In sizing up the landscape at Midcoast Federal Credit Union when he took over as CEO in 2013, Joe Gervais decided the organization needed to be bolder.
“We had a bit of an undeserved inferiority complex,” says Gervais, a 28-year credit union industry veteran. “We mainly compete with community banks in our region. We needed to share the message about how we are different and get back to the basics of how credit unions operate and the value proposition we represent.”
Based in Freeport, Maine, Midcoast Federal embarked on a rebranding campaign, and Gervais worked to manage the cultural changes employees encountered along the way. “We spent a lot of time understanding the psychology of handling change so our employees would be on board with our new direction,” he says.
Because Midcoast Federal isn’t within or near a large media market, Gervais expects his branch managers to spend half of their time in their communities, either volunteering or engaging local businesses. “Our region is built on personal connections, and word-of-mouth marketing continues to be one of our most effective drivers of growth.”
The credit union also introduced a rewards credit card that give cardholders triple reward points for patronizing participating local businesses, double points for groceries and gas, and single points for other purchases.
Due to the program’s success, the credit union built a website that gives those local businesses free promotional pages where they can upload photos, promote events, and describe their services.
“It’s a good way for us to support the community and have one-to-one conversations with small businesses to further our relationships,” he says. “It gives our members a mechanism to support our community as well.”
During Gervais’ tenure, Midcoast Federal has grown from $119 million to $206 million in assets, doubled loans, expanded its membership, and reduced delinquencies from 1.42% to 0.32%.
Gervais is also a strong advocate of staff development. In the past year, all employees participated in financial literacy training and all supervisors are participating in Midcoast’s Leadership University, an eight-month program with assignments and a capstone presentation at the end.
During the pandemic, as employees worked remotely, the credit union started a “mug club.”
“We gave all employees a coffee mug and, in groups of six, we meet on Microsoft Teams for half-hour conversations to make stronger connections,” he says.
“I’m passionate about how we perform to serve member needs,” Gervais adds. “Creating new ways of doing things as the environment changes and responding to changing markets is what excites me about what we do.”