Reflecting On Challenge of 10% Annual Growth

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — When David Adcock took over as CEO of America's First FCU 14 years ago, the credit union had $300 million in assets. Nine years later assets had doubled, and Adcock set the CU's sights on reaching $1 billion by 2010. The $1.1-billion AFFCU hit the $1 billion threshold in February of 2010, and Adcock, after being a part of the credit union for 38 years, announced he would be retiring in March, 2011. Credit Union Journal caught up with Adcock, who talked about his experiences at America's First and his reasons for moving on.

Credit Union Journal: Did reaching $1-billion in assets affect your decision to retire?
: I don't mind saying that it was something on my to-do list. But everything lined up-I was ready to retire, the credit union is doing very well, our delinquencies are in check, and capital is near 10%, despite the economy. Personally, I have always enjoyed my work and still do. But I want to spend more time with my wife and travel, and see more of my grandkids. I am really looking forward to living my life on my own schedule after all these years.

CUJ: You started at the CU as a loan officer and moved your way up?
: Correct. But in 1972 we were called loan counselors. Next I became a branch manager and ran one of our offices for 15 years. I moved up to VP of branch operations, and in 1996 I became CEO.

CUJ: Growing the credit union has always been one of your biggest goals?
Adcock: Yes. Just before 2005, the board and I felt becoming a $1-billion credit union was attainable by the end of 2009. That required about 10% growth each year. But we felt we were set up to do that, with an 18-branch network-a lot of bricks and mortar for our asset size. We put together a five-year business plan to grow into our footprint. We felt, and we were correct, that we could grow exponentially without growing our expenses and maintain capital at around 10%.

CUJ: You say you actually missed the target to reach $1 billion?
Adcock: Yes, by only two months. We hoped to reach $1 billion by the end of 2009 and we reached the number in February. It was very gratifying to me, the management team, the board, and employees to see a plan we put in place take shape and work out.

CUJ: What were some keys to the growth?
Adcock: We maintained a conservative management style, trying to stay with the things we felt we were good at, like running branches and providing excellent member service. We have always tried to keep things simple, and that means focusing on members. We did not go into new areas to grow, like commercial and business lending.

CUJ: You believe that conservative approach to business helped you keep growth high during the recession?
Adcock: Correct. We just kept doing what we were doing and adding members and deepening relationships through excellent service and our large branch network. For example, in 2009, our deposit growth was 12.5% and loan growth was almost 6%. And this year our asset growth is a little over 10%. One thing we are most proud of is that our loan growth this year has been 2%-that number is negative in many credit unions.

CUJ: Any parting comments on what America's First has been able to accomplish?
Adcock: Thanks to our employees, management team, and the board, we've had some pretty good years.

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Growth strategies