Altura Credits Stakeholders for Outstanding Growth: A Case Study

How one credit union replaced 27 separate incentive plans with Stakeholders and experienced double-digit growth.


When you’re the third fastest-growing credit union in the country in an industry where many are facing declining numbers, people notice.

At Altura Credit Union ($895 million in Riverside, CA), Senior Vice President of Human Resources Erin Fuller points to the organization’s employee compensation plan for their success. “I credit a lot of it to Stakeholders because it’s brought all of us on the same page. Our CEO Mark Hawkins says, ‘It’s not the silver bullet, but it’s the best thing I’ve seen.’”

Citing an analysis of credit union performance nationwide from 1998 to present, Fuller reports that Altura ranks third in the country in a number of categories among credit unions over $450 million in assets. They experienced growth in the following areas:

  • Loans: 22.62%
  • Capital: 22.19%
  • Assets: 19.72%
  • Shares: 19.31%
  • Membership: 14.74%

Unlike the other top-ranked credit unions, says Fuller, Altura did not grow because of a merger in that 10-year period.

Instead, Altura turned to Stakeholders, a performance-based compensation system offered by the Credit Union Executives Society in partnership with Mike Higgins & Associates, in 2001. It replaced a total of 27 different incentive plans that were operating separately within the organization.

Fuller says they chose Stakeholders because it ties each employee’s performance to the overall success of the credit union. When the credit union meets its goals in four areas—profit, growth, quality and efficiency—the staff’s potential earnings are unlimited.

What makes the program unique are the key indicators each organization identifies to measure success. These key indicators automatically create operating income used for the reward pool. In this way, Stakeholders can generate unlimited earning potential—the better a credit union’s performance over the year, the larger the compensation payout.

Monthly Stakeholders reports track a credit union’s progress, so everyone in the organization knows exactly where the payout stands and which benchmarks need attention and improvement. This feature keeps goals on track and gives employees the opportunity to make adjustments and progress throughout the year.

Since implementing Stakeholders, Altura staff have received annual bonuses ranging from 10–25% of their salary. Every employee from the CEO on down is part of the Stakeholders incentive plan. Altura employs approximately 400 people and owns four affiliate companies, and each company and each credit union branch has its own Stakeholders model.

Explaining the impact Stakeholders has had at Altura, Fuller says, “As far as our employees go, they’re much more knowledgeable about the business—they understand how the business works and what’s important. They understand what margin is and that…creates better teamwork.”

Not only have employees benefited from the compensation program, Fuller says, “Our members benefit because we’re a profitable, growing company.” If the staff does not meet the quality service benchmarks established in Stakeholders, their annual payout is lower.

“Stakeholders is the business we speak,” says Fuller. To successfully incorporate it into their culture, Fuller says Altura devotes significant resources to make it work. They incorporate it into training, company communications, and their intranet, she explains. “Whenever we talk about the business, we talk about Stakeholders; we talk about the budget, we talk about Stakeholders. We knew we had to integrate it.”

Fuller sees this integration as key to the program’s success. “The advice I’d give to other credit unions considering Stakeholders is to remember, it’s not going to have an impact if you don’t integrate it properly. Use your training resources—and make it your dashboard at the executive level.”

To learn more about Stakeholders, visit



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