With that wide footprint, O’Rourke said one of United FCU’s biggest daily challenges communication and culture.
“We need to make sure everyone understands the vision and the plan, and make sure everyone is pulling in the same direction,” he said. “Every person needs to feel they are part of Team United.”
Due to its wide branch network, United FCU is not able to ever have all of its employees attend the same meeting in person, but all year long staff come to its Michigan headquarters. O’Rourke and his executive team also regularly visit branches to keep in touch, including holding annual town hall meetings at every branch and monthly meeting held via a live video stream.
“We are intentional in our communication, and I believe in over-communication,” he said. “We have it set up so everyone can give anonymous feedback directly to me. We make sure people feel connected. It is my personal mission to make sure every person in the credit union knows where we are going, and more importantly, why, because then they all feel empowered to help get us there.”
On top of that, the credit union must also ensure it meets the needs and preferences of a variety of consumers in different markets, including dealing with regional pricing differences. O’Rourke said the management team must pay attention to rates for both loans and deposits to make sure United is relevant in each market.
“Our competitors in Michigan are very different from our competitors in Nevada, for example,” he said. While consumer lending products – including auto and RV loans and HELOCs – are priced on a regional basis, the credit union also has market-specific competitor sets it utilizes for competitive analysis, which varies depending on the product. While deposits aren’t currently subject to regional pricing, credit union officials are looking into the possibility of doing so in the future.
Eric Schornhorst, a strategic advisor at CU Solutions Group, noted that for any institution operating in multiple states, management must make decisions regarding what gets centralized and what decisions are unique to a particular market.
“Pricing decisions, marketing [and more] may be based on regional needs, or everything may be kept at the headquarters for the sake of efficiency and consistency,” he said. Although I have not done multiple states at a credit union, I have expanded [banks] across a state twice. The concepts are pretty similar.”