After 15 years with TelComm, you succeeded Don Ackerman in the top role on Jan. 1. Tell us about your history with the credit union.
In 2005, I actually applied to be a teller. I knew nothing about the credit union industry at that time. But when I interviewed they were actually looking for an accounting position, and that’s what I was going to school for, so I ended up stepping into that role. As I was getting my bachelor’s degree and master’s degree, I was promoted to vice president of accounting. And then I served in the (chief financial officer) position for six years. The intention certainly was not to stay when I was going to school, but I just ended up loving the community and the people that I worked with.
How did the CEO opportunity arise for you?
A couple of board members had asked me if I had any interest in the position. They did hire an external recruiter to work with the candidates. I did not step into the CFO role planning to move into the CEO role, but when finding out that Don was getting ready to retire, I kind of chewed on it and had interest in it. I love the credit union, and it just all seemed to fit well with my background. With the second interview, I know there was six [candidates] and then with the third round there was four. I think they had over 100 applications.
Last year, TelComm celebrated 80 years in business and reported records in both assets, almost $204 million, and membership, 21,000. Where is TelComm today?
We hit $220 million in assets. That’s a huge milestone. We grew about 24% year over year. We’re still right about 21,000 members. We typically have about a 10% increase. A lot of that [growth] would be due to COVID and stimulus and with rates being so low, not wanting to invest as much, so we do have a lot larger deposits on hand currently. We do offer (Excess Share Insurance), which is in addition to the (National Credit Union Administration) insurance. We will insure deposits an additional $250,000 above what NCUA offers. We have seen that being utilized and members bringing in larger deposits on hand because we have that protection for them. When we got that first round of stimulus, we were watching it to see how quickly it would go out the door and people held onto it for quite a while. It was all the uncertainty.
What’s on the horizon for 2021?
We are excited about just focusing on the electronic services side. We already had some great electronic services that we offered, but with COVID of course, that accelerated that. Just a couple months ago, we rolled out our mobile wallet. Also, we’re looking at our plastics, services and products that will just make (customers’) lives easier. We want to do some financial literacy training. We don’t have anything solid in place at the moment, but I’ve worked with The Kitchen and Community Partnership of the Ozarks’ financial literacy program in the past. I’m getting close to hiring the CFO, looking for that experience and background, as well.
TelComm has six branches. We’ve seen branches closing among other financial institutions in the area. With the push of electronic services and the growth of fintech, is that part of your plan?
Not at this point in time. We’re not looking to add new branches, but I wouldn’t say that we’re looking to close them either. We’re just shifting our focus to the electronic services, but our branches are still utilized quite frequently. We were closed and then we opened up again the lobbies over the summer, but we are currently closed again. There’s been some members that still want to have that contact; that will always be the case I think, but for the majority, people really embrace those electronic services.
Jessica Shorney can be reached at email@example.com.
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