Navy FCU operates three corporate facilities, two in Virginia and one in Florida. Corning Credit Union has corporate facilities in New York and North Carolina.
Splitting tens and hundreds of employees across state lines can be a tall task. Although additional facilities can create complexity, convenience often outweighs challenge.
For a variety of reasons, ranging from complexity to convenience, one corporate office sometimes just isn’t enough. Among credit unions, examples abound of organizations that have multiple buildings or a centralized campus built around a legacy headquarters office. Although additional facilities do increase operational complexity, the proximity of the staff within often outweigh the challenges.
But what happens when a credit union operates multiple corporate facilities that cross state lines?
Corning Credit Union ($1.4B, Corning, NY) and Navy Federal Credit Union ($110.1B, Vienna, VA) each have more than one corporate facility that are located in different states. Corning’s main headquarters is located in New York, but in June 2019, the cooperative opened a regional office in Wilmington, NC.
Navy FCU has two facilities in Virginia and one in Florida. The credit union is headquartered in Vienna, VA, but it has operated a corporate office in Pensacola, FL, since 2003 and a contact center in Winchester, VA, since 2006.
Two credit unions with one shared overarching challenge: How to manage facilities and staff operating beyond the walls of the HQ.
Here, the cooperatives offer six best practices for successfully managing more than one corporate facility.
No. 1: Find The Right Location
When Navy started scouting areas in which to build a new 300-seat call center in 2003, Pensacola, FL, seemed a natural fit. Pensacola is home to a major naval base and offers a strong talent pool as well as available land and facilities. The credit union eventually moved the call center to Winchester, VA, but that’s because Navy saw the potential to develop the Florida site into something more.
CU QUICK FACTS
HQ: Vienna, VA
Data as of 09.30.19
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 20.0%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 10.1%
Today, its Pensacola office houses thousands of front- and back-office staff in a second corporate office. In the next few years, the facility will cross the 10,000-employee threshold.
“We’ve obviously grown beyond that initial vision,” says Kara Cardona, the credit union’s senior vice president of greater Pensacola operations.
New York-based Corning, meanwhile, has had a presence in Wilmington, NC, for the past 25 years. For the first 15, it operated a single satellite branch to serve employees of a local Corning Inc. plant. Ten years ago, it extended its field of membership reach in the Tar Heel State and expanded its branch footprint.
“We needed to centralize the operational tasks unique to North Carolina,” says Stephanie Carl, the credit union’s director of marketing and digital experience. “If we wanted to keep growing, we needed a larger facility we could grow into.”
Today, Corning has five branches serving thousands of members in North Carolina and approximately 60 employees working in what the credit union calls its North Carolina regional office (NCRO).
No. 2: Develop The Leadership Structure
New locations require new reporting structures. At Navy, each separate corporate facility has its own on-site senior leader, who then reports up to the CEO and COO. On-site leaders make sure the lights and water stay, says Susan Brooks, Navy’s senior vice president of contact center operations, the on-site leader at the Winchester office.
It’s the same at Corning, where Robin Davis is the director of operations and member experience for North Carolina. She’s a member of the senior leadership team and knows firsthand how valuable out-of-state representation can be.
“I’m in the room listening, providing my input on corporate priorities because there are some differences between the markets,” Davis says.
Even so, she says there can be no us-versus-them attitudes if a multi-site approach is going to work. That’s why she approaches her role as one that lends a voice and provides counsel.
“You can’t be selfish,” she says. It doesn’t work. We’re all on the same team. We do what is going to help us grow our brand.”
No. 3: Wear The Same Jersey
There are obviously differences among states and cities — from the people who live there to the pace at which business gets done.
CU QUICK FACTS
Corning Credit Union
HQ: Corning, NY
Data as of 09.30.19
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 5.8%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 4.0%
In New York, members don’t like to wait in line for more than a minute or two, Davis says. In North Carolina, wearing suits to community events is uncommon. Regional idiosyncrasies are more complicated for Navy, which has three large corporate facilities, a microsite in San Diego, and a worldwide membership.
Unfortunately, a wider physical network can lead to clashes in culture. For credit unions with a corporate presence in more than one state, everyone must embrace a one-team mentality.
“We need everyone to understand they are wearing the jersey for Corning Credit Union,” Davis says. “We’re not just Wilmington. They’re fully part of the Corning team and wear the corporate jersey.”
The actions of one team can have an impact across the entire organization, so it’s important to set and enforce expectations around culture, Davis says. For operations and member experience director, that starts with communication.
No. 4: If It Hasn’t Been Said In 45 Days, It Hasn’t Been Said
Constant, clear communication is one of the keys to making multi-location organizations work. Both Navy and Corning agree their set up wouldn’t work without measured, active two-way reporting and conversation.
“If communication slips, then half your teams are doing one thing while the other half are doing something else,” Davis says. “You’ll spend more time fixing things and regrouping than moving forward.”
Corning has a weekly all-staff communication meeting on Thursdays where everyone, from member service to marketing, hear the same message. Additionally, Davis pushes her team to be proactive and discourages waiting for information by default.
Find The Perfect Branch Location
Selecting a new branch location isn’t easy, but BranchAnalyzer makes it easier. Analyze competitors, research demographics, and even find closed branches that might be good expansion opportunities.
“I don’t want the team to wait for someone to tell them something,” she says. “I want them to seek out information.”
It’s similar at Navy, though Brooks and Cardona also underscore the importance of two-way communication. The credit union holds employee forums to elicit feedback from staff and also has lunches and dinners with team leaders.
“It’s important that our employees feel they are heard,” Brooks says.
The credit union recently held its first ever virtual town hall, where employees could ask questions to its top leaders in Pensacola, Winchester, and Vienna. The credit union received plenty of feedback it plans to address in the coming weeks and months.
Opening the floor like this engages employees, whatever state they occupy. It also opens the lines of communication, which is especially crucial for an organization the size of Navy. Plus, these kinds of meetings are good for not only introducing new information but also reiterating old. That’s a lesson Brooks learned long ago.
“If you haven’t said it in 45 days, then it hasn’t been said,” she says.
No. 5: Become One With Technology
As important as on-site leadership and oversite are, there are and will always be aspects of Corning’s and Navy’s operations that reside in Corning or Vienna. So, out-of-towners must be able to participate in certain activities and attend informational sessions virtually.
Since opening its second corporate facility last year, Corning has invested heavily in its video technology to ensure better “face-to-face” meetings and training opportunities.
“It’s more difficult to be on a phone call when you can’t see someone,” Corning’s Davis says.
Navy’s Cardona agrees.
“Because you are multi-sited, you really have to leverage technology,” the senior vice president of greater Pensacola operations says.
In New York, we know how to plan for snow and ice, but in North Carolina it’s hurricane planning. It’s hard to plan for a hurricane if you’ve never been in a hurricane.
Navy employees connect one-on-one through video as well as during the massive all-staff town halls. Additionally, its CEO, Mary McDuffie, sends regular video messages to all staff members. Beyond communication, Navy has created a virtual 5K, called the President’s Challenge, where employees in Vienna, Winchester, and Pensacola compete against one another in a race while in different states.
“It’s adding the fun that makes virtual leadership work,” Brooks says.
That’s a statement echoed within the credit union.
“We want to find ways to engage employees without always being there,” Cardona says.
No. 6: Business Continuity Benefits; Disaster Recovery Differences
Today’s financial services environment is increasingly open 24/7, and operating more than one corporate facility provides critical business continuity should disaster strike.
That said, regional sites have regional differences. This is often apparent in disaster preparation.
Hiring locally and bringing experience into the fold is one way Corning solves for these disparate issues. The credit union also has created subgroups within its business continuity group to handle regional concerns.
“In New York, we know how to plan for snow and ice, but in North Carolina it’s hurricane planning,” Davis says. “It’s hard to plan for a hurricane if you’ve never been in a hurricane.”
Want more credit union strategies? Sign up for the CreditUnions.com free newsletter.