For the $1.8 billion Members 1st Federal Credit Union (Mechanicsburg, PA) the Great Recession did not change its strategy or key performance indicators. As of March 31, the credit union posted a 1.03% annualized ROA, grew outstanding loans by 7.1%, and decreased its delinquency ratio to 1.11%. The credit union has posted more than 7.5% net new member growth each year since mid-year 2004. The credit union, like many others, cites superior and consistent service, democratic accountability to members, and community outreach as ways to ensure current member satisfaction and new member growth.
The Advice Guy
Led by Bob Marquette, the credit union is aggressive in its current market and in its expansion into new markets. Fueled by the belief that every consumer has a right to join a credit union, it wants to ensure all potential members are educated on the value of the co-operative model and informed about their financial services options. Marquette, Members 1st’s CEO, has an alter ego to act on this belief. In the credit union’s TV commercials, he dresses as “The Advice Guy,” a quasi-superhero who travels the community assisting consumers with their financial decisions. He’s so well-known he’s stopped on the street by local consumers. An area TV station even filmed the making of one of the commercials, which the credit union has posted for all to view (Dennis Owens ABC27 Interview).
But senior staff at the credit union are quick to note that although their CEO may be the face of the credit union, its front-line staff is the heart and soul. Marquette says, “No one job at the credit union is more important than any other. While area businesses were cutting salaries and benefits, we gave merit increases and standard bonuses to retain our valuable employees and demonstrate our commitment to them and their career development.”
More Than 40 Branches
The credit union strongly believes in having a physical presence within its communities. “Branches have a tangible affect – they’re a permanent billboard for the credit union” says Marquette. The emphasis on service delivered through branches is the credit union’s calling card. The credit union doesn’t want to be a price leader – it offers fair prices, to be sure, but also enhances those prices with service and convenience.
Making Members’ Lives Easier
The staff is never happy with current performance and is always seeking improvements to further assist members. When one of the credit union’s employee groups announced mass lay-offs, the credit union automatically offered low-interest loans to its members employed by the SEG. This year the credit union emailed notices of a pending tax refund to members, including those who don’t use online home banking. Through March, the credit union received $53 million in deposits from tax refunds.
Its focus on members creates a strong market presence. The credit union is the top depository institution in the $6.0 billion Cumberland County market. For the month of March, it was No. 17 on a ranking of indirect lenders in the state of Pennsylvania. And for 2009, it debuted on a list of the top 100 card issuers in the country according to the Nielsen Report, up from No. 108 the previous year.
Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, the credit union advocates for its business by sending targeted newsletters to its local and national legislators, joining local economic development boards, and assisting area businesses with education and credit. In April, the credit union brought IT and Network Security students from a local community college to its Operations Center for a view on applied network security.
Despite the credit union’s strong balance sheet growth, Marquette says growth is not its primary responsibility.
“Credit unions have the satisfaction of their membership as their primary focus,” Marquette says. “Accordingly, we can do things for long-term strategic reasons that may cause some of our key metrics to decline temporarily while still focusing on satisfying our members.”