When the federal government shut down in 2012, Laura Eblen was only three months into her job at Mazuma Credit Union in Overland Park, Kan.
But Eblen lived up to her then-title as “assistant vice president of awesomeness” when she developed a program on the fly to assist federal employees, who formed the core of the $588 million asset credit union’s membership.
In less than a week, Eblen and the Mazuma team pulled together a zero-interest loan program to provide affected employees with replacement paychecks.
“We rallied the front-line team behind a message: This is how we want to help our foundational membership,” she says.
That focus on members is evident in everything that Eblen does at Mazuma, including fiscally sound project management and contract negotiation. Recently, she headed up a card processor conversion, oversaw an upgrade of Mazuma’s cards to incorporate EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) technology, and guided an initiative to offer members digital wallet capabilities.
Over the past 18 months, Eblen has been involved in a Filene Research Institute i³ team, working with professionals from other credit unions to brainstorm products that will solve members’ problems.
“The Filene method makes you challenge your assumptions,” she says. “Our industry needs that continual development of new ideas.”
One Filene project Eblen worked on, Bank Ahead, already is in development. Her team noticed that members still wait in lines in branches for the few routine transactions that require showing up in person, such as reprinting a debit card or getting a cashier’s check.
“We wanted to incorporate that pay ahead, pick-up- in-store philosophy,” she says, singling out Starbucks as one example but also her state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). “If the DMV has figured out how to get people to do stuff ahead of time, surely credit unions can do it.”
Eblen’s term with the i³ program ends soon, and while she won’t miss the extra 10 hours per week of work, she’ll miss the rapid exchange of ideas. The Filene method reflects her own personal motto: “How do I take what I’ve done today and make it better tomorrow?”
Now Eblen is the director of awesomeness at Mazuma, but she knows her role is about more than a title. “Titles don’t matter—it’s all about what you bring to the table,” she says.