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Timothy M. Antonition has led nearly every part of Space Coast Credit Union in Melbourne, Fla., over the past 30 years, and he advises all aspiring CEOs to do so.
“You’ll be involved in making decisions across the organization,” says Antonition, CEO at the $8.7 billion asset credit union. “If you’ve managed or overseen those areas, you can draw from that experience.”
He shares his approach to leadership, keys to growth, how the credit union movement has changed over the years, and more.
Timothy M. Antonition: My path with Space Coast Credit Union has been long and rewarding. I started in the file room and progressed through the organization.
My role expanded over time, starting with overseeing a four-team-member branch, then growing in responsibility to include multiple branches, the call center, the sales center, information technology, operations, card services, and accounting.
By the time I became CEO, the only areas of the organization that were not already reporting to me were human resources and marketing. During this journey, I was fortunate enough to run projects, including a merger of equals in 2010, the expansion of our headquarters building and construction of our parking garage in 2016, and our core system conversion in 2016.
I’ve also been able to define how we deliver service in our branches, online, and over the phone to best assist our members.
A: Traditionally, credit unions primarily served employer groups, which means there was not a lot of overlap between credit unions. Today, most credit unions serve a geographic area, so sometimes we’re competing in the same space.
For the most part this is friendly competition, but it is a fundamental difference from the way we operated in the past. Credit unions have also expanded what we offer to become full-service financial institutions.
A: For personal growth, I’ve relied on learning from others who are ahead of me in their career. There’s always someone who has done what you’re about to do or can help talk through your plan with you.
As for the growth of the organization, we did grow with a merger in 2010. Besides the merger, all of our growth has come organically through good products and exceptional service.
I’ve learned you have to do a lot of listening to run the organization effectively.
A: I’m proud of the work we do at Space Coast Credit Union, but I would never say that we brag. We deliver great service and products to our members, and by doing that we’ve improved their lives financially.
When you’re able to help a member get their dream car or buy their first home, it’s rewarding. We exist to serve our members, and we come to work every day energized by the work we do.
We’re always looking for ways to better serve our membership. We know that each and every day we’re doing what’s right for our members.
A: People need to be themselves. I don’t try to make people something they’re not.
As CEO, my role is to guide team members through things that are new to them while empowering them to manage their roles in their own way.
I also strive for a culture where we treat each other with respect, empathy, and understanding. There’s always room for growth, opportunity, and learning from things that may not go as planned.
A: You certainly have to have a sense of calm. The financial industry is complex, and changes every day.
Each day presents itself with new challenges, many of which there’s no book, procedure, or precedent to guide the way.
A: I always answer this question the same way: focus on the job at hand. It can be easy to get drawn away from your goal or distracted by outside noise.
I can’t say that I always followed this advice, but I certainly learned that prioritizing our team members and members always drives great results.
A: Get broad work experience in the industry. You’ll be involved in making decisions across the organization, and if you’ve managed or overseen those areas, you can draw from that experience.
I was fortunate to have responsibility for about 90% of the organization before I became CEO. This helped me transition to my current role, and still helps me today when making decisions.
A: I’m very introverted. While I have no challenge speaking in public or being out front leading the organization, I also get energy from time alone. It’s important to have a balance like this when you’re in my role.