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3 Questions with SWBC Financial Institution Group's Mark Hein


video-3-questions-with-fig-ceo-mark-hein-bodyRecently, SWBC Financial Institution Group’s CEO, Mark Hein, sat down with Lauren Culp, publisher and CEO of CU Insight to discuss how SWBC is helping credit unions and their members during these unprecedented times.

Mark details how SWBC was able to transition 97% of their workforce to a remote environment, protecting their employees and clients, while continuing to support their credit union clients by leveraging technology solutions.

To see the full interview, click here.

Lauren Culp:

Hi everyone! Lauren Culp here, the publisher and CEO at CUInsight.com, and I am coming to you today with a very special guest. Joining me is Mark Hein, the president and CEO of the SWBC Financial Institution Group, and we are so excited to have you. Thanks so much, Mark for taking some time to join me today.

Mark Hein:

Oh, you're welcome. Thanks for having me.

Lauren Culp:

Yeah, we're glad to be able to do this. Although, obviously the circumstances around all of this could be a little bit better, but you know, I'm going to go ahead and dive right in, Mark. These are really difficult times for so many people. What is SWBC doing to support credit unions and their members during this crisis?

Mark Hein:

Uh, first and foremost, the one thing we've done is actually remain safe for our clients. So, of our 2,500 people, we moved, oh, 97% of them to work-from-home, which was actually a really great feat for us. And we actually did it a week before the governor of Texas put a stay-at-home order in, so we were super proud of that.

I'm going to add a little funny anecdote: So, you know how IT people always are the brunt of all the jokes, especially if you have downtime. I actually went to my IT director, his name's Greg Ramsey, and told him, “I bet you never imagined a day where you would’ve been the savior of SWBC.” I had to buy him a bottle of liquor for all the hard work he’s done, but it’s been awesome.

Mark Hein:

But from SWBC’s perspective, we've done a couple of things and various products. So, first and foremost, what we did is on our unemployment insurance, obviously with 22 million people in the last four weeks filing for unemployment—that’s a huge problem for this country. So, what we ended up doing is taking our vesting period, which is six months from the time I get the loan before I can actually file for unemployment—and we reduced that down to two months. So, I think that's going to be a really, really big help for a lot of people. I hope it is. And I hope that they take advantage of it.

A couple of other things that we've done is we've, uh, eliminated a feature, an implementation fee that we have with payment solutions tool. So, we have a payment solutions tool that we have, oh, probably about 790 credit unions across the country that are using it. And so we have this mobile app that allows members of credit unions to move money back and forth between their financial institution and another, or pay bills, or whatever the case might be. And so we had an implementation fee on that for our financial institutions. And in this time we've eliminated that, and we actually implemented the quick launch program so we can get more and more credit unions up on that platform.

Um, and then third, we have about 350 employees that we have within SWBC that do collection work for credit unions, so they all outsource collections to us. And obviously, with 22 million people unemployed… That’s all we know now, it could be worse, it could be higher—things have changed. So, there are States that have said, “Okay no collections.” So, we turned off the collection calls.

But the other thing—the main thing—that we did is we refocused a lot of those 350 people to ask some very important questions that our credit union clients want to know. They want to know, “Okay. What's your job situation? Are you working? Is there anything that we can do to help?” Um, some of them are asking us to talk about any forbearance programs that credit unions might have on their loans. So, those are some of the things that we've been doing, and we've been having some success. Obviously, everybody's still getting their feet under them as far as how it is to work from home, including myself. But those are a couple of things that I think stand out to me.

Lauren Culp:

Yeah, that's amazing. I can't imagine, you know, how many different things you have to pivot so quickly to be able to adjust in an environment like this. Not to mention, you know, all of your operations and working from home at the same time. You're right, your IT people are incredible for getting that feat accomplished.

So, Mark, I'm curious, thinking ahead, obviously, there are so many far-reaching implications of the whole COVID-19 situation that we're experiencing now. There'll be so many too that are long-term. So how do you think that this is going to affect credit unions and the way that we all do business in the long run?

Mark Hein:

Umm. There were a couple of things. Actually, I'll talk about SWBC as an example. So, we have always been a work-from-the office company. I've had a number of conversations with the owners of the company over the last four weeks that we've been stuck in our homes and we've had enlightenment because the one cool thing is that our production is still where it was prior to working from home. And so, we don't need to have everybody in the office all the time. There is a means that I think that we're going to open our eyes and see it from; managing from afar is not always difficult if you have the right tools in place to be able to do it. So, we're going to look at how we actually migrate back to the office in terms of how many people we would want back in the office, and then maybe come up with some type of a hybrid approach that has a continuation of work-from-home ongoing after this pandemic is over.

Mark Hein:

But from a credit union’s perspective, one thing that I've noticed: all credit unions that I know of have their branches shut down, right? So, you cannot physically walk into a branch and transact business, if it means allowing me to get to a lockbox or whatever the case might be. But for the most part, you're all having to do your business with your credit union remotely, mobile, or whatever the case might be. And I think what we're going start seeing, is more and more credit unions looking to improve their mobile footprint so that their members can do things themselves.

I actually was at a conference and they said, “The best customer service is not going to be how well you can serve your members, but how well you allow the members to actually serve themselves.” Obviously, this conference was last year or the year before, but I thought that really struck home with me when you're talking about how people want to interact these days. And this whole episode is going to take a long time for people to get out of their minds, including myself, I'm still not feeling real good about putting masks on. My wife makes me, but that's the case and I have to listen to her, you know?

Lauren Culp:

Yeah. The masks are, you know, not our favorite thing probably. That's so interesting too, because as we think about, you know, there may be certain generations we've seen sort of slower adoption of different credit union technology platforms, mobile banking, and all of that. Now that there's sort of this necessity around it, it'll be interesting to see who continues with it. You know, we'll we see that folks continue to use it even after this.

Mark Hein:

Yeah. We've been in the process already of revamping a lot of our mobile technologies, but also, um, creating some new technologies that are allowed for members to buy products in the credit union or whatever the case might be. But we're pretty excited about it. I'm obviously more excited about getting back to some type of normalcy.

Lauren Culp:

Right. Well and your point is so true about, you know, as people come back to the office, will they be actually in the office? Or, as we get back to normal, will people be able to keep working from home? And, as an employer, that's a cool benefit to be able to offer. Thinking of like saving commute times and the flexibility of working from home, it's going to be an interesting sort of shift in our employer marketplace as we think about people whether or not they actually have to be in the office.

Mark Hein:

I think that's going to be the same for SWBC and all of our credit union clients. In our world, we have north of 750,000 square feet of space among a number of buildings in San Antonio, Scotts Bluff, Kansas City, and locations throughout the country. So, we have to start taking a really hard look at what our footprint is and what footprint we really need to have, on a going-forward basis depending on what we want to be once we come out of this.

Lauren Culp:

That's so true. Well, thank you so much for sharing your perspective. I think we're going to see, you're right. We're going to see so many changes in the next six months, 12 months, 18 months. I want to switch gears a little bit. I'm curious, you know, as a leader in the credit union space and leader in the financial institution space, how are you doing personally? What's, what's been keeping you sane or are you sane during these what are very, very challenging times?

Mark Hein:

Well, a couple of things. My wife wants me out of the house, and I will be very shortly. My employees, a lot of them, say that I wasn't sane in the first place. They see my emails and they can tell when I'm going crazy and they say, “Oh, okay you need to get out of the house.” But, one of the things that I have been doing, actually, behind me, I have a window and so I have a family of squirrels, a family of Cardinals, and some other friends! So, my dogs come in and visit me periodically and check out the animals, do a little barking, and I send them on their way.

But, the other thing is I try and get out every day and walk. And so, I've been averaging for the last three weeks about a little bit north of five miles a day. And amazingly, I have lost nine pounds because of it. So, that’s pretty cool. Not having to go out to entertain, big meals, and things like that; the fact that I'm not a good cook… And so, that all helps me lose weight, which is something I really needed to.

Lauren Culp:

That's great. You're not the first person I've heard say that they've lost some weight when they've been stuck at home.

Mark Hein:

Yeah. But you know, the cool thing is, there's lots of stress in everybody's life. But I have, and I tell them as much as I should, as much as I can, but probably not as much as I should, how important they are to me because I do have the best employees in the world, and what they are doing today, all of our employees… So in my division, we have 1,250 employees, and for all of them and doing the job that they're doing, and I told him last week, I said, “You guys are all heroes and we're going to beat this thing.” And I told him that we've already won in my eyes because of how we're doing business for our credit union clients. That’s the most satisfying to me.

Lauren Culp:

That's amazing. Well, yeah, it's hard not to be inspired when you see how many people are still working so hard to make sure that folks are connected to the financial services that they need. And yeah, I'm inspired by that.

Mark Hein:

Yeah.

Lauren Culp:

Well great. Mark, thank you so much for spending some time with me today. I have a quick minute here if you have any last thoughts that you would like to share with our audience.

Mark Hein:

Um, probably not much more than what I said, except I do want to make one point and, and I know you've done a number of these interviews, and the one thing that I think I take from them is the fact that every company is doing something. Every company has the ability to do something, but it shouldn't be a race to see how much someone can get, because, at the end of the day, we're all responsible for creating jobs for our employees; making sure those people have jobs. Knock on wood, we haven't had any people let go, we haven’t reduced any hours for people, and I want to keep it that way. And so, the company needs to be able to stay relevant—not just for our credit union clients and the members of those credit unions—but also for the employees. That's kind of where we're at. And I think as you go down this path with other companies, I think they are the same way. They want to do what they can, and they will do what they can. But it will vary based on what each company's capabilities are.

Lauren Culp:

That is such a good point. And you're right. We've seen so many folks who are stepping up to help, and at the end of the day too, having those jobs for people is a critical piece.

Mark Hein:

Yes.

Lauren Culp:

Well, Mark, thank you so much for spending some time today sharing all of your insights with our audience. I still appreciate it. Hope you and your wife stay safe and healthy and fingers crossed that at some point, someday, we'll be able to run into each other in person again.

Mark Hein:

I look forward to it. I appreciate it.

Lauren Culp:

You too. All right. Well, take care. Thank you.

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