Crossing the Line to Fight the Good Fight

CU collaborates with local bank for good of the community.

October 01, 2013
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When you think of somebody willing to cross a line in the sand, Patrick Adams should immediately come to mind

In 2012, the CEO of St. Louis Community Credit Union defied a traditional boundary to begin a four-year collaboration with a bank.

His reason? The need to bring all the power he could muster to reach a dramatically underserved community.

“The problems in St. Louis are bigger than any rivalry between banks and credit unions,” says Adams, noting the city has the nation’s third most underserved African-American population.

Eighty-five percent of the credit union’s members are low-to-moderate income, and 80% are African-American.

“We’re one of the largest CDFIs [community development ¬financial institutions] in the city, and a bank could use us to satisfy its community reinvestment needs,” he explains. “When I ran into an old friend and asked what he was up to, he said he was working for Carrollton Bank. I told him that if his bank needed to use CRA [Community Reinvestment Act] dollars, our credit union was the one to go through. Shortly after that, I got a phone call.”

It took about a year to set up the collaboration. “There were no problems at the local level, but we guess it took a while to get the FDIC [Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.] to fully understand—the approach was so novel. A big help to getting this done was the commitment of the bank’s president to serving the market. He really understands the need.”

Adams’ biggest target is payday lenders. “Missouri has the second-largest concentration of payday lenders in the U.S. They flock here and prey on the disadvantaged because there’s very little industry regulation.”

The arrangement with Carrollton Bank involves $800,000 to help with operations, including financial education, marketing, and branch space. “We funded a branch with them, and have 10 other offices as well.”

In an in-your-face show of taking the fight to the foe, Adams placed one of the branches in a strip mall directly between two payday lenders.

“We wanted to go after them. I’m a credit union veteran who has taken the credit union movement’s mission seriously for years. If credit unions drift away from their original mission, it’s not good. So we decided to find an economically disadvantaged community and own it.

“We could have gone to the suburbs and battled for deposits, and become a ‘me too’ institution in the process, but that wasn’t for us.”

Adams starts his work day early—usually arriving at his desk by 6:20 a.m. “I have a great staff. Our motto is ‘passion over paycheck,’ meaning we want people who are in this for the good they can do, not just the money they make.”

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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