By Alycia Schick
Ron Belle, President & CEO
Grand Opening, Liverpool NY Branch
Operating a business in an ever-changing economic climate can be challenging. Being in the financial services industry, credit unions are certainly attuned to shifting economic environments. Despite rising costs in 2022 and economic uncertainties ahead for 2023, AmeriCU Credit Union has continued to grow.
Established in 1950 on Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York, AmeriCU has grown to serve more than 160,000 members across Central and Northern New York. The credit union also specializes in working with over 850 business partners with whom they offer financial solutions and services to their workforces.
Ron Belle, President and Chief Executive Officer of AmeriCU Credit Union, discusses AmeriCU’s “Stay Connected” strategies that can apply to businesses of any size.
- Stay Connected to Your Markets
AmeriCU understands the importance of staying connected to its members. Identifying trends and changing needs of your market is not just important, it’s critical. So is knowing how customers want and need to connect and interact with your business. Having this level of knowledge can ensure you are providing the services and technology capabilities necessary to remain relevant as well as could provide your business an opportunity to expand. Having a clear understanding of your market also provides a foundation towards developing a strategic direction.
AmeriCU has found there are several ways to collect market data. The credit union regularly provides surveys and encourages member feedback to ensure the credit union understands what members are looking for in the way of product and service enhancements, member service expectations, and ease of doing business. AmeriCU has also found value in partnering with research companies who specialize in identifying industry and consumer trends across the region and nation.
- Stay Connected to Your Teammates
AmeriCU has strategically enhanced its self-serve technology capabilities for both members and teammates. “Our members require convenience of doing their banking how and when they choose – the same applies to our teammates,” says Belle. AmeriCU has enhanced internal capabilities so they can be more efficient, for example in gaining instant access to important business data. “Beyond any technology changes, our 400 teammates are who make us AmeriCU. We live our culture every day.”
Talent is hard to find and highly coveted. Retaining and promoting is just as important as hiring new teammates. AmeriCU makes it a priority to understand what individuals are looking for in an employer, while recognizing what motivates them to achieve success. This creates a culture that allows individuals to grow and thrive in their career at AmeriCU. The credit union also puts an emphasis on training and expanding the skills of teammates, leading to improved job satisfaction and more opportunities for internal promotions. Doing so helps to improve member experience and service levels that are industry leading.
AmeriCU conducts monthly all-staff meetings that supports transparency across the organization and keeps team members connected to the credit union’s vision and mission. AmeriCU offers a hybrid work schedule to attract and retain individuals, allowing for greater flexibility and balance, along with a generous paid time-off program. Regularly scheduled department and individual meetings along with a bi-annual review processes are in place. These practices keep teammates and management connected throughout the year while cultivating an environment of learning and personal development.
- Stay Connected to Your Community
Being a good corporate steward is paramount to success. Research shows individuals want to do business with companies that make a difference and leave the world in a better place for future generations. AmeriCU is committed to giving back to the communities it serves. The credit union supports local charities and community organizations and understands the importance of giving back financially and through volunteerism. AmeriCU regularly engages with community leaders to understand their needs and how to partner together. Teammates are also encouraged to spend time in the community and build connections that make a difference. A benefit at the credit union is a Personal Day of Meaning, giving each teammate the choice of a local organization important to them to volunteer their time.
- Stay Connected to Your Vision, Mission & Strategic Plan
AmeriCU believes that by keeping its vision and mission at the forefront along with annual strategic planning allows them to be flexible and achieve desired outcomes. “The economy has been through a difficult period these last few years with a pandemic and high inflation. We had to plan and prepare more than ever,” says Belle. “Having a strategic plan provided us the ability to adapt during these times.”
When formulating a plan, it is important to identify what you do well, understand market trends, and try to anticipate needs. These questions, along with direct feedback from the markets it serves, helped AmeriCU develop a strategic plan that teammates can embrace and track progress towards achieving goals. From this, AmeriCU formed a strategic plan and created a business strategy focused on six key pillars to sustain success and growth. Within each pillar are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely (SMART).
AmeriCU has project management tools in place and holds regular check-ins with key stakeholders to measure progress against the plan. Strategic planning sessions are conducted to evaluate and adjust plans in response to business needs, shared or new learning opportunities, or external factors. This plan is available to the AmeriCU team and serves as a guiding light for decision making. AmeriCU has found greater structure and documentation allows it to better respond to shifting market conditions.
AmeriCU recognizes every business is different and the future can be uncertain. “In an increasingly disconnected world, real connections matter more than ever. Connecting to our members, our teammates, our communities, and our vision has truly been key to our success,” says Belle. As a local, member-owned organization and full business service provider, AmeriCU takes pride in helping other businesses achieve their goals and is always there to offer tips and lend a hand.
AmeriCU & You. Let’s Connect.
For more information on AmeriCU, visit AmeriCU.org or call 800.388.2000.