BONNIE ORTIZ IS A HEALER of organizations. The Partnership Federal Credit Union’s chief operating officer thrives on assembling the puzzle pieces that make an organization run like clockwork.
“The challenges facing us are steep and credit unions are consolidating every day,” Ortiz says. “We have to build a model that is businesslike, but brings value to members. That requires a solid foundation of people, processes, and tools.”
Ortiz, a certified project manager, spent more than 20 years at AT&T before leading her own management consulting firm.
In 2008, she was enlisted to manage projects involving the merger of credit unions serving the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the National Science Foundation, which produced The Partnership Federal in Arlington, Va.
Ortiz’s vision and execution led CEO Theresa Mann to hire her as COO in 2009, when the merger went through.
“I love taking individuals and entities and turning them into a high-performing team,” says Ortiz.
The initial merger required 16 major projects, which all came in on time and under budget. Today, the credit union uses consistent project management methods and embarks on 12 to 14 projects each year.
Ortiz is most proud of a restructuring that created a Business Technology unit, allowing front-line staff to focus on members rather than back-office functions.
The Business Technology unit addresses product management, business analytics, and special projects implementation. Using a for-profit model, it manages key vendor relationships, taking those duties out of the hands of the front-line staff.
In the past, for example, if an ATM broke, a front-line staffer had to contact as many as three vendors. Today, staffers contact the Business Technology unit and let it handle the situation.
Product managers take suggestions from front-line staff at team meetings and rank them. People in the Business Technology unit find new product and information technology solutions that boost the efficiency of front-line staff and provide member value.
“It’s a win-win because the front-line staff see their ideas come to life without the responsibility to do the implementation,” she says.
When she’s not fixing problems, Ortiz often can be found on the Chesapeake Bay aboard Bonnecello, a 36-foot cabin cruiser she and her husband own.
The fixing business has gone so well, The Partnership Federal has begun a job-sharing program in which Ortiz and other senior executives travel to other credit unions on a fee basis as often as two days a week to solve problems.
“It increases our sources of income, provides a way for us to become more visible, and is all about the credit union ethic of sharing,” Ortiz says.
For Ortiz, the results have been gratifying. “It all comes back to these words: High-performing team.”