The Enderby Letters
About the Enderby Letters
Over the weeks ahead, you’ll get a glimpse of the experiences of team members who are working to bring Enderby & District Financial into the First West family. Throughout the series, you’ll hear from a number of people in different roles as they reflect on the changes, emotions, and overall experience of embarking on a new journey and starting something new.
October 15, 2013 | Hitting the ground running
“The model allows resources to be focused on creating real value, rather than getting bogged down in the trappings of a conventional merger....”
Sometimes it’s said that a sports team “looks good on paper,” meaning of course that the statistics and characteristics of each team member suggests a high level of performance as a team. Yet in some cases, real-world performance can be a very different thing. The same can be said when companies—and credit unions—merge. Sure, in the business case you can talk about the benefits it might create for customers and members—but actually delivering on tangible, real-life benefits can an entirely different matter.
We faced that very situation when Enderby & District Financial became part of First West. Could we demonstrate value to members in a way that wasn’t just “hidden” in the financial statements? How could we begin to make that difference in their financial lives?
Quite simply, products. New products are one of the most visible and easily accessible signs of value proposition to consumers. There’s promotional material to grab their attention, and there’s the product itself, with features and benefits they can assess.
With that in mind, we set ourselves an ambitious goal to bring value to the Enderby marketplace by introducing new products as quickly as possible.
In less than three months, we launched two of our most popular products, the Simply Free Account™ and Unlimited Chequing for Business®. And roughly six months in, our Primelink term deposit product was available. As I write this, our Marketing and Information Technology teams are hard at work to bring two more products—our new Home Sweet Bonus™ and the After Grad Bonus™ accounts—to the Enderby marketplace.
But wait—there’s more! Work is also underway to enhance the online experience for the Enderby & District Financial website over the coming months. And the real beauty of these enhancements and additions is that the First West model enables them more quickly than a traditional merger. The model allows resources to be focused on creating real value, rather than getting bogged down in the trappings of a conventional merger, such as expensive banking system conversions or complete rebranding of branches and marketing collateral.
Not a bad start, is it? While marketers like me would love to take full credit for these impressive accomplishments, a lot has to be said for our model. With First West, credit unions like Enderby & District Financial can join and hit the ground running. Our model isn’t just good on paper—it brings real-world value to members in ways they can see immediately.
~ Ashok Gupta
June 26, 2013 | A merger of a new stripe
“...there’s a commitment to preserve what’s best about the organization, so we strive to listen more than we talk. We seek to collaborate rather than dictate.”
Credit unions are part of my history. I’ve been fortunate to contribute to the work of three credit unions in my career, including one credit union merger. But I’ve also had the opportunity to step back and work outside the financial services industry for a time. That gave me a different vantage point to view the credit union system from. What stuck with me most from the outside was just how conservative and traditional we can be. That’s not always a bad thing, but when it comes to competitive pressures it’s not necessarily an advantage. The pace of change in today’s marketplace demands that we think differently.
What’s happening at First West and with Enderby & District Financial is different. It’s a merger of a new stripe—and it makes sense in the credit union system, where history, identity and community presence are cherished. What I’ve learned through the First West–Enderby & District Financial partnership is that you can’t take a cookie-cutter approach to mergers if you truly want to be thoughtful and respectful of your stakeholders and preserve local identity. A thoughtful approach to working together respects a partnering credit union’s reputation and place in its community, as well as the people who champion that reputation, namely the branch teams.
From a human resources perspective, that’s exciting. We get the opportunity to approach team member engagement at Enderby & District Financial in a way that’s different from typical merger situations. In this situation, there’s a commitment to preserve what’s best about the organization, so we strive to listen more than we talk. We seek to collaborate rather than dictate. It’s a refreshing change to mergers I’ve experienced in the past.
One thing I’ve learned from this experience is that not everything happens overnight. So I remind everyone here to keep it simple, keep it day-by-day—turn on the lights, open the doors, serve the members like you always have. We’re on a journey, so enjoy the ride. The possibilities are endless if you keep an open mind and embrace starting something new.
June 11, 2013 | Getting Lean to find value for members
Did I drink the Kool-Aid? There I was, typing an email to all my Enderby & District Financial teammates about all the things I had learned in First West’s Lean 101 training course. I mean, who wants to be the office know-it-all?
But I did it anyway. Because the Enderby team needed Lean yesterday. For that matter, financial services needed it then too—period. For a long time, we’ve all needed to ask ourselves, “where can I make good changes and free up more time to help members that walk through the doors?” Efficient service and problem-solving are vital to member service and Lean thinking aligns to that 100 per cent.
Before I took the Lean 101 training, I always tried to keep things simple and organized in my work and in life outside work. That made the Lean 5S concept easy to grasp and add to my skills and knowledge. 5S, which aims to have a place for everything and everything in its place, brings immediate value in many scenarios, as you can really hit the ground running.
Even the least intricate of Lean tools like 5S can make positive changes at Enderby & District Financial just by eliminating waste and improving workplace organization. As with many workplaces, there’s always room to tidy and organize, but it goes beyond that. Lean 5S also challenges you to improve accessibility of tools and supplies as a way of improving efficiency. It’s a common-sense and simple approach, but one that can have a big affect on members. Often, we have to leave members to retrieve something that’s stored on the other side of the branch. But using 5S process and having everything required to meet their need close by conveys thoroughness, care and attention, and added degree of professionalism.
The Lean mindset extends to our procedures, too. We need to be sure of why we’re doing something, whether it’s necessary, whether it provides member value or is simply waste.
And that really gets to the heart of the matter: is everything we do valuable to the member? Would a member pay for all the things we do? It’s a tough question, but a necessary one. Lean inspires me to look more closely at how the branch serves its members, to see things from their side. Lean gives perspective and that can make all the difference between ordinary and extraordinary.
~ Theresa Simpson
May 15, 2013 | Pulling it all together
“Enderby retains its unique brand under the name Enderby & District Financial. This means a lot to the staff—there’s a great deal of ownership and pride here with the staff, and in the community.”
As the project manager responsible for bringing Enderby & District Financial into the First West ecosystem, I’m in familiar territory. In 2001, I was on the merger team that brought First Heritage Savings and Delta Credit Union together to form Envision Financial, which now has 20 branches and 16 insurance offices. A few years after the Envision Financial merger, I moved out to the north Okanagan where I joined Valley First.
Fast forward about a decade and here I am right in the middle of a merger once again. Everyone working to bring our newest brand into the First West family is nervously excited. We’re eager to move quickly into the future, because we know there are a lot of good things ahead, but we’re still somewhat nervous, and understandably so.
There are unknowns that crop up and questions in need of answers, but that comes with any change. Bridging those unexpected gaps helps us grow as a team, and I know this team has the capability and enthusiasm to make great things happen.
Interestingly, there is less visible change with this merger. Unlike the merger that created Envision Financial, Enderby retains its unique brand under the name Enderby & District Financial. This means a lot to the team members—there’s a great deal of ownership and pride among the team and in the community. They’ve invested so much work into building the Enderby brand and reputation and it’s important for them to continue to feel proud of their work—even more so now as we look to roll out an expanded product and service offering to our members.
Managing any project of this nature is challenging and rewarding. In addition to the many things that need to happen to transition Enderby & District Financial into the First West family, there’s the coaching aspect too, something I do in my role as regional manager at Valley First. Sharing knowledge and the spirit of First West with my new teammates is important, perhaps even more so than the technical aspects of the project. When I’m able to help someone grow in their understanding or abilities, that’s when I feel like everything is coming together.
~ Audrey Spiller
April 30, 2013 | Taking a new road
“We needed a partner whose size would carry us well into the future. We didn’t want to have to do it again five years down the road.”
Enderby & District Financial has been part of the First West family for exactly a month now. But a sense of loss still lingers. After all, we’ve been here on our own for 66 yearsand there’s a few of us that have been here a long time. Truth is, there’s that occasional voice inside the head that asks if you’ve done the right thing—but that’s just emotion and fear talking.
Some members have asked why we chose to merge with a credit union outside of the interior. When we explain that we keep our local identity and increase our financial strength, they get it. Keeping our local identity was huge, but size mattered too. We needed a partner whose size would carry us well into the future. We didn’t want to have to do it again five years down the road.
It’s interesting—a merger is a big thing, but I don’t feel there’s been a drastic change. It’s business as usual. The same members are coming in and seeing the same friendly faces. But I expect there will be change, for the good.
The merger opens up so many opportunities, for both employees and members. New career and training opportunities are possible because of the size of the First West network. We’re excited to have new products to offer members. Joining First West also opens up a whole new page for commercial banking at Enderby—something we were really limited in previously, because of our size. And then there’s the community investment side. The $500,000 Foundation endowment and Feed the Valley are going to help us give back to Enderby in ways that would not have been possible before.
In short, things are going well. Yes, we’re still processing the emotional side of what was, but at the same time excited about what’s happening and the good things on the horizon of this new road.
~ Jean Wells
April 17, 2013 | Goodbye and Hello
“I can’t tell you how much [the First West model] lightens the load. I’ll have so much more time now to redirect that energy towards maintaining and developing good business with and for members.”
It’s official—to kick off April, we opened shop as Enderby & District Financial, a division of First West Credit Union. I have to say my feelings are a bit of a mixed bag lately. There’s excitement and anticipation of the new partnership and somewhat of a sense of loss for what was Enderby & District Credit Union. The nature of my role hasn’t changed this much since the summer of 1989, when I accepted my first general manager role with a credit union in Saskatchewan. Just a bit of a strange feeling as I get a feel for my role on the journey ahead.
But with the changes come opportunity. After having to oversee everything from policy development to IT, to regulatory reporting to board relations, I’m looking forward to handing these areas over to others and instead focussing more on member service, coaching and mentoring of the team, and exploring the full potential of this operating model. I can’t tell you how much that lightens the load. I’ll have so much more time now to redirect that energy towards maintaining and developing good business with and for members.
There will be growing pains of course. But right now, it’s one day at a time and really taking advantage of being able to intentionally reconnect with members in a way that I haven’t been able to for a long time. That’s where my heart is—and so it’s good to be back.
~ Ted Morrison
[Photo: Richard Newstead/Lifesize/Getty Images]