Success by committee
Amy Rodriguez credits collaboration for her credit union’s achievements.
Amy Rodriguez may lead many key projects as New Orleans Firemen's Federal Credit Union’s chief experience officer, but she credits her teammates for her success.
The $225 million asset credit union strives to promote family, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Rodriguez maintains that culture throughout the credit union’s nine locations, its call center, and the training department.
CUNA News: You’ve been in the credit union movement for more than 18 years. Tell us about your career and what has kept you so engaged?
Amy Rodriguez: I started as a teller at another local credit union and worked my way up to branch manager and a compliance officer.
I started at New Orleans Firemen's Federal Credit Union as a trainer in 2010. I enjoy teaching others and helping them improve, whether it is through their work duties or through their personal finances.
After a couple of years, I ventured back to the member-facing world as a branch manager. In addition to managing our St. James branch, I became South Shore regional manager, overseeing five branches, and later branch operations manager.
My current position allows me to be a part of more of our programs and help them from members’ perspective before they go live. I couldn’t imagine not working for a credit union. It is in my blood.
Q: You’ve undertaken some big projects: reevaluating vendors, developing instant-issue plastic, and implementing a new call center platform. How do you lead so many big projects with limited resources while leading the troops you have?
A: I have never undertaken any projects single-handed. We have a phenomenal team.
Beyond our amazing management team, our employees are better than any out there. I lead by doing research and relying on the expertise of those in the industry.
A lot of the projects were required based on compliance deadlines and some were a necessity to improve the member experience. I am also surrounded by fantastic branch managers who take pride in their work and are willing to help and learn in every project to better serve our members.
Q: How does your credit union’s status as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) shape the member experience?
A: Being a CDFI credit union helps us see things from a different perspective. It is not just about making loans or profits each year. Our goal is to improve the lives of our members and help them be the best financial versions of themselves as possible.
We are committed to improving the accessibility of banking into areas that are unbanked or banking deserts. We want to educate every member on how to create a budget, improve cash flow, or improve their credit.
With every member we can help, we are moving our communities forward.
Q: What lessons did you learn during the pandemic that will serve you well moving forward?
A: I learned it is imperative to pay attention to what happens all over the world. It is better to have a plan and not need it versus needing a plan and not having one.
I also learned it pays to know what your vendors can do beyond what you elected to have them do. A lot of our vendors were able to get supplies when they were sparse.
Knowing this helped us to procure hand sanitizer, Clorox, Lysol, masks, water, paper towels, and toilet paper.
I learned the importance of drive-up locations and that we are lacking those resources at a lot of our branches. I learned that technology is great, but our members still wanted to see our employees. The stay-at-home order was rough on so many people emotionally, physically, and mentally.
Q: How are you proceeding in your recovery efforts from Hurricane Ida?
A: Our credit union and employees were hit hard by Hurricane Ida. Eight of our nine branches had damage, and more than 75% of our employees experienced damage to their homes.
Our membership was also hit hard.
We’ve been here before with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and we know we will get through it.
We immediately offered skip payments and emergency relief loans. We began acquiring food, water, and other essential items for anyone in need. We have fantastic partners who helped us keep our doors open and gave us space in their buildings to operate.
Three weeks after the storm, all of our branches were open for members. Only one branch is in a temporary location.
We are helping our members and employees as they work through the rebuilding process with loans and guidance with insurance companies. It is so humbling to see the generosity and kindness when disaster strikes. It truly brings communities closer together.
I’d like to give a huge thank you to MemberSource Credit Union, Louisiana Federal Credit Union, Pelican State Credit Union, Louisiana Credit Union League, Mississippi Credit Union Association, and the National Council of Firefighter Credit Unions.