TDECU (Lake Jackson, TX) traces its roots back to 1955, when it began serving the financial needs of Dow employees. It is now the largest credit union in the Houston area and the fourth largest in Texas with 30 service centers, more than 170,000 members, and $1.9 billion in assets. It is the largest mortgage lender in Brazoria County and has been voted the Best Financial Institution, Best Lender, and Best Employer by the Victoria Advocate newspaper for the last two years.
Stephanie Sherrodd has been with TDECU for more than eight years and has been involved in multiple facets of the business, transitioning from her initial role as vice president of branch administration to executive vice president and chief operating officer. In October 2012, she was named CEO of the credit union. Below, she explains how her extensive experience with this particular institution was beneficial in creating the type of productive board/management relationships that will push the credit union forward in 2013.
How does the board structure work at TDECU?
Stephanie Sherrodd: About two years ago the board began using a committee structure. The committees were created to establish focus and monitoring responsibility within the governance role. The work done during the committee meetings includes reviewing business performance results. On account of these separate meetings, the monthly meetings of the board as a whole can be devoted to the more forward-looking aspects of governance, including discussions of strategy.
How many people are on the board and how many typically form a committee?
SS: Ten individuals currently serve on the board. Typically a committee is composed of four or five board members plus an equal number of senior management in the appropriate field – audit, risk management, business development and so forth. The managers get board exposure and the board members can ask a lot of their questions of management during these committee meetings. A lot of the governance work is done during these sessions.
Does the board use any particular governance model?
SS: No. We blend a variety of models. What we have is TDECU-developed.
What do you like about it?
SS: The structure we use saves a lot of time. As I said, much work can be done during committee meetings, so that when the board meets as a whole it can devote itself to long-term strategy and not get diverted to smaller issues.
Do all committees meet monthly?
SS: No. Several do, the finance committee, for example. Some only meet quarterly, and some only as needed. I generally attend all of these meetings.
Did you attend board meetings before you became CEO?
SS: Yes, I have attended board meetings ever since I was hired by TDECU. This has been a big help now that I have become CEO. The previous CEO, Ed Speed, was an excellent mentor in seeing that I was acquainted with the board and board practices. Ed was not one to try to isolate senior leaders from the board, quite the opposite. All our managers have had a lot of exposure to the board and I think this has been very helpful throughout the transition period. Senior managers, including me, knew the board and the board members knew us. This has been very beneficial because we now have a whole team who is familiar with the board.
Do you attempt a meeting once a year that is completely dedicated to strategy?
SS: While we have annual meetings focused on our business strategy, business plan, and budget, we spend time discussing forward-looking strategy at nearly every monthly meeting. There is not a single meeting approach to discussing long-term strategy.
Do you find that board members ask for information not otherwise provided?
SS: Occasionally. Management supplies information and data to both committee members and the board based upon both management determination and board feedback, and they supply it in advance of meetings. We work to continually refine the information we provide due to board questions or changing business demands.
How do you ensure that board members are able to attend these meetings?
SS: Meetings are usually held in TDECU facilities. We use technology such as video conferencing when needed to make sure as many board members as possible can attend.
We have regular board packets and committee packets that are presented to board members at these meetings. Communication also transpires informally through emails or other forms of communication. Generally this happens when something unforeseen comes up — when there’s something in the news or some other information emerges that requires immediate communication.