Many from the Southeast have heard of the largest employee-owned grocery chain in the country; after all, it is one of the most sought-after employers in the nation. Publix Super Markets was founded in 1930 by the late George W. Jenkins (affectionately known as Mr. George). With over 1,200 stores operating in seven states, Publix is one of the 10 largest-volume supermarket chains in the country.
Publix’s success story can be credited to its people-oriented company culture. While ensuring that he offered customers the best choices in grocery products and services, Mr. George also fostered an internal culture that prioritized his associates’ personal needs. He wanted Publix associates and their immediate families to be at their best financially—at every phase of life. He envisioned them having lower loan rates, higher-yield savings plans, and other benefits that banks didn’t offer. In 1957, Publix Employees Federal Credit Union (PEFCU) was born.
As Publix Super Markets expands and thrives, PEFCU continues to make the financial needs of Publix associates its priority. As each of these two companies experience exciting growth, there is a leader who understands the strong bond between them is one of PEFCU’s newest leaders.
After a 24-year career at Publix Super Markets, Shannon Patten now uses her knowledge and experience to lead Publix Employees Federal Credit Union’s (PEFCU) first marketing and public relations team.
Patten, PEFCU’s first Chief Marketing Officer, spent over half of her life working for Publix. As a college student, she had started her career working the cash register at a Publix location in Tampa, FL. From there, she held various positions at Publix, using her skills, wit, and determination to work her way up to Director of Customer Care and Social Media at their corporate office in Lakeland, FL.
People often ask her why she decided to transition to PEFCU after devoting over half of her life to Publix.
“It is clear to me that the Publix Credit Union shares many of the same values as Publix Super Markets—values that I live by in both my professional and personal life,” Patten explains. “For example, both companies care about their employees and the communities they serve – that’s super important to me.”
The idea of being part of an organization that fosters relationship-building and facilitates the growth and evolution of its business resonates with Patten. “PEFCU is a thriving company that is committed to the well-being of its members,” Patten says. “We are in the early stages of enhancing our digital presence and optimizing the member’s experience at our branches. I couldn’t be more excited about the future of this company.”
After over six months as PEFCU’s first Chief Marketing Officer, Patten remarked on what she appreciates most in a people-first employer. “It’s a close-knit team here. We have a strong sense of community, teamwork, and doing what’s right for our employees and members. I could not be happier!”
Patten believes that PEFCU’s organic roots have allowed the Credit Union to flourish. “PEFCU has a very strong foundation,” Patten says. “In fact, I’ve been a member for nearly 25 years. I remember once when I was working as a Publix cashier way back in the day, a PEFCU representative set up a table in our store’s breakroom to educate associates about the services offered. I was in! Little did I know to what degree I’d ‘be in’ 25 years later!”
Since those days as a cashier, Patten can attest that the Credit Union has achieved many milestones. The exciting transformation that PEFCU members and employees are witnessing today matches its achievements on record. In May of 2019, the Credit Union exceeded $1 billion in assets, surpassing 95% of credit unions in the nation. This accomplishment indicates that the Credit Union is successfully reaching the people it was created to serve. “And there’s a lot more potential,” Patten expressed excitedly.
Within the last year PEFCU undertook a complete restructure of its leadership team; including major promotions and the creation several new positions. The evolution of the business model had a positive impact on existing PEFCU employees like Robert Bregler and Karen Boccaleri, who have each been with PEFCU for over 35 years. Bregler was promoted to Chief Executive Officer and Boccaleri was promoted to Chief Operations Officer. Last month, PEFCU also announced the addition of Ted Hassenfelt as their new Chief Information Officer, who was formerly the CIO of Suncoast Credit Union.
Those who filled the newly created positions include Scott McKim, the Chief Lending Officer; Erika Hernden, Chief Experience Officer; Cheryl Brown, Chief People and Culture Officer—and Patten, Chief Marketing Officer.
Patten explains how the Chief Marketing Officer role and her new marketing team align with PEFCU’s exciting new mission.
“Feelings and emotions are at the heart of brand choices,” Patten says. “It’s what drives our thoughts, actions, decisions and purchasing behavior. It’s a known fact that consumers are increasingly making decisions, including with whom they bank, based on how they feel about the brand.”
Regarding the Credit Union’s mission, she explains, “When I think about the heart of branding, I immediately think about PEFCU’s mission: Delivering the best value for lifelong relationships one member at a time.”
As PEFCU’s CMO, Patten’s priority is awakening a member’s sense of belonging. She does not plan to replace all the original marketing approaches. Her goal is to enhance those strategies to more effectively reach current and future members. According to her, one of the most important enhancements includes creating consistent branding across all channels.
“Consistency is key. To project professionalism, establish authenticity, provide clarity and build trust; our members have to feel that we are reliable.”
She insists that PEFCU’s branding will not be limited to marketing campaigns. “I once heard a marketing expert say, ‘Executives lead the brand, employees live the brand, and members should love the brand.’ That resonated with me and is emblematic of PEFCU’s continued expansion.”
Another important area of focus for Patten’s marketing team is delivering the right content to the right audience. “Content is more valuable than ever. In a relationship that includes the transfer of money, trust is absolutely the most important requirement.”
Patten says, “We operate in a ‘member-obsessed’ culture that centers decision-making around our members.” This motivates her to implement more online engagement. She adds, “We need to know them better, respond to their feedback, anticipate their needs, and wow them with little delights. To become a trusted guide for their journey, we need to understand, and care about, their destination.”
But what about Patten’s career journey? She believes that she has found her destination. “After enjoying over half of my life at Publix Super Markets, Inc., I know I have found the perfect spot to retire from,” she says. “I’d like to rest my laurels on having worked for only these two employers. That’s what a sense of belonging really means to me.”