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As the new chief marketing officer at First City Credit Union in Altadena, Calif., Royce Ngiam’s top priority is understanding his new team and its capabilities.
Ngiam, who joined the $868 million asset credit union last December, also serves as chair of the Marketing & Business Development Council. He offers insights into leadership, marketing, and the power of networking and collaborating with like-minded industry leaders.
Ngiam: My new role at First City consists of asking a lot of questions and learning. The credit union has been around for 85 years, and has a strong capital position and a loyal membership base. That doesn’t happen by accident.
We have a new, amazing leadership team, and my first order of business is to listen and learn—then figure out how to build on the shoulders of those who came before me.
A: My top priority is to understand our team and its capabilities—our extended team; not just marketing and business development. No one team or department goes it alone, so I’m prioritizing meeting the leadership team. It’s the first part of my 100-day plan.
I value meeting people and learning about their stories and journeys: Where did they come from, what brought them here, and how can I help them do what they want to do?
The second priority is to learn about our membership and select employee groups. Every credit union is unique. Once I understand our makeup, I can tap into the core values our members cherish and bring it all to the forefront.
A: We used to focus on technical skills, and those are still extremely important. You have to be an expert in your chosen field to be truly effective, but that alone is no longer sufficient.
I also think a lot of people focus on the wrong things; looking for validation through certifications and education. The skills and traits today’s leaders need have nothing to do with either—it’s all about endless curiosity and empathy.
Our advertising mediums continue to change and evolve, as do our analytical insights and knowledge. It’s more important than ever to understand what the evolving landscape looks like and how we can shape it.
To truly shape this landscape, we have to understand how all of it works and not get tempted by shortcuts and tools that take away our understanding or create reliance on crutches.
The other half of this is the need for empathy for our members and our teams. As much as some of us embrace change and technological advancement, not everyone is on the same point of the adoption curve.
As we’re working with or for others, we need to empathize with them and meet them where they are. If members want cash envelopes or stand in line to deposit a check, our job isn’t to change their behavior, it's to create a value-added experience for both of us.
With that lens, how do we think about our interactions with members? How do we work with employees who are slow to adopt technology? How do we create safe spaces and conversations that bring everyone along at a pace that moves the business forward without leaving them behind? That’s empathy.
A: I’m currently chair of the Marketing and Business Development Council, which allows me to work with about a dozen amazing leaders from credit unions of all sizes throughout the country.
When I led the Council’s Member Resources Committee (MRC), it was all about putting out quality products like toolkits, white papers, and webinars. Now, it’s all about standing up the team for the future—really thinking about continuity—and taking the great work done by the Executive Councils before us and putting our stamp on it.
It’s less about doing the work and more about focusing on relationships and people. It’s all about investing in people, not in things.
A: This group has been invaluable in advancing my career. I got started with the Councils by writing a whitepaper on payments. That’s when I joined the MRC. Volunteering with the Councils and creating content for other credit unions completely changed my perspective on the movement and my role.
Instead of just taking all of my experiences and learnings to better my own credit union, I was now thinking about how I could benefit all credit unions throughout the country.
Thinking about the movement as a whole and building solutions to support it changed my outlook on my role, the role of my credit union, and where we all fit in the greater scheme all centered around the member. Part of that learning and an opportunity afforded to me by the Councils is the ability to interact with virtually everyone in the credit union space.
The IQ of the group is greater than the IQ of any individual. Also, I've met some amazing people who’ve given me a lot of advice, insight, and motivation—mentors and friends.