorthern Trust.

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“When I tell people my career story, I feel like I'm 100 yearsold,” he said. “But I've been blessed with a career that exposed meto a lot of different things, which allowed me to fail, to rebound,to improve and to begin that whole process of growth. And when Icame across the CEO position, it really gave me the opportunity toput all of those career experiences together for the good of mycredit union and our community.”

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Historically, Notre Dame FCU was highly involved in governmentguaranteed student loans, which resulted in great floating rateassets with no credit risk. However, in 2010, the federalgovernment nationalized the guaranteed student loan business, whichsubstantially affected the credit union's primary source of loangeneration.

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Though the credit union was founded in the 1940s by a couple ofNotre Dame University professors and still serves the university,it has no official affiliation. The credit union leases theuniversity's land for its headquarters location. The cooperativeoperates nine branches and serves more than 52,000 members.

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To keep growing after the guaranteed student loan business wasnationalized, Gryp knew he had to expand the diversification of thecredit union's loan portfolio. He also got the idea to introduce anew initiative that would launch and drive the credit union'sregional and national expansion for future growthopportunities.

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In 2011, he solicited a large mortgage brokerage firm to joinNotre Dame FCU, adding several well-respected local mortgagebankers to the team and increasing the cooperative's ability tooffer various types of mortgage products to members.

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Mortgage volume increased from $31 million in 2010 to a peak of$97 million in 2013, and the credit union ranked second in theregion among all financial institutions in mortgage production.

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He also initiated selling mortgages to Fannie Mae and theFederal Home Loan Bank, but protected member loyalty by retainingthe mortgage servicing rights.

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Under this program, mortgages originated by Notre Dame FCU butsold to third-party investors increased from $0 in December 2010 to$151 million in August 2015.

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Drawing from his extensive wealth management background, Grypconverted the credit union's stock brokerage department into aprivate wealth management department. Private Member Group nowhelps members with long term financial planning and investing.PMG's assets under management grew from $37 million in December of2010 to $108 million in August of 2015.

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Under Gryp's leadership, he established Shamrock Insurance, awholly owned CUSO of Notre Dame FCU, which offers business, life,home and auto insurance products through Insuritas, a company thathelps financial institutions run their own insurance agencies.

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On top of all these new ventures over the last five years, Grypled the credit union through a painstaking core conversion,introduced mobile banking and remote deposit capture, and joinedthe CO-OP Shared Branching network.

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These initiatives drove Notre Dame FCU's loan growth and totalmanaged assets from $472 million in December 2010 to $729 millionin August 2015, or an annual growth rate of 9.35%. However, Grypalso saw that the credit union had an another opportunity tocapitalize on its widely recognized name brand – Notre Dame – tolaunch a national presence and future growth.

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“We were operating essentially as a community bank with ageographic presence in essentially a county in Indiana, and that'sit. And as a result, we were not playing into our strengths at allbecause the strength is our name brand and being able to do morewith our alumni, who are living in all 50 states,” he explained,noting the alumni totals approximately 130,000. “Now with thatsaid, nobody is going to come to us because of our name, but itdoes give us the opportunity to be heard and to make our case as towhy people should consider doing business with Notre Dame FederalCredit Union.”

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The cooperative reached out to Notre Dame Alumni clubsthroughout the nation that support scholarships and hold a varietyof events to support the underprivileged.

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“They love Notre Dame and they want to help kids in theircommunity go to Notre Dame, and they also want to help people intheir community,” he said. “We participated and supported theseevents, which gives us an opportunity meet club members. Now, whenyou come back from these events, you don't have a hundred peopleopening up new accounts the next day, but at least they know whoyou are and that gives us the opportunity to win theirbusiness.”

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All of these alumni groups are also closely tied to theirchurches and Catholic schools. That gave Notre Dame FCU anotheridea that led to the development of Elevate.

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“Elevate is pretty simple. Once your school, parish or diocesebecomes a SEG of the credit union and you take out one of thequalifying loans – auto, student, business or credit card – we willgive approximately 1% in your name to the school or church,” Grypexplained. “We don't increase the rate to provide this. We take itout of our margin, or a share of the spread, and give it to theschool or church. Our hope is that the word-of-mouth advertisingwill spread and the program will keep growing.”

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Since publicly announcing Elevate in March 2015, about 60parishes and schools from the region and nation have become SEGs.He noted churches and schools like Elevate because it doesn'tcompete with other fundraising efforts.

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To keep promoting the credit union's national presence, NotreDame FCU, along with five other credit unions, provided the GreenBay, Wis.-based Relevant Radio network with a $5.25 millionfacility. The radio network includes about 40 AM and FM stationsacross 17 states. Gryp said the credit unions take some of thespread from that loan and reinvest it back into the radio stationsby buying ads.

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“We got acquainted with multiple other credit unions that havesome kind of Catholic affinity or affiliation,” he said. “It's notexact, but there are more than 90 credit unions right now that havesome kind of affiliation with the Catholic community. Most of themare very, very small. But they all have a mission to help theirchurches and their schools. After meeting with them, it became veryclear to us that there is wonderful opportunity to create somesynergies by bringing all of us together to help each other and towork as a group.”

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The details about how this new group, the Confederation ofCatholic Oriented Credit Unions, will collaborate have not beenfinalized because it is in the formation stage.

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“Our hope is that we'll get many of these Catholic credit unionsthat want to do so much more, but are limited by size, to work aspart of this larger entity so that they can provide more servicesthrough loan participations, for example, for their localcommunities,” Gryp said. “So we think there are some wonderfulsynergies that can be developed from this group.”

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