Marc Ernest joined Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union ($1.4B, Chadds Ford, PA) in 2008 after several years as a branch manager in the community banking world. He held several branch management roles within the cooperative until he became FMFCU’s chief relationship officer in August 2017.
He’s had a natural career progression, but not for the most obvious reasons. His current title typically speaks to relationships with individual consumers, but in this case, it’s about building relationships with the businesses while becoming their banker, too.
As part of role, Ernest assumed the leadership of new business development teams focused on lending, deposits, cash and wealth management, and even financial education. And so far, so good.
“We’re ahead of the curve when it comes to commercial accounts,” Ernest says. “We’re opening just more than 500 new ones a year right now and adding $40 million to $50 million in new commercial loans.”
Just as important, the credit union is building deeper relationships with an eye toward keeping members for the long term.
Here, Ernest talks more about his role as chief relationship officer.
Why did Franklin Mint FCU create the title of chief relationship officer? Was it specific to you?
Marc Ernest: It was my doing, sort of. Until we created this role nearly four years ago, there were two of us serving as chief retail officers. We split areas, and although I loved working with the branches, we were approaching 2,500 SEGs while community banks were disappearing around us and the big banks were going through their own mergers and fallouts.
In this perfect storm, I saw an opportunity to pull all of our sales divisions together, break up silos, and put all that work together. As an old community banker myself, I could see the opportunity we had to enhance member service by having one individual hold all our outbound teams together for one common cause: turn those 2,500 SEGs into bankable business accounts through relationship building.
How does this role expand on what you were doing as chief retail officer? Does that role still exist at FMFCU?
ME: We do still have a chief retail officer. He’s a peer of mine. Now I lead our relationship managers in their work with our larger SEG relationships. That includes QVC as well as large health care operations. (The namesake SEG, collectibles retailer Franklin Mint, has not been a local presence for decades.)
I’m also the point person for community adult and youth financial education, which is another way of helping to deepen our engagement with members and encourage them to bring to us their deposits and loans.
We also can now focus on those smaller SEGs, with an eye toward encouraging those business owners to make us their personal financial institution, too. A lot of them don’t know what a credit union is and what we can do for them. We talk to them, so they know.
What challenges or opportunities does this role address?
ME: The challenge is pulling all those relationship opportunities together. Too often, our mortgage people didn’t know what our commercial people were doing, or what our consumer lending people were doing, or what wealth management was doing. Addressing that by expanding communications among our teams — and bringing in the right people at the right time, like our community development team — creates these great opportunities to ensure we are helping our members in every way we can.
What makes you a great fit for this job?
ME: I’ve been in sales since I stepped out of college. I started in financial services as a branch manager and did that until I went to commercial credit. Then I went back to branches as a chief retail officer, so I got to combine all that experience into my new role. I would say my strengths revolve around building teams and communicating with the commercial world.
CU QUICK FACTS
Franklin Mint FCU
HQ: Chadds Ford, PA
Data as of 12.31.20
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 20.3%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 7.6%
What are your areas of responsibility?
ME: In a nutshell, I’m responsible for everything that goes on outside the Franklin Mint building from a business development standpoint.
Who do you report to? Who reports to you?
ME: I report to our chief operations officer. All the relationship managers report to me, as do all business development roles, commercial lending, commercial deposits, treasury management solutions, and community financial literacy.
What’s your daily routine?
ME: I might start the day with our Berenstain Bears Financial Literacy Program, turn my attention to lending by 11, and then wealth management by noon. And then, work with a large college that afternoon on how to make its treasury management flow better.
My role is to support all of our teams, but I am very involved with doing outbound business development myself.
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How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed strategies and tactics at FMFCU?
ME: We’re now very much in a remote world, but in some ways, how we do business relationships hasn’t changed. My teams were all remote and spent most of their time on the road, working on their own doing business development and building relationships.
That said, I think the pandemic has given us an opportunity to advance business development by giving us the chance to take the time for more communication and conversation than ever before. This has been a chance for credit unions everywhere to show care and compassion and shine as we find ways people to help weather the storm.
How do you track success in your job?
ME: It’s a combination of things. We’re numbers- and data-driven, of course, but there’s so much more. At the end of the day, I know we’ve been successful when I hear stories from my teams and from business members out in the community about how much they appreciate what we do. It sounds cliché, but we’re here to help make their lives better, not to sell to businesses and people.
How do you stay current with topics that fall under your role?
ME: Prior to the pandemic, I went to a lot of seminars. I still do, just not in person. I think it’s important to talk to people in real conversation as much as you can. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I read a lot of fiction and non-fiction. They each have their benefits.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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