Transportation CU CEO's Road To Success

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When it came to hiring a CEO, it wasn't the third, fourth or even the fifth try that proved to be LA DOTD FCU's lucky charm.

After five CEOs within a five-year period, the $85-million credit union hired Cary Anderson in 2001 as its newest leader. Formerly a teller who worked his way up through the ranks of the CU industry, Anderson was ready to help boost the sagging employee morale and offer the stability this CU desperately needed.

"I set my game plan long before I became a CEO," Anderson said. "I wanted to work in every facet of the credit union operation that I could so I would know what I was doing (when I got to the top)."

For all of his efforts that staff and board say turned LA DOTD FCU from a "good credit union to a great one," Anderson was named this year's NAFCU's Professional of the Year for a CU with less than $150 million in assets. He will join other honorees during the NAFCU 39th Annual Conference and Exhibition, this week in Toronto.

Anderson said receiving the award is an honor, especially because it came from his peers.

"Cary's innate ability to build and foster a teamwork environment is one of his greatest strengths," said Michele Lacour, VP of Growth Services at LA DOTD FCU. "He works diligently to create an environment where everyone can excel as he challenges us to reach for greater heights and never be satisfied with the status quo."

Asked about his management style, Anderson quickly clarified that he prefers to be called a leader. "Management is more of looking inward at the credit union," he said. "Leadership is looking outward and motivating your staff toward your vision and direction."

That said, Anderson pointed out that he couldn't take all the credit for his CU's recent successes that include asset growth of 11.5% in 2005 and membership growth of 10.4% in the same time period.

"I'm very lucky to have a leadership team who come with different skills and talents," he said. "I think our style as a whole is based on employee strengths, not weaknesses."

Anderson made great efforts to boost employee morale through an incentive program that offered opportunities for more money and more tools to advance careers.

"In 2005, LA DOTD's 52 employees had the ability to earn 6% of their salary in pay for performance incentives," Lacour said, explaining that the increases were based on goals set for the CU and each individual employee. "In 2006, Cary has raised that figure to 9%."

Not surprisingly, morale has soared and employee turnover has decreased, Lacour said, noting that the most recent employee satisfaction survey showed a 98% approval rating.

"Cary is a firm believer in getting the right people on the bus and then making sure the right people are in the right position," Lacour said. "His ability to match an employee to a job that caters to their strengths has resulted in greater efficiency and productivity."

A graduate of NAFCU's MDI program, Anderson has reciprocated by sending several members of his own leadership team through the same program. Others are committed to attending over the next several years, Lacour said. Anderson also created a training department that includes a new employee orientation program and an in-house lending library to aid all staff with continuing education.

"As part of our incentive plan, employees can earn incentives by completing three training assignments (conferences, CUES online courses, books, etc.) a quarter," Lacour said.

Anderson has also developed an excellent working relationship with his board, and has been instrumental in encouraging them to pursue their education through financial seminars and conferences.

"To get our board more familiar with our online services, Cary purchased each director a laptop computer and printer so they could use our services and also communicate electronically," she said. "Board packets are now posted on an e-boardroom secure site."

His dedication doesn't stop there, she said.

As a strong proponent of advancing the CU movement, Anderson has served on the NAFCU Region IV Advisory Committee for three years running, Lacour said. In addition, his CU hosts several fundraising drives each year for NAFCU/PAC and CULAC to continue to make sure lawmakers are receptive to CU issues.

In keeping with his belief that credit unions have a responsibility to help people break out of the cycle of poverty, he hired two full-time educators in 2004.

Thus far, Lacour said, this team has taught some 1,450 elementary school children the importance of saving and conducted more than 380 financial education seminars throughout the community's schools, churches, small businesses and non-profit groups in 2005 and 2006.

Other efforts include its VITA and IDA home ownership programs, made possible through a grant. A second HUD grant was awarded to help the CU provide counseling for members interested in purchasing their first homes. Lacour said the CU has also applied for non-profit status for Anderson's newly formed foundation that will promote financial literacy and asset building.

In 2005, under Anderson's leadership, the CU introduced business services, a program that offers small businesses an affordable alternative for checking accounts and business lending. It also rolled out two new checking accounts-one for members who have had problems managing a checking account in the past and another for those who maintain high balances and want to earn more. The program has included the development by staff of a set of service standards to help them exceed members' expectations.

Anderson's team further demonstrated the CU's commitment to serving the community through its new Financial Resource Center in Denham Spring, which opened last spring. The new facility includes "Artist Crossing," a gallery that features the works of local artists, and a 65-person capacity meeting room for community groups and corporate partners, Lacour said.

"Under Cary's direction, LA DOTD Federal Credit Union sponsors several smaller credit unions in Louisiana so they can attend Louisiana Credit Union League functions," Lacour said. "We have also provided assistance to other credit unions regarding computer conversions, debit card operations, and collections, to name a few."

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