The Difference Between Committed and Non-Committed

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ST. LOUIS — David Barton recently turned over the reins of Gateway Metro FCU, retiring after a 35-year career in the industry, the last 17 as CEO. During his tenure, Barton oversaw growth to $180 million in assets from $50 million. Below, Barton talks to Credit Union Journal about the road he — and the CU — traveled to get GMFCU to where it is today.

Credit Union Journal: During your tenure as CEO, what was one of the most important steps undertaken by you and the credit union?
: We have always worked to make the credit union more efficient (see related story, above). We try to improve on that every year. The biggest change was treating our committed members and non-committed members differently. Committed members-those who treat us more as their primary financial institution-earn higher rates on their CDs and receive lower loan rates than non-committed members-than those who may have come to us through an indirect auto loan, for example, and do not use other services.

CUJ: What has that delineation done for Gateway?
: We have become much more efficient in the last few years. We have a lot fewer members, many non-committed members have left, but we have more in loans and checking and have more committed members than we have had in the past. This has made members make a choice."

CUJ: Do you think this delineation between members existed when you started in the industry 35 years ago?
: No. In the earlier days there was a joint commitment. The credit union, of course, was committed to its members. But because most credit unions were located at their sponsor, employees felt a greater commitment to the credit union. As the industry has become community based, many members do not have the same kind of commitment they had 30 years ago.

CUJ: Commitment is important to you, and you were known for being very committed and accessible to your entire staff when you ran Gateway.
: I was always accessible to employees. They need to know the credit union and the board are committed to them. So you have to walk the talk. I would walk through our buildings regularly and try to create enthusiasm. It's fun to do, but also important to the business. If employees see you are enthusiastic about your mission, they are enthusiastic about their mission.

CUJ: What was the most rewarding aspect of your career at Gateway?
: Opening branches in schools. We are the only credit union in Missouri that has branches in elementary schools and high schools. I am most proud of this because I believe this is where the credit union can make a big difference-teaching children and young adults about financial management.

CUJ: Your plans for the future?
: Moving to northeast Missouri, to the town of Kirksville. We have had property there for 20 years. My son and daughter-in-law, and their two children, live there. I'll work the farm a little and be closer to family. We have 143 acres and run some cattle and have chickens. And with the Internet and satellite TV, you can be connected no matter where you live.

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