Keep asking ‘why’
‘It's always about the member.’
It’s not enough for Benjamin Teske to know what something is supposed to do.
The director of lending services at $1.6 billion asset America’s First Federal Credit Union in Birmingham, Ala., needs to know why it works that way.
“I want to break everything down to the absolute smallest piece,” Teske says.
Asking “why” helps Teske find the friction that slows lending operations. For example, exploring every angle of the home equity line of credit (HELOC) process has helped America’s First Federal increase production, improve the member experience, and develop an innovative fixed-rate HELOC option.
Teske’s approach was shaped by watching his grandparents run their small excavating company. His grandmother kept the books while his grandfather kept things running smoothly.
They stored everything in its proper place and treated everyone with respect.
“They had a huge impact on my life by teaching me to do right by people,” Teske says.
Teske got a job at America’s First Federal while attending college, but his plan was to work at a big bank. That plan shifted as he realized that doing right by people meant staying at the credit union.
Serving as acting CEO for a struggling credit union in conservatorship offered on-the-job training and deepened his understanding of how decisions affect members.
“What is different about credit unions is that it’s always about the member,” Teske says. “What’s kept me here is the organization’s love for employees, community, and the members’ lives we invest in.”
Teske and his wife, Amy, also had a plan for their family life. Then their newborn triplets spent three months in neonatal intensive care.
That shifted their focus to appreciating the unpredictable gifts that now come from having an eight-year-old daughter, four-year-old triplet sons, and a two-year-old son.
“I really feed off their energy and excitement and love for life,” Teske says.
Teske pays it forward as president of the Junior Board for United Ability, a Birmingham non-profit that benefits children and adults with disabilities. He’s also active in other charities.
Whether he’s working in the community or at the credit union, he’ll keep asking “why” to make things better.