Debi Knoblock has seen a lot in her 13 years working in community relations and business development at Texas Trust Credit Union ($1.5B, Arlington, TX). That experience helped her teamfocus on new imperatives for the Lone Star State cooperative when the pandemic struck.
Knoblock joined Texas Trust in 2007 as a community relations officer and is now the assistant vice president for business and community engagement. In this capacity, she’s responsible for a small team that takes on crucial, diverse responsibilities such as creating a financial literacy program for members, working with local schools, and helping other Texas Trust departments handle business crunches.
Here, Knoblock shares insight on what business and community engagement (BCE) looks like at Texas Trust.
Describe the evolution of business and community engagement at Texas Trust.
Debi Knoblock: Before BCE, we were community relations officers. We handled outside sales, events, partner initiatives, and financial workshops. We also were the credit union’s internal and external campaign resource.
Even before the pandemic, we determined we needed to change our focus from trying to be everywhere in the community to concentrating on initiatives that fit our mission of building brighter financial futures.
So, we became awareness specialists, educators, financial counselors, and problem solvers. We work with local businesses, cities, non-profits, school districts, and higher education partners to help educate and support their employees and the community.
We determined we needed to change our focus from trying to be everywhere in the community to concentrating on initiatives that fit our mission of building brighter financial futures.
Is the BCE role new and specific to you?
DK: Not really. What’s been new is learning about financial education for all ages. There is so much to learn about the psychology of spending and saving and how different age groups and demographics view and handle money.
Texas Trust believes in the value of every employee and member. That belief starts with our CEO, Jim Minge, who emails all employees an encouraging thought or story every day that exemplifies the reason we are here, which is to serve one another and our members. My role as the AVP of BCE is an extension of that mission.
What challenges and opportunities are your team addressing?
DK: We look for ways to support Texas Trust’s mission of helping our members build brighter financial futures. We want members to take advantage of the products that help them save money, build their credit score, or simplify their financial lives.
This year’s challenges with the pandemic have offered us many opportunities to help members with deferred payments on mortgage, auto, and personal loans, for instance. During COVID, we’ve also helped members pay their bills with emergency loans. The BCE team has spoken virtually at schools and businesses about handling finances during the pandemic. There is no lack of opportunity to serve.
Who do you report to and who reports to you?
DK: I report to the senior vice president of member experience. My team includes three business and community engagement partners who serve many different communities.
What makes you a great fit for this job?
DK: I came to Texas Trust with more than 30 years’ experience as a business owner with a diverse background in community building, networking, events, and accounting.
What are your areas of responsibility?
DK: I’m responsible for the growth and development of my team, our partnership with the University of Texas at Arlington, and our partnerships with local schools, businesses, chambers, cities, and non-profits. We partner with many school districts in our membership area, and members of my team as well as others within the credit union hold board positions or volunteer with multiple chambers in our area. I am also responsible for projects that relate to BCE and our member experience team.
What’s your daily routine?
DK: I start each day with coffee, scripture, and prayer before heading to work. My first priority is to review email, organize my daily tasks, and follow up on ongoing projects and deliverables. I check in with my team and help them as needed. I attend various meetings internally, including daily meetings with my boss, and with our business and community partners.
Each day involves some planning, strategizing, and prepping for some type of event or initiative we are supporting, along with working with my team to identify new partnerships or new engagement opportunities.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed what the BCE team does?
DK: Pre-pandemic, we had quarterly goals for bringing on new business partners. We changed our focus to stay connected with current partners through phone calls, emails, and gift cards. Our role has been to help our partners through this challenge by finding ways to help their employees financially.
Most of our days were typically spent in the field working one-on-one with our partners. In March, in-person meetings pretty much ceased. We continued to support our schools and businesses via virtual community meetings, which changed our scope of work.
We shifted our focus to help support internal departments as well. My team worked with local businesses helping them apply for Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans, and we’re now helping them navigate through the forgiveness portion of the process. We also have helped our mortgage team with the large increase in requests for new mortgage loans and refinances due to historically low rates. And, we’ve helped with auto lending.
How has the pandemic changed what the BCE team does for outreach?
DK: The back-to-school period was very different for us this year. We usually participate in new staff orientations, principal meetings, parent organization meetings, and booster clubs. We couldn’t be there in person this year, so we supported them by providing gift cards for drawings or spoke virtually to thank them for their service to our children and our community.
We’ve also been creating virtual workshops, and in 2021 we will kick off a series that will run throughout the year via Facebook Live.
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How do you track success in your job?
DK: Pre-COVID, 80% of my job was measured numerically and 20% by personal development. Since COVID, we’re still expected to bring in leads through our contacts and circles of influence, but we’re currently focusing more on developing new skillsets.
For example, one of my team members is working with marketing as a project manager and will soon be learning more about processes in that department. Another of my team members has been shadowing and learning about our member care call center and is being mentored by a financial services officer and member service specialists.
These new skillsets will enhance our abilities and allow us to be better in this new environment. We consider these opportunities a measure of success when we see the information they bring back to the team and the enthusiasm that comes with learning.
How do you stay current with topics that fall under your role?
DK: There’s no lack of resources for staying current in our industry. I read articles from the Financial Health Network, The Financial Brand, BAI Banking Strategies, CUNA Councils, CreditUnions.com, CU Today, and Bank NewsWatch, just to name a few.
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This interview has been edited and condensed.
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