Member Loyalty Driven by AmeriCU’s “MVP-1Team” Culture
A key component to AmeriCU’s success has been creating an admirable work environment and company culture.
Led for 31 years by Retired U.S. Army Colonel Mark Pfisterer, Chief Executive Officer, the organization has taken a cue from the wisdom of the Armed Forces: Investing in the people who do the organization’s work day after day will create an atmosphere of excellence and magnetism.
“We focus on our internal members,” says Ronald Belle, Chief Experience Officer, “and, by that, I mean our employees. Focusing on providing competitive compensation and benefits for our employees—including training—our employees will take care of our members.”
Employees at AmeriCU are trained to approach each interaction with a member with great intentionality, professionalism, and care. When a member walks into a financial center or calls on the phone, employees greet them, seek to understand their needs, engage with them meaningfully to understand the full context of their needs and objectives, and provide information on how AmeriCU—and sometimes even other resources in the community— can be of help to members.
AmeriCU has even gone so far as to name its company culture; the “MVP-1Team” culture. MVP stands for Member Value Program.
To reinforce this culture, employees are also trained to address each other in the same manner. Internal calls are greeted with “Thank you for calling AmeriCU, This is (name), how can I help you?” and employees are graciously asked how their team member can help them. Employees respectfully seek the same context from their colleagues as if they were on a call with a member. Leaving shortcuts by the wayside, AmeriCU employees are able to focus on the issue being discussed, addressing member needs, and offering opportunities.
Since launching this initiative in 2017, AmeriCU has implemented company-wide MVP-1Team training and quarterly meetings. The key in developing this culture is that we have continued to gather our employees together and talk about our mission and values every quarter.
This culture shift has resulted in greater levels of employee satisfaction and translated to greater levels of member satisfaction.
When members are asked, “Is AmeriCU your primary financial institution?” affirmative answers grew 15 percent in the last two years!
“This growth is attributed to three things,” says Belle, “our technology and ease of use, our presence in the region, and our culture.”
Investing in Technology Has Fueled Growth
With the rise of banking over the last two decades, AmeriCU has made investments in technology that have helped attract new members and retain long-standing members. The AmeriCU online content—as well as the ease of navigating loan applications and online banking features—has endeared members of all ages and profiles to AmeriCU since the early 2000s.
“How we look at technology,” Belle explains, “is that it is no longer a convenience, it’s a necessity.”
Re-launched in late 2019, the AmeriCU website is accessible, inclusive, and loaded with material that is valuable to their members. In addition to a specific “Military” tab that speaks to the organization’s military roots and seamless transactions in banking and applications, but they have also included content about financial wellness.
As they view web traffic, they see that many members visit their website and are spending significant time viewing the financial education material, self-teaching on their own schedule.
People can become AmeriCU members, open accounts, apply for loans, use financial planning tools, learn how to review quotes on insurance, and do many other transactions.
Roots in the Military Community Allow AmeriCU to Meet Community Needs
AmeriCU was founded in 1950 and had one location, which was located on Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, NY. The credit union served only the civilian employees of the Base. Since that time, the credit union has expanded its reach to active-duty members of the military, retired military personnel, and their family members all across the country. Throughout the organization’s history, it has consistently served its customers with a helpful spirit of service and product pricing that is more competitive than those found at banks.
This 70-year-old credit union now has 20 different financial center locations—“we don’t use the term ‘branches,’” AmeriCU employees emphasize—which now serve over 135,000 members. Since 1987, the credit union has a financial center at Ft. Drum, NY, which trains approximately 80,000 soldiers annually.
AmeriCU’s embrace of the local military community has allowed the credit union to highlight the products and services that many military families need throughout their careers. Additionally, the organization employs many veterans and others who have served in the military in some capacity.
“Having that background provides a unique understanding of what it means to be in military life,” says Belle.
For instance, Ft. Drum is one of the most deployed bases in the Army. AmeriCU helps family members at Ft. Drum— and other communities—by offering low-interest loans and no-cost financial education to empower them for a bright and healthy financial trajectory.
AmeriCU helps members early in their careers to understand budgeting and saving. AmeriCU has prioritized offering these services to members early in their careers who have a spouse and/or children.
“Our focus is truly on improving the lives of our members,” says Belle.
In addition to the positive impact AmeriCU has on the local economy through its competitive pricing and employment of hundreds of people, it also provides direct support to many local charity events, including the “Salute to the Troops” concert at MountainFest, the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, the Syracuse Arts and Crafts Festival, the Syracuse “Buy Local” Bash, the USO Ample Sample, the Syracuse Heart Walk, the Hillside Children’s Foundation Taste of Success event, and the Cazenovia Children’s House “Chilly Chili” 5k Run/Walk.