SAN FRANCISCO–It wasn’t all that long ago that San Francisco FCU’s planning horizon did not extend beyond one year. The one thing it could see in front of it, however, was that it was losing members.


All that has changed now for the $822-million SFFCU, which has added a strategic monitoring tool to help it modernize itself, allowing it to look beyond a single year for project planning and reverse its member loss rate.


The solution it chose, reported Steven Stapp, president and CEO of this CU that serves 30,792 members in the City by the Bay, was Connections Online by Westlake, Ohio-based Cardwell Leadership. Stapp said the tool has proven to be “quite powerful,” as it provided access to all employees, gave them an enterprise-wide view of each project in the works and their status within the credit union.


“From a project management point of view we load everything into the software and all employees can see what is going on with a project, what the next steps are, and so on,” he told Credit Union Journal. “When I came to San Francisco


Federal Credit Union in 2008 it was financially strong with low delinquencies and low expenses. But at the time we had a low loan-to-share ratio, 35%, our technology services were behind the times, and we were losing new members at a (negative) 1% rate each year.”


Hungry For New Business


The biggest issue, Stapp recalled, was the inability to look out three to five years and to plan accordingly. Since implementing Connections Online it has completed a $5 million renovation and a rebranding, in addition to upgrading its technology tools with online and mobile banking and bill pay.


“With these projects under our belts, our credit union is thoroughly modernized and we are hungry for new business–particularly in real estate,” he declared. “In fact, our loans are now up 15% to 20% and we are looking to maintain that number. Our consumer loan process is fully automated online, and our new membership growth is no longer in the red, it is now up 5%.”


Stapp praised the software for its “proactive and structured communications process,” which he said allowed everybody throughout the organization to be kept current and accountable.


“This focus has allowed us to move our organization forward and put a plan in place and carry it out to completion with positive results.”


Prior to upgrading its mobile technology, SFFCU had 500 members out of 30,000 using mobile banking. After recently implementing new technology it is up to 900 members and climbing, with a goal of 4,000 to 5,000.


Strategic Planning Improvements


Strategic planning has improved with Connections Online, Stapp explained, because it allows a plan to be posted online for all to see. That has prompted management to engage in structured dialogues and discussions with designated staff members that quickly, yet methodically, move San Francisco Federal toward its goals.


“It is a whole process to communicate frequently, as we would talk every single month about the strategic plan, allowing us to react to any issues much quicker,” he said. “For example, when we addressed our lack of membership growth, we focused directly on it and would talk about it monthly. As a result, we created a 20-step plan of products, promotions, and community outreach to attract new members for our much-needed growth.”


Stapp said SFFCU has tripled the number of projects it is completing as an organization as the result of having more active controls in place that ensure projects get done before people move on to something else.


“We have roughly six to eight projects going at a time, and it helps us with triage, and helps us advance our agenda and improve as a credit union,” he said.


There is no specific ROI, Stapp noted, often because a project involves improving member service or regulatory compliance. But he said it has made everyone more efficient.


Jim Cardwell, CEO of Cardwell Leadership, said Stapp and the management team at SFFCU have built a clear organizational focus, and a strategic dashboard that made performance targets and tracking visible throughout the credit union.


“This became a communications hub for recognition, problem-solving and cross-functional teamwork,” Cardwell said. “Everyone in the organization got 'connected’ and the business blossomed.”

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