Growing up in the for-profit banking world, I never really understood that there was another side of banking. That was until I received a call in late 2018 from a recruiter, who asked if I might be interested in running a commercial lending team at a local credit union.
After more than 20 years in banking, I have to confess that I knew next to nothing about credit unions or how they worked. Moreover, I was happy in my current job and not looking to make a move. I thought, though, that it couldn’t hurt to have a conversation.
What I learned through the interview process was not just intriguing, but refreshing. With each interview I did, I learned more about credit unions and their culture. This was a totally different world in which the primary focus is on members and how Point Breeze Credit Union could make things better for them. It was genuine. A not-for-profit model shifted the focus from the “bottom line” to what the credit union can give back to its members.
In my final interview with the CEO of Point Breeze, I listened intently and was amazed at his passion for the members, the employees, and the overall organization. It’s not an act. He truly cares. In fact, every Point Breeze employee whom I had met to this point sincerely cares. It was apparent that their goals were simply to make Point Breeze the best option for their members and the best place for their employees to work and to give back to the community.
On the surface, there isn’t an incredible difference between my new position as Vice President, Member Business Lending at Point Breeze and the roles I have held previously. The difference isn’t in the job description, though. It’s in how I am now able to function.
At Point Breeze, I have the ability to affect change more quickly, and with more ease than I could at a for-profit bank. If I have a suggestion that may make things a little better for our members, I am able to walk down the hall, have a discussion with our senior leadership team, and if it makes sense, we do it. It is an amazing feeling to be able to impact employees and members positively.
Point Breeze also takes an extremely active role in the communities we serve. The organization and the employees get involved, because they have a true desire to help make our communities better.
I began my career in banking in the early ‘90s at a small savings and loan in Baltimore City. After starting as a teller – a position I really enjoyed because I got to know my customers and help them with their financial needs – I was able to make the jump to a larger bank where I held almost every position, from head teller to licensed sales rep to loan officer. Most recently, I was a business banking relationship manager.
All of these experiences helped to shape my career, but none so much as a decision by the bank for branch managers to venture out and begin to work with our commercial customers. While this approach was out of my wheelhouse, I embraced it as a new challenge. Gradually, I began to realize that this was the area where I wanted my career to grow. Working with business customers was exciting and gave me the ability to help in different ways than what I could do on the consumer side.
I spent my first 24 years in banking in the “for-profit” banking world, and have the utmost respect for the organizations for which I was fortunate enough to work. But it is a different world than that of credit unions, particularly when it comes to business lending.
Business lending is still a relatively new concept in credit unions. While Point Breeze has offered it for several years now, I believe my experience in the field will allow us to get to the next level and reach even more members.
This is perhaps where banks and credit unions differ most. Because of Point Breeze’s not-for-profit model, we can offer better products, rates and terms for loans than some of the for-profit banks, which obviously is extremely beneficial to our borrowers.
Point Breeze looks at lending to our members with eyes wide open. Our approach is to look at every aspect of the loan and do what we can to help our member. While we still make certain we approve good solid loans, we also make sure that if there is a way we can help – we find it. After all of my years of banking/lending, I had no idea this approach could exist. Business lending at Point Breeze is a great option for business owners and I am looking forwarding to serving them in my new role.
Beth Bavis is Vice President, Member Business Lending at Point Breeze Credit Union. Point Breeze is one of Maryland’s largest credit unions, with more than 57,000 members and assets exceeding $770 million. For more information, visit www.pbcu.com.