A consulting gig brought Mike Patterson to Horizon Federal Credit Union ($135.4M, Williamsport, PA); the opportunity to put his experience and ideas into action kept him there.
Patterson became the Keystone State cooperative’s chief branding officer in July 2019. The position combines traditional marketing, branding, human resources, and training.
According to Patterson, a credit union sells trust and service, and employees are the most important element in delivering on both. Here, Patterson describes how they do that.
Is chief branding officer a new role at Horizon Federal Credit Union?
MP: Yes. The role is an expansion of the senior management team meant to oversee the marketing, human resources, and training initiatives of the credit union.
Did Horizon create the role specifically for you?
MP: The position was on Horizon’s radar, but the credit union was not actively recruiting for it. Prior to joining, I consulted with Horizon for eight months on training and HR projects. Justin [president and CEO Justin Howard] and I discussed the CBO role and if that was something in which I would be interested.
According to the job description, the chief branding officer at Horizon FCU: “Ensures Horizon’s brand, core values, and culture are maintained and incorporated into every facet of the credit union, including marketing, human resources, and political and community activism. Sets the tone for internal and external communications, ensuring they are clear and constant with the Horizon brand.” Check out the full job description, and more like it, in the Callahan Policy Exchange.
What opportunities does the chief branding officer role address?
MP: The opportunity to promote our brand. Credit unions continue to be the best option to address people’s financial needs. Unfortunately, there’s still a misconception you have to work for a certain company or industry to join or that we don’t offer all the services of a bigger bank.
Plus, the opportunity to educate our staff and the community. Financial literacy doesn’t get the attention it deserves in school — how to budget, improve your credit score, what’s involved with a loan, and so much more that would put individuals in a better financial situation.
CU QUICK FACTS
HORIZON FEDERAL CREDIT UNION
HQ: Williamsport, PA
Data as of 06.30.21
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 40.9%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 25.8%
What makes you a great fit for this job?
MP: For 12 years I served as the vice president of employee engagement and development for a large credit union in southeastern Pennsylvania. I was responsible for our training and career development program, recruiting and onboarding new employees, and internal communication. When I left the credit union, I spent two years working with other credit unions throughout the country on initiatives such as developing training programs, job descriptions, policies and procedures, and strategic planning.
The What’s In A Name series is one of several Callahan Collections available at CreditUnions.com. Check out this collection, then browse the collections available for disaster recovery, member feedback, community impact, sustainability, deposits, analytics, and more.
Who do you report to and who reports to you?
MP: I report directly to Justin. I currently have one direct report, our HR professional. She handles most of the daily HR responsibilities. As we continue to grow, we expect to add a full-time marketing professional within the next couple of years.
What are your areas of responsibility?
MP: Human resources, training, and marketing. We do a lot of marketing for a smaller credit union, and we do a lot of the content creation in-house for ads, direct mail, digital signage in the branches, and social media posts.
“Marketing is what brings members through the door the first time; our staff brings them back each additional time.”
Why are HR and training part of the chief branding officer role? How does that integrate with more traditional marketing and branding responsibilities?
MP: I am a firm believer employees should be every company’s greatest asset. Our employees are ambassadors of our brand. As a credit union, we sell trust and service.
Our main products are intangible items. It’s not like purchasing a TV at Best Buy. I can have a horrible experience interacting with the salesperson, but as long as I get the TV I want at the right price, I’m happy.
This is different. Our members keep coming back due to the engagement of our staff. We believe it’s vital to attract, develop, and retain staff to improve the member experience. Marketing is what brings members through the door the first time; our staff brings them back each additional time.
What’s your daily routine?
MP: One of the exciting aspects of this job is the fact every day is different. I set a weekly routine as much as I can. Mondays are typically reporting days and bi-weekly payroll. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are good days to conduct training because they are typically slower volume days in the branches. Fridays are when I schedule social media posts for the following week. I’m usually in the office at 7 a.m. and want to tackle anything that involves being creative in the morning. I’m more productive then.
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How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed strategies and tactics at Horizon FCU? What has been your role in that response?
MP: Education and community involvement are two of our core values. Prior to the pandemic, we had plans to be active in local schools and the community with financial literacy programs including workshops and reality fairs. The pandemic put a kibosh to that because we couldn’t assemble like we wanted. We’ve also had community events that we normally sponsor get canceled, so the opportunity to be out and engage with the community, meet people face to face, shake hands, etc. has taken a hit.
How do you track success in your job?
MP: I measure success in a number of ways. First, is our staff engaged and happy? We conduct an annual employee satisfaction survey, solicit feedback, encourage dialogue on our intranet, and talk to staff in person to see how they are doing. Our turnover ratio is low, which says employees are happy working here.
On the marketing side, we look at the ROI on major campaigns and track engagement on social media. When we do get to host community events, it’s awesome to hear members say we are their financial institution, how much they enjoy dealing with a specific employee, or how they tell their friends about us.
How do you stay current with topics that fall under your role?
MP: I am a constant reader of books, online and print articles, and whatever is applicable to my role. Last year was a challenge in HR as regulations and guidelines were constantly changing regarding COVID. I also listen to podcasts, with John Maxwell’s being one of my favorites.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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