San Antonio might be the seventh largest city in the United States, but its vibrant cultural and arts community gives it a small-town atmosphere. It doesn’t take long for art lovers to find a home among the city’s symphony, ballet, opera company, and numerous museums, including the nation’s largest Latino museum, The Museo Alameda. And for food lovers, San Antonio is home to a local affiliate of the Culinary Institute of America, which is located in a neighborhood redevelopment initiative that is turning an old brewery into a hotbed of fine dining and trendy living.
“People are discovering what a wonderful diversity of arts and culture we have in this community,” says John Worthington, senior vice president for corporate communications at San Antonio-based Security Service Federal Credit Union.
Texas has weathered the economic storm better than most, and San Antonio has held its own within the Lone Star State. The Alamo, the downtown River Walk, and the area’s many golf courses are turning the city into a tourist destination. For the people who call San Antonio home, industry is thriving. Valero Energy Corp., Tesoro Corporation, and NuStar Energy are all headquartered here. Plus, the city is quickly becoming the go-to location for companies specializing in information security. The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), Alamo Community College, St. Mary’s University, and even the city’s magnet elementary school, The Carver Academy, all offer programs with a security bent.
“The National Security Agency named UTSA as one of the centers of excellence for information assurance and security,” Worthington says.
Industry, security, research, and development, San Antonio has it all. But there’s more. Texas has more credit unions – 550+ – than any other state in the union; likewise, credit unions are an important part of San Antonio’s economy. Three credit unions with more than $1 billion in assets (Security Service, $6B; Randolph-Brooks, $4B; and San Antonio, $3B) are headquartered in San Antonio and several more top the $100 million mark. Plus, credit unions with a national reach, such as Navy and Pentagon, have a presence in the Southern City. But the financial services landscape doesn’t stop there. United Services Automobile Association (USAA) is headquartered in San Antonio and is a major competitor in the financial services and insurance markets. And Frost Bank, Broadway Bank, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America are four more players with interstate or international ties.
Security Service Federal Credit Union is the eighth largest credit union in the United States by asset size ($6 billion) and the fourth largest credit union by membership (800,000). It is a successful, and formidable, credit union. But despite its size, it has plenty of best practices to offer credit unions of all sizes. It’s a rapidly expanding financial institution that takes to heart the core values of the cooperative movement. Every decision it makes revolves around what is in the best interest of its members.
Security Service was founded as an Air Force credit union in 1956. Back then it served the airmen of the United States Air Force Security Service Command who needed a way to provide financial support to their families when they were away. Since then, the credit union has undertaken approximately 20 mergers, acquisitions, and other growth opportunities. It knows well the intricacies, hurdles, and opportunities in serving multiple markets. It caters to not only a range of members with military, religious, and social affiliations but also a range of geographic locations, crossing neighborhood, city, county, and state lines. Today, Security Service stretches across 36 locations in Texas (covering Central Texas, the Rio Grande Valley, the Coastal Bend, and El Paso) and 19 locations in Colorado (covering Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Denver, Aurora, Fountain, and Northern Colorado).
“We became an Army credit union when we were asked to come to Colorado and acquire the Fort Carson credit union,” says Bruce Gillooly, assistant vice president of corporate communications for the mountain region. “We’re proud of the fact that we were able to make that transition from Texas to Colorado and become an Air Force and an Army credit union. Again, not forgetting about the multitude of other SEGs we deal with and are proud to serve.”
Security Service ventured into Fort Carson and Colorado Springs in 1980. Now it serves communities all along Colorado’s I-25 corridor, which include some of the state’s largest markets.
Colorado Springs is a small town that, at 185 square miles, is geographically expansive. With slightly less than 400,000 residents, it just barely breaks into the nation’s 50 largest cities (it’s No. 46). That population, however, is civic-minded. The city is heavily influenced by the presence of several military installations, including Fort Carson, Schriever Air Force Base, the United States Air Force Academy, NORAD (located inside Cheyenne Mountain), Air Force Space Command (located at Peterson Air Force Base), and the United States Air Defense Command.
Its location at the base of the Rocky Mountains makes it a popular tourist destination. The city thrives on outdoor recreation, especially winter and mountain sports. In addition to hiking, skiing, camping, mountain biking, rock climbing, and horseback riding, the area offers access to a spectacular rock formation, Garden of the Gods, and a national historic landmark, Pikes Peak. Those looking for arts and culture can visit the ProRodeo Hall of Fame & Museum of the American Cowboy or take in a show at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
Several publications, including Money in 2006 and Outside in 2009, have recognized the city in their “best cities” listings, and livability.com includes Pueblo in its top 10 listing of Best Foodie Cities.
With such a wide market scope, how does Security Service keep its singular focus of doing what’s in the best interest of its members? According to Gillooly, the key to serving different markets, be they demographic or geographic, is to recognize the distinct culture of each. There are certain nuances that change ever so slightly from culture to culture. For credit unions, knowing the nuances of a new market is just as important as knowing the laws of a new state.
“When you are operating in a new market, take the time and dedicate the resources to understand the culture you are serving,” Gillooly advises. “We hire people from that culture and incorporate them so they understand the Security Service corporate culture and are able to inform us of local nuances and differences we might need to address.”
Security Service serves a range of members whose geographic proximities cross neighborhood, city, and state lines. It’s a large organization that sticks to the core values of the cooperative spirit: know your members and serve them well. Read on for best practices and takeaways that are beneficial to credit unions of any size.