CEO Success Stories
Efficiency, Integrity, & Professional Accountability
Jim Warren, the CEO of $1.1-billion Tyndall Federal Credit Union in Panama City, Florida, understands there’s “a difference between looking good and doing good,” as he puts it.
People helping people is more than rhetoric at Tyndall. “We’re in the business to maximize shareholder wealth, not just our bottom line,” says Jim. “Here in Bay County the median income is around $24,000 annually, and it is our job to keep our members living their lives, going to work, paying their bills, and growing financially.” Going against the grain of some credit union financial strategies, Tyndall has been able to maintain strong net worth (over 10%) while keeping ROA low (0.09%) with a finely tuned financial, service and business model.
Commenting upon what some people think is unique, Jim says, “Poor people don’t translate to poor credit.” He goes on to say how fortunate he is to have a Board that, while focused on keeping earnings in the black and capital strong, understand the community. “The regulators are with us, and our team knows the bottom line is performance in our members’ best interests, in every sense of those words.”
Jim’s roots are in Houston, Texas, where he also stayed to study at the University of Houston, receiving both BBA and MBA degrees there. His credit union roots run deep: his first job during his college years was as a drive-through teller at Gulf Coast EducatorsFederal Credit Union. He liked the work, and management liked him. In just a few years he was the CEO of C-E Federal Credit Union.
When Jim moved across the gulf to Panama City and Tyndall, the credit union reflected the infrastructure of the primary sponsor, the U.S. Air Force. As Tyndall opened up to more and more of the community, it became necessary to focus on efficiency as well as service. A $681-million credit union with 391 employees when Jim arrived in 2004, Tyndall today is bigger, yet much leaner and more efficient—with $1.1 billion and 246 employees. “We earn our income through volume, not yield,” he says. “Our bottom line is financial success of our members. I’m proud to say that many members of the leadership team and staff stayed and that we’ve brought in some excellent new leaders as well. In rare circumstances we’ve had some enjoyable personalities who were just not at the level of professionalism we require.”
The team and all the players are in Jim’s constant line of sight, and the pace is professionally lively. “We do have weekly work meetings, but we don’t like to waste time in them. Sometimes we meet for only 30 to 45 minutes. Other times we’ll take as long as 2 1/2 hours. Some people need to talk more than others. We’re respectful of that but don’t let things go on and on. Beyond people and team we have very precise modeling and systems as we constantly measure our operational efficiency and manage our bottom line. As CEO, I need to be able to look at our weaknesses, including my own, and help get everything out in the open. We do a good job of managing the day-to-day. It’s my job—and my leadership team is part of me—it’s my job to figure out what’s going to happen tomorrow.” His keys to success? “My wife Linda is my rock, reminding me that integrity is what matters, that you have to do the right thing, that you need to stay patient, and especially, stay positive. That guidance provides perspective as our professional accountability and drive set the pace at the credit union. Leading a member-focused credit union is a huge moral and ethical responsibility. The benefits have to go back to the members. That means sometimes you have to make tough decisions and act on them.”