After 80 years carrying the name of its original and still largest sponsor, Together Credit Union ($1.8B, St. Louis, MO) has a new brand but an old hand helping ensure critical relationships continue to grow and thrive.
Larry Sewell became vice president for corporate partnerships and advocacy at the former Anheuser-Busch Employees’ Credit Union in 2017 after 22 years as the venerable institution’s vice president of training and development.
With 16 years of Air Force service under his belt, Sewell was already a veteran when he joined the credit union in 1995. Now, more than two decades later, the longtime planner, facilitator, and trainer has been charged with ensuring Together builds on its role as a provider of responsible, reliable financial services to its nationwide membership and as an advocate for the credit union movement on a state, local, and federal level.
Here, Sewell talks more about corporate partnerships and advocacy.
Why did Together create this role? What challenges and opportunities does it address, including in relation to your new brand?
Larry Sewell: For nearly 60 years, the credit union served as a single-sponsor credit union. We created our first affiliate division in 1997 and have balanced a hybrid community/SEG growth strategy via our divisions for the past 24 years. Although our greatest opportunity for growth lies within the St. Louis community, we believe fostering our SEG partnerships remains important.
I had no idea our president and CEO, Bob McKay, would ask me to leave my training comfort zone for this new role, but I’m glad he did. I suggested adding advocacy because it interests me and because our legislative advocacy efforts have an important impact on our credit union and credit unions as whole.
Our new name — Together Credit Union — eliminates the need to manage three brand names [Anheuser-Busch Employees’ Credit Union, American Eagle Credit Union, and Purina Credit Union], making us more efficient, eliminating confusion within the market and membership, and providing us with a name we can own.
Of course, we face many of the same challenges other credit unions do, but specifically to the new brand, the inherent challenge is rebuilding awareness.
What kind of partnerships do you have or want to create? What kind of advocacy does Together Credit Union engage in and with whom?
CU QUICK FACTS
Together Credit Union
HQ: St. Louis, MO
Data as of 12.31.19
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 5.7%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 5.4%
LS: We strongly value and appreciate our 80-year partnership with Anheuser-Busch Inc. and the tens of thousands of employees and retirees and their families who are members. We also value partnerships with more than 50 A-B wholesalers/distributors and local and national companies, such as Nestle Purina PetCare. Our goal is to preserve and grow these partnerships.
From an advocacy perspective, Together Credit Union has a strong partnership with Heartland Credit Union Association. Some of our activities include visiting and speaking with elected officials at the state level; communicating issues that impact credit unions with our federal lawmakers; donating to the CUPAC and CULAC funds; attending advocacy-related conferences and events at the local, regional, and national level; serving on boards and committee that represent credit unions.
What makes you a great fit for this job?
LS: I’m not sure there’s a college degree for my type of role, but for the record, I have a few college degrees, including a Bachelor of Science in business from Samford University, a master’s degree in business from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and a master’s degree in information resources management from Webster University. I consider myself a professional facilitator, planner, trainer, and coach.
These skills help me communicate effectively with SEG leadership as well as with elected officials. Plus, my experience as a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force gave me valuable leadership and communication skills that I’ve used throughout my professional career.
What’s your daily routine?
LS: There is not much of a daily routine. I keep abreast of state and national issues that affect credit unions, read blogs, and listen to podcasts. I also stay in contact with our branch managers to ensure we are supporting their membership growth, and, of course, I stay connected with my two staff members.
What are your areas of responsibility?
LS: My areas of responsibility include managing existing SEG partnerships, identifying opportunities within our community FOMs, providing information on products and services, leading credit union advocacy efforts in partnership with the Heartland Credit Union Association, developing and managing a budget, and developing and coaching my staff.
How do you track success in your job?
LS: I track success fairly simply using three measurements: acquiring a targeted percentage of new members through our SEGs, keeping our SEGs engaged, increasing product and service usage with our SEG members.
What has been your most gratifying/satisfying moment so far?
LS: There have been many moments but probably most gratifying would be growing this niche for the credit union.
How important is networking, both for you and Together? What are your key activities, such as your work with the African American Credit Union Coalition?
LS: Credit unions are a relationship-oriented business. Networking is significant for this role and the credit union as a whole because success relies heavily on the actions of others. In addition to networking, getting involved and volunteering are key.
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The AACUC has been a fantastic conduit for me to give back to the credit union movement. I serve on the board of directors as the vice chair and work to connect with credit union leaders, leagues/associations, and vendors to promote leadership, internship, and mentorship. Shameless plug: We need more credit unions, leagues, and vendors to become members.
Who do you report to? Who reports to you?
LS: I report to our chief operations officer, and I have two direct reports, our business partnerships specialist and our senior consultant for business partnerships.
How do you stay current with topics that fall under your role?
LS: I read practically all of the national credit union publications daily. Additionally, the Heartland Credit Union Association is a tremendous resource for information and assistance.
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