RICH JONES HAS HAD TO REINVENT HIMSELF several times during his career. After working with several entrepreneurial ventures, he moved into the corporate, and then credit union, environment when venture capital funding dried up in the wake of 9/11.
Now, in his role as senior vice president, marketing, business development, and business intelligence at Eli Lilly Federal Credit Union in Indianapolis, Jones wants to reinvent the credit union’s traditional way of serving its 64,000 members.
“My vision is for Eli Lilly Federal to become the USAA of credit unions—to have the digital tools, capability, and savvy to serve our members expertly regardless of how they approach us,” he explains.
Branches are “nice to have,” but online services and mobile banking are becoming more relevant for members. Credit unions need to move from the brick-and-mortar environment to the digital environment of today, he says.
The good news, Jones says, is that credit unions—because of their not-for-profit business model—are uniquely positioned to stay current with the consumer-friendly products members want today and in the future.
He credits Eli Lilly Federal’s CEO, Lisa Schlehuber, for leading the reinvention of the credit union. He cites her leadership as an attribute he wants to model as the credit union evolves so it may compete effectively in the digital economy.
“There’s no more important work than to develop the next generation of leaders,” says Jones, who enjoys mentoring employees to become better versions of themselves.
“Leaders of tomorrow can’t be afraid to take risks, use their brains, and take the actions appropriate to transform their credit unions,” adds Jones, who says he’s inspired by watching people grow and succeed. “They have to have the courage to use their voices and to take action. They need to take responsibility for their mistakes and share their successes.”
Success for a credit union in the digital economy will depend on developing the leadership, strategy, and tactics to remove friction between the member and the financial institution, he says.
“There’s way too much friction today. The credit union needs to be easy to do business with.”
To remove barriers, credit unions need to challenge inertia, Jones says. Credit union leaders of the future need to be willing to change how they do their jobs and conduct their business.
“Our biggest challenge is ourselves,” Jones says. “We have to be something better than just a cooperative bank.
“Banks are driven by shareholder return,” he adds. “We have a great opportunity if we think of member return like banks think of shareholder return. We’re more than a profit center. At Eli Lilly Federal, we’re financial wellness providers for our members. Making a profit is important but we have a greater purpose—to serve our members.