Todd Harris exemplifies the benefits of a mentorship. He joined $2.6 billion Technology Credit Union (Tech CU) in San Jose, Calif., in 2010 as chief financial officer and chief operating officer. Six years later he succeeded Tech CU’s retiring CEO Barbara Kamm.
He quickly introduced several new programs that he’d had in mind before becoming CEO, including Card Manager, a mobile app for managing credit and debit cards, and Family Banking, an approach to help parents interact with their kids about money.
“I was able to quickly get those products up and running because my predecessor was also my mentor. She gave me a lot of room to run in, which gave me a chance to fine-tune those programs before I became CEO.”
Two-thirds of Tech CU’s 100,000 members come from high-tech employers. “That means we have to know how to appeal to a sophisticated market in terms of innovative, tech-based products and services we can offer,” he says. “Fortunately, we have excellent industry contacts who are a great source of information about up-and-coming financial technology. They now seek us out where before we had to go looking for them to talk to.”
Harris describes how Technology CU embraces collaboration as a means to success in a competitive marketplace.
He says Tech CU’s mortgage origination program is “on par with Quicken’s Rocket Mortgage. This helps us because in this market, where mortgages have been commoditized, we offer an extremely quick turnaround. We have over 125 competitors from all parts of the financial industry, and though we can’t compete head-to-head with the size of national banks—we offer what credit unions have always offered: friendliness and approachability.”
Could Tech CU thrive in other markets? “That’s something we do think about,” Harris says. “We have a very good approach to rates in this tough market, which we know would be very welcome elsewhere.”
In his spare time, Harris likes to disengage from desk-bound tasks and work with his hands. “In college I worked during summers as a carpenter,” he says. “I learned how to frame, roof, and install windows. Ever since then I’ve worked on every house I owned, remodeling by myself.”