UICCU sees continued growth

Credit union ranked No. 1 place to work

By Pat Shaver

CORRIDOR–A coupon for ice cream can go a long way.

That’s one of the reasons employees at the University of Iowa Community Credit Union (UICCU) say it’s one of the best places to work. The company was ranked the No. 1 mid-sized company to work for in Iowa this year by the Des Moines Register.

At every staff meeting, employees at the University of Iowa Community Credit Union who go above and beyond expectations are recognized and celebrated. For example, ice cream coupons (the Ben and Jerry’s Award) are given out to an employee who goes above and beyond, said UICCU President and CEO Jeff Disterhoft.

“You wouldn’t think a coupon for ice cream would be a big deal, but it is,” he said. “It’s something a little quirky we do.” The regular all-staff meetings, held on the second Wednesday of every month, are a way for Mr. Disterhoft and senior staff members to share success stories and introduce new employees.

The Des Moines Register, along with research company, WorkplaceDynamics, survey companies to determine the best places to work in Iowa. This year, UICCU was recognized as the No. 1 midsized company. Last year, it was ranked No. 6.

“We are a locally-owned-and-operated institution,” Mr. Disterhoft said. “The decisions are always locally made and I think that means a lot for people.” As a leader, Mr. Disterhoft is hands-on and open with employees. Listening to their ideas is an important part of the culture and the overall success of the company, he said.

“There are a million things we do that are all borne from listening to employee’s ideas,” Mr. Disterhoft said. “They are not driven by me or the leadership staff, they are driven from the great ideas we get from our employees.”

Employees are encouraged to give back to the community by volunteering and donating to charities like United Way.

“We’ve tried to create a culture of care, not only just for each other but also for our community,” Mr. Disterhoft said. Additionally, UICCU’s business model is focused on efficiency, he said.

“First and foremost, we try to take wonderful care of our employees, and then they will take care of our members,” Mr. Disterhoft said, adding that they are driven by nine core values.

The company’s core values include: truth, trust, mentoring, openness, risk taking, giving credit, integrity, caring and respect.

By focusing on efficiencies in the workplace, Mr. Disterhoft said they are able to offer lower prices and better rates to UICCU’s members, which have helped the company grow and expand.

“Things are a little difficult in our economy these days. Lower prices, those can really make a difference in someone’s life,” Mr. Disterhoft said.

The company’s “members first” philosophy has led to a No. 1 national ranking in Return to the Member, which measures how much a credit union returns its profits back to its members in the form of better rates and lower fees. For the sixth consecutive quarter,
UICCU rank was No. 1 out of more than 7,000 credit unions nationwide.

“At the end of the day, the quality of our work environment is the only differentiation we have,” he said.

Giving employees the opportunity to move up in the company is another reason it’s considered one of the best places to work, he said.

Every month for the first 11 months of the year, Mr. Disterhoft meets with 1/11 of
the staff. He carefully reads through the results of those meetings and applies them.
He spends time with every new employee and has lunch with every employee.

Brad Horswell, branch service manager at the Iowa City-Muscatine Avenue UICCU branch, said the culture at the company is progressive and open.

The company has close to 300 employees, and Mr. Horswell said he knows most, if not all, of them.

“It’s not just saying we have a family culture and we empower our employees, the big thing is that it actually is that way,” he said. “Living and breathing the values is a big thing.”

Mr. Horswell was recently promoted from account executive to his current role of branch service manager.

“I know I wouldn’t get the same opportunities to have an impact on a company if I would have had a banker role at another institution,” he said.

He moved to Iowa City from Texas when his wife was accepted into a graduate program at the University of Iowa. They initially thought they would move back to Texas after she finished school. She finished her master’s degree last December and now works for West Liberty Foods. They bought a condo and decided to stay. Mr. Horswell said the decision to
stay in the area had a lot to do with his job at UICCU and the Iowa City community.

“I come from the country. (The Iowa City area) is a fun mix with the college here. It has less of the big city feel, and a bit of a small city feel,” he said. “And I love my job here, I love where I work.”

For Claudia Pearce, an account executive at the Coralville branch, UICCU gave her an opportunity for promotion.

Originally from the Bahamas, Ms. Pearce moved to Iowa City because she has family in the area. She had worked at a bank in Florida for about five years.

She started nearly six years ago as a financial service representative (teller) at UICCU and has worked her way into her current position.

“As far as working here, I have had absolutely no complaints from the time I started,” she said. “It’s a family-oriented workplace. At the Coralville branch, we’re like one family here. I definitely see myself having longevity here. I definitely see myself hopefully retiring here, if possible.”

North Liberty center

The credit union is continuing to work on several expansion projects.

The $25 million, 100,000-square-foot UICCU Member Support Center building in North Liberty will house the call center, accounting department, loan and deposit processing, indirect auto lending, collections, information technologies, auditing, commercial services, business development, public relations, training, human resources, marketing and senior management departments.

Work on the North Liberty project broke ground about one year ago. Mr. Disterhoft
expects it to be complete near the end of 2013.

Mr. Disterhoft said the facility allow the company to be more efficient and continue to expand its regional reach.

During the next 20-30 years, it will likely house 400 employees, he said. The facility will have space for much of the company’s growing administrative and back office operations. It will also be a branch office, located in North Liberty along the east side of Interstate 380, south of the Penn Street exit. UICCU leases administrative space in Iowa City and Tiffin;
those operations will move into the new building.

The company will open a Marion branch in a few months and broke ground last month on a Cedar Falls branch. Mr. Disterhoft said the company plans to continue expanding in Linn and Blackhawk counties.

Opening branch offices in new areas can be a challenge. Because of the company’s low mortgage rates, though, they are able to compete with other banks, he said.

“We have several other sites in all three markets that over the course of the next few years we are likely to develop,” he said. UICCU is a member owned financial cooperative with nine office locations.

Since being organized in 1938, UICCU has grown to $1.7 billion in assets and serves nearly 100,000 members. Membership is open to anyone living or working in Eastern Iowa, as well as direct relatives of current members and University of Iowa alumni.