Q: Describe your company.
A: Alliant Credit Union is a member-owned financial services cooperative. The company provides a range of banking services -- checking, savings, payments, mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, other personal loans and retirement investment services. As a cooperative, all profits after expenses and capital accumulation are returned to members in the form of higher rates on deposits and below-market rates on loans. We are perennially in the top 5 percent of credit unions in financial return to members.
CEO and PresidentAlliant Credit Union
1600 Golf Road, Rolling Meadows, IL 60008
Branch locations: Des Plaines, Chicago
Industry: Financial services
Number of employees: 450
Family information: Married to Melinda, three adult children
Hometown: Grosse Pointe, Michigan
Residence: Lake Forest
With more than $9 billion in assets, Alliant is among the largest credit unions in the country. We operate nationally, with members in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We are a digital-first company, with member access primarily through remote and self-service channels -- online banking, mobile banking, phone banking, ATMs and our contact center.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I'm an avid fly fisherman, though I don't get to indulge nearly as much as I'd like. I like travel and the outdoors. I enjoy spending time with my wife, cooking, playing guitar and tying flies.
Q: Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any capital investments in your company in the next year?
A: We are investing in a number of areas, including development of digital capabilities such as online and mobile banking, process automation, content management, information security, data and analytics.
We are also bolstering enterprise risk management and compliance functions in preparation for reaching $10 billion in assets, when we will be subject to the heightened requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act.
Q: What will your company's main challenges be in the next year?
A: First, we tend to plan in three-year increments; the business is a continuum, and most major initiatives span multiple years. That said, one of our ongoing challenges is to balance investment in developing future capabilities with providing value to members today. Another is producing healthy growth. We have enjoyed significant growth in members and assets over the past few years, but we need to make sure that new business is contributing to maintenance of high member returns, and that we don't outrun our financial and operational capacity. Finally, continuing to develop our risk and compliance management capabilities as we expand and face higher regulatory demands.
Q: What is one funny thing that has happened to you in your career?
A: I've been known to don embarrassing costumes for company events and videos. I've played Batman, worn a toga, and performed "Free Bird" in dreadlocks, among other roles.
Q: What's the hottest trend in your industry?
A: All things digital -- from online and mobile banking, to marketing, to "back office" processes. As in many other businesses, the internet has fundamentally altered the dynamics of banking. Banking is no longer a place you go, it's a thing you do.
Once limited to providers with a nearby branch, consumers now have access to a national set of providers. They can easily research products, rates and terms, check customer reviews, and move money. Digital-first providers like Alliant aren't constrained by a branch footprint; we serve a national market. Digitization of operational processes can significantly improve consumer experience and reduce costs.
Q: If you had one tip to give to a rookie CEO, what would it be?
A: Be humble. When you become CEO, the antennae are turned toward you, and your jokes suddenly get funnier. It's easy to become overconfident and imperious, with potentially harmful consequences.
Q: Do you have a business mantra?
A: "No mission without margin." Alliant's member-focused mission is to provide consistently superior financial value and friendly, efficient and personalized service.
We can only sustain that if we operate efficiently and economically. Alliant has one of the lowest expense ratios in banking -- our operating expense-to-assets is less than half the bank and credit union national average.
We're very disciplined about focusing our attention and energy on things that create current and future value for our members.
Q: From a business outlook, whom do you look up to?
A: USAA is a company that I admire. They have built tremendous loyalty among their members through exceptional service, advocacy, and affinity. They have succeeded with a remote and self-service access model and are leaders in digital channels.
Q: What is one interesting fact about you or your company that most people may not know?
A: Alliant has had only four CEOs in our 82-year history. Our founding CEO's grandson currently works in our IT department.
Q: What book is on your nightstand?
A: I'm currently reading several (e) books. Aldo Leopold: A Sand County Almanac, which is a series of essays by naturalist and early environmentalist Aldo Leopold. Also, The Second Machine Age, which explores the impact of digital technologies on our lives.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: Complacency, blind spots created by frame blindness and overconfidence, plus information security and fraud; the assaults are constantly increasing and evolving.
Q: If you were not doing this job, what do you think you would be doing?
A: Fisheries biologist? Perhaps teaching and writing.
Q: What was your first paying job?
A: My first "on the payroll" job was as a lifeguard at a lakefront municipal park when I was in high school. It was a pretty nice gig. I got paid to sit at the beach and pool, and many of my friends also worked there.
Q: If you could put your company name on a sports venue, which one would you choose?
A: Alliant isn't a mass market brand, and we have a national footprint, so my response is that I wouldn't want to put our name on a sports venue. I think our members would view that as self-indulgent.
Q: Two people to follow on Twitter and why.
A: I'm not a big Twitter user -- I just don't have the time.