From its members to employees to the community, BCU is all about making decisions that are in everyone’s best interest. CEO and President Mike Valentine discusses the credit union’s focus on member services and upbeat outlook for 2012.
BCU: Putting People First
Baxter Credit Union (BCU), with a Crystal Lake location and five additional Chicagoland branches, is perhaps the ultimate “people” story since its members — many whom are local — reap the benefits of its investments.
“Many of our members are small-business owners in Crystal Lake and the surrounding communities,” according to Mike Valentine, president and CEO. “For some, BCU may be one of the reasons their dream of owning a business was realized.”
McHenry County and neighboring communities have always been very supportive of BCU, too. “There is a deep, mutual respect that we value tremendously,” he said. “These communities are our home, our foundation. We share a passion for the area and want to see it thrive.”
A People-Driven Vision
In its 30 years of business, and now serving more than 140,000 members, “BCU’s vision hasn’t changed at all,” Valentine said. “BCU was founded on the principle of putting members first in everything we do. Thirty years later, that’s still what we set out to do every day.
“We believe that a successful financial relationship begins with a commitment,” he added. “That commitment involves fostering trust and confidence with each member through products and services that are offered in a consistent, responsive, competitive and ethical way. Putting members first is part of the fiber of our culture; in the last few years we put a name to it with our slogan: ‘We’ve Got Your Back.’”
Thirty years is a big milestone, and BCU never takes for granted how its members have contributed to its longevity. “Without the members we have no reason to be here,” Valentine said.
The workforce is another key part of the BCU formula. “Without the fantastic team of people working for us, members wouldn’t benefit any more than if they were at one of our competitors — and you won’t find better employees than BCU employees,” Valentine said.
Valentine began his BCU career in 1983 as manager of lending and collections. “It was clear to me from the day I started that this was an organization built around making a difference in people’s lives; genuinely caring about the people we serve,” he said.
Valentine’s management and leadership have been instrumental in BCU’s membership expansion, partnerships and mergers, and overall growth since 1994 when he became president and CEO. “I’m proud of the fact that we’re still that company that cares,” he said.
Financial position is a non-issue when it comes to membership. The only eligibility requirements include working for one of BCU’s sponsor companies, living in one of its approved counties or being an immediate family member of someone who does.
“From basic savings to jumbo mortgage loans, from credit cards for the kid going off to college to investment advice for someone planning to retire — we’ve got it all,” Valentine said.
Once someone becomes a member, they are part of a program that, unlike the banking system, does not face pressure to generate the same profits.
“Recently there has been much press around new regulations and speculation of lost benefits to consumers,” he explained. “Especially with larger banks, consumers have seen this come true with new checking fees being introduced and lost benefits such as debit card usage programs. That won’t happen at BCU.”
Even in this rough economic climate, “Thanks to the support of the key companies we serve, the active participation of our members, the guidance of our board and volunteers, and the hard work of our staff, BCU is better positioned and stronger than ever,” Valentine said.
BCU has been named to The Center for Companies That Care’s Honor Roll for seven consecutive years. “It would probably be more fitting to call us a ‘Company With Employees That Care,’” Valentine asserted.
“Yes, we do a lot for our staff, but they give it all back and then some in their ongoing commitment to serving members, innovative ideas, ethical behavior and integrity in their decisions and actions. It’s the BCU employees and our volunteer board of directors who truly keep our mission alive.”
BCU being a part of the communities it serves goes far beyond providing financial services, Valentine said. “BCU, and I personally, like to give back in the form of human services, too,” he said. “Year after year, countless BCU employees all over the United States and in Puerto Rico have donated hundreds of hours and dollars, to more than 40 worthwhile causes. Some that I’m personally involved with are Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, the Riverside Foundation and Youth & Family Counseling.”
So what do the next 30 years bring for BCU? Valentine is optimistic about the long term while focusing on making 2012 the best year yet to be a member.
“You know, when I walk through the credit union today, there’s so much to be excited about,” he said. “Although our communities are emerging from some tough times, we’re at the beginning of a new chapter, and I’m proud to say I think BCU is more relevant and valuable to our members than ever. We love what we do and that’s going to continue to show in 2012 and beyond.”
>> BCU Crystal Lake is located at 415 S. Main St. For more, call 815-444-8065 or visit www.bcu.org.
Sidebar: Benefits of Credit Unions
• Members are owners/stakeholders
• Credit unions are not-for-profit
• Fewer fees and higher savings rates
• More personal service
• Free checking and debit rewards