Thursday, March 31, 2005

A Day In The Life

One purpose of this blog is to give people some perspective of what it is like at Verity. With that in mind I thought why not write about a typical day here.

Before I get started I just want to say that all the facts are correct (well correct according to how I perceived them) and none of the names have been changed. This is reality blogging at its best. So sit back and enjoy.

8:00 – Got to work and found a parking spot right away. It is already a good day.

8:05 – I forgot to mention that I have spent the weekend in Vegas watching my beloved Kentucky Wildcats lose a heartbreaker. I will now spend the next half hour catching up on e-mail and trying to forget about that loss (every day it becomes a little easier to accept).

8:19 – Sara (the advanced teller at our Auburn branch) just attended a compliance council in Federal Way. She is enrolled in our internal university (this is where I brag about how we won an award for outstanding university program from CUNA) and majoring in internal audit. She is competing with a couple other employees to be the first graduate from the university and just sent me an e-mail to reimburse her for the costs. The fact that Verity provides these opportunities really shows the emphasis there is on personal and professional growth.

8:45 – Leave to go perform training at our Alderwood branch. Say goodbye to my parking spot and can only hope there is one when I get back. It really is an emotional goodbye.

9:15 – Arrive at Alderwood and conduct training on our core system. They ask some very intelligent questions and the training goes well. If you ever have a chance you should visit that branch they are good people (and no I’m not just sucking up I really mean it).

10:00 – Get in my car and think to myself, man the Killers are a good group. Then I change the CD. Still doesn’t change the fact that the Killers are a good group, I just have been listening to them a little too much.

10:20 - Arrive back at the Northgate branch (where I work) and find that my parking spot is gone. Sadness overwhelms me.

10:25 – Finally find a spot a couple blocks away. Sadness turns into rage which becomes acceptance.

10:30 – I am e-mailed with a situation regarding the OSI system. Tina (my boss) had been working on it on Monday and we brainstorm a solution. She contributes cookies which are delicious. I would like to thank the cookies for being so delicious…oh yeah and Tina for the help.

11:20 – I am starving right now and decide to get some lunch; usually I don’t get hungry till much later. I don’t know why I just wrote that, I am sure that nobody really cares about my eating habits. Oh well it is my blog so there you go.

11:25 – Get some sushi from QFC. Now it is a commonly known fact that sushi is delicious but most people don’t know that there is quality sushi at QFC. That “Q” really does stand for quality! I feel I should be charging them for advertising right now. Maybe at least this could get me some free sushi.

12:15 – Return to find that no parking spots have opened up. That nice spot I had this morning is only a distant memory.

12:30 – Start writing this blog (everything from this point on is live). Reliving what has been a pretty uneventful morning.

12:45 – Get into a discussion with the CFO (Randy) and HR and Training Director (Tina) about what is better, a bowl of chocolate M&Ms or a bowl of peanuts. The obvious answer is the M&Ms but they both fail to see it that way. What poor misguided souls.

1:30 – Conduct a training for the consumer lending department. I really mean it when I say that the people that work here are great. If you ever need a car loan I encourage you to check us out. Not only do we offer competitive rates we have very competent people.

2:15 – Start working on some improvements to our new hire training. I’ll spare you the details but it is actually pretty interesting stuff. Well at least to me.

3:00 – Conduct another quick training. Hey it is what I am paid to do.

4:00 – It is always good when a process is improved. Thanks to the help of our marketing analyst, Jae Lee, operation managers are now able to update the goals of their staff. It is more efficient for them and also takes HR out of the process, saving valuable time to do things like write this blog.

5:15 – Time to go home. Well now you have seen a typical day at Verity. I also have to mention that during the course of the day a lot of candy was eaten. That is another thing about working here; there is always plenty of access to candy. Just one last random thought to leave you with.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Cool Company Vehicles

So, we just put the Verity “V” on our company van. Of course, as soon as we did that, I started noticing other company vans on my commute home. It is a 45 minute commute, so I have a pretty large sample size.

You know what company has a really cool van? Fulks. I checked out their website because I was so intrigued by their vans http://www.fulksinc.com/ (I hope someone sees our van and checks out our website – ha ha) Another company that has a cool van is one that says A & E on the side (but I don’t know the company name). It has a big green circle on the side. If you work for the company that has a big A & E on the side of your vans, send me an email!

One thing I don’t like, that I see on the back of buses every single day is that Vonage is using our orange on all of their ads. Of course, we don’t own that orange, but I think it is the exact same PMS. I don’t have anything against Vonage, it is just that we thought that orange was so unique when we chose it for our company color, now I see it every single day. Oh well, I guess there are a lot more companies out there than there are colors. It was bound to happen.

OK, enough about cars on my commute. Get back to work.

Points Predicament

On March 13, the Seattle Times ran an article about the current state of frequent flyer miles. Apparently, with all of the struggles the airlines are going through, they are increasing their travel blackout dates, increasing the amount of points required to get a free ticket, and decreasing the shelf life of the points. As I read this article, I was thinking to myself, ‘this is great news! This will make our Journey program even better!”

But no, I was unpleasantly surprised to read that the trend in credit card based airline mileage programs is shifting. Last year, the number of consumers who signed up for airline sponsored cards “plummeted by almost 40%”.

It will be my job to determine if our members and our potential members feel that points for travel on every purchase is still a good deal. It seems like a no-brainer to me. I mean, our Journey credit card has great rates (as low as 9.4% APR) and a low annual fee (only $35). We are constantly working on making this a better product – we extended the life of the points to five years, we are working on better member service at the redemption point, we have all sorts of ways to get additional points now. Yes, it seems like a no-brainer to me. That is where you get into trouble!

If you are a member and you are reading this blog, can you take a minute to tell me, if you use our Journey program, what is good about it? And if you don’t use our Journey program, how come? It would make my job a lot easier if I could find out these things before the trends “start to plummet”. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Words I Like

Acumen
Cadre
Brevity
Aptitude

When I am at work, these are words I like. I like them, because they are slightly out of the ordinary. I mean, out of the ordinary enough so that when you use them, people might be impressed, but not so out of the ordinary that people are confused. You know? I also like them for their meanings. I like to think that our executive team has a certain amount of business acumen. I like to picture a cadre of Verity member service employees at the ready to help our members. I like brevity in business correspondence and particularly in meetings. I enjoy working with people who have an aptitude for whatever role it is they play – be it accountant, trainer, marketer or janitor. In short, those are the words I like. Want to know some other words I like?

Coolio
No worries
Telling someone they are, "a genie in a bottle"
Freakin' freak

Monday, March 28, 2005

Stinks to be them

I read in the Seattle Times a few weeks ago (February 20, to be exact) about a law suit that Home Depot just lost. They lost a $1 million suit because they failed to correctly report a customer’s credit information. I guess it wasn’t all Home Depot’s fault, entirely. Apparently, someone was trying to use this customer’s social security number to get a Home Depot credit card. The customer (whose name is Alan Sporn) told Home Depot about it, but it went on for a year or two and it prevented Mr. Sporn from getting a loan someplace else.

I find this article interesting because every time I have shopped at Home Depot, I have found them to have excellent customer service. They are just like their commercials say – their sales people are always so helpful and knowledgeable. They has staked their reputation on their good service and they almost always deliver – at the store level at least.

Because I am a “back office” employee (my staff and I don’t deal directly with members), this story struck a cord with me. While member service is really important to our credit union, it is sometimes hard to see how we play a part in providing that service. It is examples like these that hit home the fact that if we don’t do our jobs correctly, it can really diminish not only our member service standards, but our reputation as well (and cost us millions of dollars, I guess).

What is my point with this blog post? I’m not really sure. I guess it is to simply muse on our role of member service in the bigger picture and to pause for a brief moment to give thanks that I don’t work in Home Depot back office operations right now.

Cheers!
Randy

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

2 Years and counting!

We’ll, my 2-year anniversary of working at Verity Credit Union is approaching so I thought I’d jot down a few memorable events or experiences from my past 2 years here.

Name Change. One of my first big responsibilities was to help make the brand transition from NW Federal Credit Union to Verity Credit Union. We had to make sure that the name was changed on all external and internal documents, on ATM machines, in the phone book, caller-ID, pens, business cards, forms and applications, credit cards…you name it!

I was not employed here when we were named NW Federal, but I still hear a lot of members call it that. I also hear members call us “Variety” and “Verily”. I guess some changes take a long time to get used to. It just goes to show you that the marketing department sure has our work cut out for us.

Yoga. Before I came to Verity I had never taken a yoga class in my life. I had always thought it looked boring. But after I came on board I learned that there were a group of people who took yoga every Wednesday afternoon upstairs in one of the training rooms. They invited me to go for a free class and I loved it. I have been taking yoga ever since and I really think that it has made me a more relaxed and balanced person.

My boss’s baby. Shortly after I started working here, my boss had to take a short leave of absence due to her pregnancy. It was a hectic time because I was still fairly new and didn’t really know all the ropes yet. It was also a fun time because my department really came together as a team and I was forced to get to know my co-workers a lot faster than I probably would have otherwise.

Even though our boss was technically on leave, she’d call in every day at the same time to check on things. The four of us would go into her office about 5 or 10 minutes before her call and we’d bring snacks. We’d talk about our day or what we were working on at the time and we’d eat cookies and candy. It was a nice break and it gave us time to prepare for the call so that our boss would think we had everything under control.

I learned a lot about myself and my co-workers during that time and in the end I think it really helped initiate me into the credit union.

Squirrel in the transformer. I don’t remember exactly when this happened, but there was a period of a few days when our phone system didn’t work at all. No one could call in or out and member calls were being routed to our other branches. It was very stressful for the front line staff and we weren’t getting any answers from the phone company. I think the power might have been out for a while too.

In the end, the explanation given for the outage was that a squirrel blew up a transformer. Seriously.

Blizzard of January ‘04. I moved here from Boston, MA, where it actually snows in the winter. You can imagine how amused I was when the whole city of Seattle was going to shut down for a few inches of snow. Well, I wasn’t going to let a little snow stop me from coming into work. So while everyone else stayed home and made snowmen and went sledding down their street and enjoyed hot chocolate, I drove into work. And sat here all day. By myself. Not my best idea.

Evolve. Verity underwent a major system overhaul last March, which we called Evolve. We basically changed our entire computer system and this affected everything from Home Banking to overdraft accounts to credit cards. It was a challenge for both staff and members to get used to all the changes, and we’re still adjusting a year later.

Mariner’s raffle tickets. I hardly ever win anything. And when I do, it’s never something I actually want. That all changed last year when I was randomly chosen as one of the first five employees to pick from Verity’s Mariner’s season tickets. I picked a July day game versus the
Red Sox and it was oh so glorious.

Teen Marketing Conference. In September 2004, I went to Las Vegas to attend the first annual Teen Marketing Conference for credit unions. I had a really great time. The speakers were awesome and they did a good job of getting everyone excited about marketing to Gen Y. I’m hoping to implement some of the ideas from the conference at Verity. On that note, we are reaching out to the youth market already by participating in Credit University. It’s a financial education program that reaches out to thousands of teens in the Puget Sound area by going into schools to teach about savings, debt, wise use of credit and identity theft.

Janie’s chocolate caramel brownies and Bondille’s sweet potato pie. These women make the most sinful and most delicious desserts I have ever tasted. I mean, people at work pay them to make these desserts. They could probably quit their jobs at Verity and go on to make millions selling their desserts to rich people across the globe, but they choose to work here. Now that’s commitment.

I could’ve made this a Top Ten list, but I thought I’d be different and leave it at nine. Anyway, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped me make it through my past two years; with a special thanks to the marketing department for their support and to the accounting department for making sure I get paid.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

This has nothing to do with Credit Unions

.. but it is one of those things that I love to tell people but can never seem to work into a conversation. Perfect for a blog!

In 2001, Verity Credit Union supported a project called Business Week in Belarus, in which ten Seattle area business people and 5 students went to Minsk, Belarus and taught enterprise education to 135 students, business people and a handful of reporters. It was a combined effort between Washington State Business Week, Children for Chernobyl and a lyceum in Minsk.

At any rate, the man whose school hosted us and whom we have become friends with over the years is running for president! How cool would it be that I would know someone who is running for president of a foreign country? The only thing cooler would be if he won. Well, actually, it would be a little bit cooler if I personally knew the president of my own country, but that isn’t on the near horizon.

Running for president of Belarus is not the safest thing to do. Candidates have shown up dead in the past few elections (think Ukraine and you get a good perspective of what the government is like over there).

I do have to give a nod to Verity Credit Union who made it possible for me to participate in this extraordinary event that led me to meet the future potential president of a former Soviet Republic. Its cool.