THIRTEEN YEARS AGO, Herman Stevenson Jr.’s gift of gab landed him a job starting a call center at $240 million asset Dow Louisiana Federal Credit Union in Plaquemine, La.
Eight months later he was tapped to start an indirect lending program because of his experience with outbound sales calls.
“It was easy for me to sell,” Stevenson says. “I’m a salesman—I go out, talk, negotiate, shake hands, and come back with a deal.”
Because of his back-office experience, it wasn’t long before Stevenson took over operations at the credit union’s Plaquemine branch. “At the time, I had no idea about teller functions. But I soon learned a lot.”
That knack for quick learning is one reason he’s now vice president of lending and operations.
One of his insights was to empower tellers. “Our member service reps [MSR] can underwrite their own deals,” he says. “We hold quarterly meetings where we look at all the loans past due over 90 days and ask, how would you have handled this? How do you think this loan worked? Then we reveal how the loans performed.
“It’s a way to get MSRs on the same page in terms of lending practices—as well as in the same room,” he continues. “Our five branches are located far apart so staff don’t get many opportunities to come together and share ideas. We ask a lot from them. Our weekday business hours, 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., are the longest in the state, so they have to meet late at night.”
Those long hours changed who Dow Louisiana Federal hires. “Before, we’d hire people with financial institution experience. But they’d expect to go home by 5 p.m. Members, however, want us to be accessible when they get off work at 6 p.m. We needed individuals who didn’t think working until 7:30 p.m. was a big deal.”
That’s why the credit union started recruiting retail salespeople who were used to working late. “Our hours were better and we offered time off at Thanksgiving and Christmas—two days retail salespeople rarely get off.”
Stevenson has also applied his leadership skills to youth football, founding the “Faith Lions” football organization aimed at teen and preteen boys.
“We teach kids that performers like Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber are not their role models, and that they should do well in school, go to college, and take after the successful workers around them,” he says.
The program later morphed into tutoring and leadership training. “Coaching is about inspiring people to do what they didn’t think they could do. My inspirations are faith, family, and the people I work with.”