Building a Thriving Business on Nonprofit Values

with Scott Wilson of SeaComm Federal Credit Union

From his open-door policy to quarterly meetings with each branch management team, Scott Wilson, SeaComm’s CEO, works diligently to keep lines of communication open.

Work in the nonprofit sector and work in the financial services industry may seem to be at odds with one another, but SeaComm Federal Credit Union’s CEO, Scott Wilson, made the transition seamlessly. After working in the nonprofit industry for 16 years, he joined SeaComm in 2007 and quickly realized that there were many similarities between nonprofits and credit unions—namely that they’re both very much about serving people. “You have to earn a profit, but, ultimately, running a successful credit union is much like what the 10 founding members wanted, and that was to take care of family, friends, and neighbors,” Wilson says. Here, Wilson details how this core philosophy has helped the New York-based financial institution, which was founded in 1963, become nearly a half  billion-dollar credit union.

1. Be Member Centric

SeaComm is very invested in surpassing its members’ expectations. From the moment a member walks into one of the credit union’s six branches, phones into its call center, or logs onto one of its mobile-delivery platforms, Wilson wants them to have an exceptional experience, going as far as saying that he and his team “obsess” over it. The credit union places so much emphasis on its members’ satisfaction, in fact, that random surveys are sent out monthly to those who conducted a transaction at the credit union. “We want feedback on how members are treated and if we did everything necessary to make them feel valued,” Wilson says. “The survey results are reviewed by me, my senior leadership team, and everyone in management responsible for a retail area. If we find areas where there needs to be improvement, we ensure that changes are made.”

2. Sustain a Solid Balance Sheet

According to Wilson, SeaComm understands the importance of a solid balance sheet. He considers it vital to the success of any financial institution, and, from the look of things, Wilson and his team know exactly what they’re doing. According to Weiss Ratings, out of the 7,300 federal credit unions in the United States, SeaComm is within the top five percent in terms of financial strength, earning Weiss’s highest “A” rating.

3. Attract and Retain High-Performing Employees

Wilson has very high expectations for SeaComm’s staff and believes it’s necessary that each employee is dedicated to the credit union’s mission of “people helping people.” For the CEO, communication is key. Wilson sends out a monthly newsletter and has quarterly meetings with each department and branch, the goal being for employees to know how they fit into the organization and the many ways in which they make a difference. “We have talented, smart, hardworking staff who all take great pride in their work serving our members,” Wilson says. “As CEO, I am not the most important person in the organization—they are. They are the ones who work with our members on a day-to-day basis.”

4. Use Your Resources

In 2007, SeaComm introduced employee-training programs that revolved around member relations and product knowledge. The credit union also combined member-service-representative positions with loan-officer positions in order to form financial-service representatives. “We recognized that shuffling members from one office to the next inhibited the member experience and, at the same time, interfered with the ability of employees to develop a relationship with the member. We also realized we can no longer just be order takers. We have to work to put the right products and services into the hands of each of our members and to improve their financial lives.”

5. Continue to Focus on Service

“In 2008, we devoted our energy to process improvement and efficiency, which clearly demonstrated fiscal responsibility while also ensuring member value,” Wilson says. The goal was to grow SeaComm’s member base and expand its existing relationships. Wilson plans to continue differentiating SeaComm from others by continuing to focus on service experience and doing whatever necessary to free up the credit union’s front-line staff so that they can be entirely member-focused.