“Don’t you just love those long afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn’t just an hour–but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands–and who knows what to do with it?”
When Tennessee Williams wrote these words in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” he captured a feeling about a city that seems to move in multiple speeds and directions at the same time. Slow, like the muddy Mississippi River that borders it. Fast, like the beat of the music that provides the city’s heartbeat. Always in motion, this city of the south. And here is where people have made their living working on and near the water for more than 300 years.
Just outside New Orleans is a community known as Bridge City, home to a shipyard that,for decades,built, updated and repaired everything from Coast Guard cutters to cruise ships. It was once the largest employer in Louisiana. Nearly 60 years ago, a group of employees at Avondale Shipyard combined their efforts and funds to form a credit union, named ASI for Avondale Shipyards Inc. The name was changed in 2019 to OnPath Federal Credit Union.
Traditions mean a great deal to people in New Orleans. History is everywhere you look, it surrounds every home, business and activity, and is something that gives people a great deal of pride. It is not uncommon for generations of the same family to live and work in the same business. Moving into this environment takes a special type of person who isn’t afraid to honor the past, but make forward-thinking changes when necessary.
Following an extensive, nationwide search, OnPath found the newest member of their leadership team in another southern son, Montgomery, Alabama-born and raised Jared Freeman. With work experience that started when he was a college student working as a teller at a local bank to earn money for tuition, to ultimately serving as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Experience Officer in several credit unions, Freeman was a perfect fit for the new direction of OnPath Federal Credit Union.
Freeman took over as President and CEO of OnPath in August, and his first 100 days with the credit union have been action packed.
“Starting a new position in a new city during a pandemic was a challenge,” said Freeman, about his move to OnPath’shomebase of Harahan, Louisiana.“But I was excited for the opportunity and eager to get on the ground here as quickly as I could.”
Freeman joins OnPath following a year of great change. After nearly 60 years as ASI, the credit union’s board of directors wanted to expand financial service offerings, and rebrand the credit union toattract more members. Over the years, the name ASI was often seen as a hurdle for growth; many people were confused about what a credit union was and thought only shipyard employees and their families could join. While false, it seemed the name was a roadblock for potential members.
After thoroughly researching names, ASI was renamed OnPath Federal Credit Union in 2019. Freeman says the new moniker shows growth and forward thinking and he’s glad to be part of this new chapter for the credit union.
“A new customer service response model was also part of the changes that accompanied the rebrand. It has given our members an outstanding way to interact with team members at OnPath to plan for and reach their financial goals,” said Freeman.
This new methodology of customer service is designed to give members consistency throughout their financial path at the credit union. The first team member who works with a potential member becomes their OnPath “guide,” and personally works with them to create and manage their financial accounts. The model has been used successfully in other financial institutions and businesses, and members at OnPath have found it fits the personalized and welcoming style of the credit union.
“OnPath started as a credit union for a shipyard, from there it has grown to 11 branches in several Louisiana parishes. There is a deep and real connection between our team members and our community, and that’s something I am very proud of and want to see continue,” said Freeman. “Our team donates time and effort to causes they believe in, and that makes a positive impact on the communities we serve.”
Freeman has recently passed the “100 days” benchmark in his new position. No one would disagree that 2020 has been a tumultuous year, but Freeman and his team at OnPath remain flexible and focused on growth and expanding opportunities.
“Our goal is to help as many people with their financial lives as we can,” said Freeman. “We are utilizing our existing strengths while developing and leveraging additional services to reach more in our communities.”
The pandemic created additional challenges and opportunities. OnPath worked with their members who qualified for the Payroll Protection Plan, designed to help small businesses survive, secure loans to keep their businesses running.
“We were proud to seeour members receive these loans that in many cases made the difference between staying in business or closing their doors,” said Freeman. “This is the type of partnership and dedication credit unions provide to our members.”
No business is without unexpected events, even in 2020 when the word “unexpected” seems to encompass just about every aspect of our daily lives. Freeman and his team faced multiple hurricanes and tropical storms, including Hurricane Zeta which knocked out power to most of South Louisiana for several days in October. Relying on internet banking proved to be a lifesaver for many members, some of whom evacuated the area before the storm, and for others who needed cash on hand during the days following the storm.
Freeman has served in many positions during his banking career, starting as a teller to raise college tuition money. Now, at just32 years old, he has broad experience within the industry and is considered one of its rising stars.
In 2005, he started working at the $650million Guardian Credit Union in Montgomery, Alabama and held several positions there, including Chief Operating Officer. In 2015, he moved across town to the $365 million ASE Credit Union as President/CEO. Following three successful years, he relocated to Jackson, Tennessee as Chief Experience Officer of Leaders Credit Union.
His polite, personable nature, incredible attention to even the smallest of details, and unrelenting desire to help people, have made him a perfect fit for OnPath and its 61,000 members.
Surviving one type of storm courtesy of COVID-19 and others from Mother Nature, Freeman looks to the future for expansion and growth for OnPath.
As a dedicated community partner, OnPath has helped members learn about financial health and develop positive financial habits, pioneering products and services catered specifically to those of modest means. All those products provided a much-needed outlet for the credit unions low-income members who frequently fall victim to the debt trap.
Staying true to its mission, the credit union was certified during hurricanes Katrina and Rita and responded to critical lending needs for members in the community who lost their homes, or needed short-term loans, and small businesses that needed help making up for income lost due to the storms. businesses and livelihoods to Hurricane Katrina.
As part of its new focus on growth in the community, OnPath is providing a fuller range of financial services to members and serving a broader range of potential members.
“These have been difficult days for our members, we know that. Our daily lives are different now than they were earlier this year, but that doesn’t change what we do. We will continue serving our members of all backgrounds, and offer financial education and information to help them make decisions about their financial futures,” said Freeman. “We want people in our area to know that we are more than a banking institution, we are committed partners for and with them. We still live by the credit union philosophy of ‘people helping people’, and we are proud of that.”
Freeman sees a bright future ahead for OnPath as they continue to expand services and educational opportunities for members. OnPath is a $403 million FCU based in Harahan, Louisiana and employees 137 people in 11 branches across Louisiana.