Credit Union Highlights
International Credit Union Day
Interview with CEO
New Years Resolution at HTFFFCU
Do you love the spotlight? Or keep hearing how photogenic you are?
If you answered YES to either question above, you may be cut out for HTFFFCU’s upcoming photoshoot*! We are looking for members of all ages and ethnicities to illustrate our various marketing materials. Sign up as an individual or bring other members! Couples, families and even pets are welcome! Take part and see your face on our website posters, postcards and more!
What you need to know:
Dates: Various dates April 29- May 4, 2019
Time Commitment: Each participant or a group of participants will be allocated an individual time slot of approximately 30 minutes.
*The Photoshoot is open to HTFFFCU members only.
Thank you for your interest in our photoshoot. All of the spots have been filled and we are no longer accepting participants.
When severe weather threatens our immediate area, it's important to be as prepared as we can. Even though the immediate threat of severe weather has dissipated, it's good to make note of the following safety and preparedness resources and telephone numbers.
Houston Command Center of the United States Coast Guard: 281-464-4851, 281-464-4852, 281-464-4853, 281-464-4854, 282-464-4855
Group Rescue: 713-426-9404
Find Towed Vehicle: 713-308-8580
For members who have a flood policy and need to file a claim, they may go to www.myflood.com. The process is fast and easy! If you don't have flood insurance, you may file for Federal Assistance at www.disasterassistance.gov.
The credit union also has several resources available to you to ensure access to your money and account information.
Credit/Debit Cards - Using a credit card or debit card during emergent times can save you time in a pinch. If you don't have a debit card, visit our Main Office to get an instant-issue card at no cost.
2017 International Credit Union Day
International Credit Union Day has a long history. Since 1948, on the third Thursday of October, credit unions around the world celebrate the spirit of the global credit union movement, their hard work for the communities and their achievements.
This year we are celebrating by showing how our members' experiences with our credit union reflect the credit union motto: "People Helping People".
2017 New Year’s Resolution
January 2017 marks the first anniversary of Steve Gilman taking the position of HTFFFCU’s President and CEO. What did he accomplish during his first year? What is he planning for 2017? We've got the inside scoop!
When we met in April you talked about HTFFFCU’s redesigned website and new mobile apps. It’s the end of December now. The new website is up and running, you’ve introduced the SecurLOCK™ Equip App; it seems like everything is coming together.
Yes, 2016 has been a busy year with several new technological improvements rolled out to our members. In addition to a redesigned website and new debit card alert system, we have just finished the process of updating our online loan application to make it more convenient for our members. This new online application will soon be available on our website. It is available as part of the new online banking system, which we’ll roll-out to members in early 2017.
2016 was also a year to begin the remodeling of our main office on Kolb Street, which is expected to take approximately 6 months. The main office was built in 1982. It was time for a fresh look.
It’s been your first year as HTFFFCU’s President and CEO. Are you happy with all these changes?
Yes, 2016 was a successful year with many changes that will serve us well into the future. While we are pleased with our accomplishments during the year, there were disappointments.
One of our goals for 2016 was to launch a financial literacy program for our teenage members, called “Tens & Thousands.” The program is a series of three money management workshops designed to build money management skills for young people headed out to college. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough participants signed up to run the workshops.
Do you know what happened?
We suspect that scheduling might have been inconvenient. We planned each workshop on a regular business day between 9 AM and 12 PM in the summer. We think it proved too difficult for many parents. This year we’re going to try again with a different approach.
We would love to facilitate the financial education of our members. And this brings me to another item on the list of 2016 missed opportunities. One of HTFFFCU’s primary goals is to save our members money. That’s why we offered an auto recapture promotion during which members can refinance their auto loans with us and get some extra cash in the process. This was an extremely successful promotion and many members were able to take part in it.
So how is this a missed opportunity?
Because initially those members financed their cars elsewhere, often paying higher interest rates for many months before deciding to refinance with us. We would like those members to be aware of our vehicle loan programs and come to us first. In many cases, we will be able to save them both money and the trouble of refinancing. To make it more convenient for our members, we will be introducing a new product, “Blaze Check.” It’s going to streamline the process of buying a new car.
In short, a qualifying member will be issued a blank check up to a pre-approved amount. He or she can then use this check at approved dealerships to buy their car. We are going to release more details soon.
So you’re going to start 2017 with a blaze. Is the excitement going to continuously increase?
We hope so! We are planning to introduce more exciting products and services during 2017. It’s important that we listen to our members’ needs and that we respond. Apart from the Blaze Check, I am pleased to announce that we are launching our new online and mobile banking system in March 2017.
What is so exciting about this new system?
For starters, it’s going to be optimized. Members will be able to use it on any device. We are going to have enhanced thumbprint security for Apple users, and as soon as it’s available, for Android users too. This system will be much easier to navigate and it will include all the services that we offer at the credit union. We’re also adding “FirePay,” which is a person to person payment system. It will allow members to transfer money to other people, not necessarily members of HTFFFCU.
This is a major upgrade.
Yes, as I mentioned, we are listening to our members’ needs.
One of the things that we are also planning to introduce next year is an expanded credit card program. This is something that many members are asking about.
It looks like the changes ahead are all related to borrowing. Are you planning anything special for those who want to save or invest?
Yes. We are exploring ways to better meet the needs of our members, including perhaps developing a wealth management program. We are also exploring the insurance market to give our members a choice to insure their home and automobiles with us. I don’t have any specifics yet but we will keep members informed as soon as we have something more solid. At this point, I’d like to encourage all our members to sign up for our email newsletter. You could do it on Facebook. There is a lot happening in 2017 so it’s good to stay informed.
Yes, with all these new products and services, you’re going to have your hands full. Not to mention the remodel which turned part of the main office into a construction site…
Yes, it’s noisy at times, but I think we’re doing OK. Our main office is fully operational while undergoing these changes. We don’t foresee having to close the credit union while the remodel is taking place, although we may have a short period of time when the drive-up teller windows may be closed. I can assure you and all the members that the new lobby will be more comfortable and completely ADA compliant. We’re going to expand the waiting area and the front offices to ensure that both members and staff have more room and more privacy to discuss their matters.
Can we afford all those changes?
Yes, the credit union is in good financial position. We are all aware that this is the members’ money that we are using for this remodel, so we make it a point to be thrifty. For example, we are switching to new energy-efficient lighting that will save us money in the long run. Upon completion, we want to invite our members to a new, modern looking lobby but we’re not going to waste money on extravagances. In a few months, you will see for yourself.
Steve Gilman’s first year as HTFFFCU's President and CEO has flown by with many exciting changes both completed and set in motion; from a redesigned website to an enhanced online banking system. Without a doubt, members of HTFFFCU have an incredible year ahead.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for announcements about our new upcoming products! To stay in the loop on all the innovative changes, follow us on Facebook and sign up for our eNewsletter.
Interview with CEO
It's been a little over three months since Steve Gilman took the position of President and CEO of Houston Texas Fire Fighters Federal Credit Union. What has he done so far? What are his goals? What does he like about his new job? Let’s find out!
You joined HTFFFCU 3 months ago to replace our retiring CEO, Clint Hartmann. How do you feel about the past few months?
My first three months have been an opportunity for me to become familiar with the operation of the credit union, including the focus by the Board, management and staff on taking great care of our members and being responsive to their financial needs.
When it comes to credit unions you’re not a novice. You serve as a member for the Texas Credit Union Commission, CCUL’s governmental affairs committee and as Chairman of the Houston Chapter of Credit Unions. And you served in the past as the President of the Credit Union Managers Association of Southeast Texas (CUMASET), as well as the Cinco Ranch Rotary Club in Katy. Why credit unions? What has drawn you to them?
My career in the financial services industry didn`t start at a credit union. It started in a big bank right out of college. Although I enjoyed the experience, it wasn’t until I moved to a small community bank when I noticed what the difference between corporate and community means to a customer. And once I realized how important that difference was, moving to a credit union felt like the next step. And the right step. Credit unions operate differently from banks on a very basic, structural level. They are member-owned organizations so their executives don’t have to satisfy external investors’ and shareholders’ appetite for higher and higher profits. Credit unions make income in order to give it back to the members in the form of dividends and lower loan rates. We don’t respond to anyone other than our members and we are very transparent about all of our decisions. Plus, members can actively influence what is going on at the credit union because they are our shareholders. To me this feels right and this is the environment where I want to make an impact.
And you certainly have. Over the course of your presidency at Members Choice Credit Union you grew assets from $200 to $500 million. Which makes people wonder why you decided to leave and start afresh at Houston Texas Fire Fighters Federal Credit Union?
Many reasons came into play here. First of all, over the years serving at the Houston Chapter of Credit Unions I had a chance to meet some of the HTFFFCU executives, including the previous CEO, Clint Hartmann, Julirey Velasquez (VP HR/Operations), Tom Rowlands (VP Lending) and Pam McIver (VP Finance). Apart from the substantial and work-related discussions we’ve had, I always felt a good vibe around them. That’s why, when Clint told me about his upcoming retirement, I thought that I would fit in well with the HTFFFCU team. Then there was this whole mission that HTFFFCU was founded to serve the firefighters, the heroes of the community. It appealed to me. And finally, moving to HTFFFCU meant that I would move to a single segment credit union* and that would be a whole new experience for me. I have never worked in a single segment CU. It felt like a challenge. So I sent my application, had an interview and here I am.
(*single segment credit unions serve only one specific employment group, as opposed to multiple segment or community credit unions)
Here you are! So what are your plans for HTFFFCU? What can members expect?
I want to continue a high tech and high touch member experience...
High tech and high touch?
Yes. High tech relates to all the situations where members conduct their business with us online, either via online banking, mobile apps or through our website. There are more and more members who prefer to handle their affairs this way as it’s more convenient. They don’t need to physically be at the credit union.
High touch relates to all the situations where members deal with our staff directly, face to face. The Call Center is a mixture of both the high tech and high touch experience.
How would you like to continue this approach?
We’re getting continuous feedback from our members about what we do right, and where we need to improve. While we are scoring well with our high touch approach, we need to work on the high tech side of things, as recent data revealed. I’d like to take this opportunity to let our members know that we listen to their comments and thanks to them we are aware of some issues and glitches within the apps and online banking. While we are working toward resolving them as they appear, we are also taking a more proactive approach to making permanent changes which will make the whole high tech experience smooth and pleasant. It’s not going to happen overnight, but we’re convinced that the members will be happy with the changes.
The other thing is that we are in the process of redesigning our website to make visiting our site a lot more pleasant and user friendly.
That’s a lot of tech! And what about people? Are you planning to expand membership?
That’s not really a question for the CEO. It’s the Board of Directors who make the ultimate decision on expanding membership or not. Given our current charter, my goal is that every Houston firefighter chooses HTFFFCU as their primary financial institution and if asked where he or she banks, they answer: “At HTFFFCU.”
How are you planning to achieve this? Why should firefighters choose HTFFFCU over a bank or another credit union?
HTFFFCU was created to serve the needs of Houston firefighters and their families. No other bank or a credit union has the same purpose. Plus, at HTFFFCU firefighters have a say. Our Board of Directors consists of democratically elected retired firefighters who have firefighters’ best interest at heart. And, at HTFFFCU, we are committed to exceed your expectations in terms of member service, saving you money and providing convenience.
What do you consider your biggest challenge to overcome at HTFFFCU?
I believe the biggest challenges may well be caused by external factors, such as changes in the economy or technology that we will have to respond to quickly. In today’s world, credit unions are faced by increased competition from non-bank financial providers who are entering our business through the use of technology.
What would you consider a success in your first year as CEO?
My first year goal is to become an effective leader of the management team and implement the visions and strategies necessary for our continued success in the future. I want us to all work toward continuing to improve on our success in providing service and convenience to our members, and I want the employees of the credit union to feel free to come to me with any ideas, suggestions or recommendations for improvement.