CEO Success Stories

Developing A Culture Of Employee Engagement

Daniel Weickenand

Daniel Weickenand, CEO at $500-million Orion Federal Credit Union in Memphis, Tennessee, is not a man who looks for trouble. But his record shows he knows what to do when he finds it.

“I began my career auditing in public accounting and very early on found a niche helping small credit unions in financial trouble. Aside from the obvious corrective measures, expense and asset-liability management, I learned that it took a strong, aligned team to propel a credit union down a new and successful path,” says Daniel. That knowledge would prove invaluable years later when he became a candidate for the CEO position at Memphis Area Teachers Credit Union, an institution that had been taken over by the NCUA. The regulators could see that there was potential, but they, along with the new board, knew it would take a strong and balanced leader to bring the credit union back to prosperity.

Daniel had been the CFO at FedEx Employees Credit Association in Memphis for about 10 years when the Memphis Area Teachers Credit Union position opened up. “At FedEx we made a strong investment in the infrastructure,” he explains, “ensuring a stable future for that institution.” That caught the attention of the board at MATCU and eventually led to Daniel coming over as CEO.

Memphis, a tradition-rich city that rises from the bluffs of the Mississippi River, is a low-income community for the most part. Its economy is driven by cargo (FedEx), car repair (AutoZone), and the King (Elvis-inspired tourism). The financial crisis of the past few years had hit the city hard. “Our members were hurting, the city was hurting and the credit union was hurting,” recalls Daniel. “For a couple of years, all the news about MATCU was bad news. I knew I had to stop the bleeding.”

“When I arrived, I found a dispirited shell of a credit union. The regular employees had spent a year under consultants whose primary focus had been cost-cutting; the cost-cutting, while necessary, had done major damage to the psyche of the organization as a whole. The employees had to re-gain their sense of mission and purpose, while the credit union itself needed structural change and a strong vision to rally around. Otherwise, the business was dying.” The first step was creating a new culture within the organization. “We began to build trust,” Daniel says, “by being as transparent as possible with the employees. We made them feel part of the solution, rather than the cause of the problems.” Once the employees had regained their confidence and could see the vision that he was pursuing, he turned the organization’s attention to repairing the reputation of a once-proud, but now very publicly damaged, financial institution.

Just over a year ago that process began with the introduction of a new name and corporate identity. Memphis Area Teachers Credit Union became Orion Federal Union. And while the institution itself did not change, the difference between Orion and MATCU was dramatic.

The last 18 months have seen capital built to 10%, delinquencies drop below 1% from over 8%, loan production increase almost 300%, customer service scores routinely average 95%+, and overall membership steadily increase. In addition to the financial and operating improvements, Orion has re-invested in the local community, introducing programs that provide monetary gifts to local non-profits and cost-effective housing solutions to low-income families. “When Memphis succeeds, we succeed,” says Daniel. “So Orion is going to do everything it can to make sure Memphis succeeds.”

There are more steps to come. In the fall of 2012, Orion will be converting to Corelation Inc.’s highly flexible Keystone Core System. “Our systems and processes will be much more efficient overnight,” Daniel points out. In any event, it’s a new day at Orion—with a leader that has put the trouble behind him as his institution looks towards a bright future.

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