WATERLOO — Success has its advantages.
In less than a decade, Veridian Credit Union has expanded into new markets, offered new financial products and services to members and increased earnings.
And despite doubling its workforce in that time, CEO Monte Berg retains a practice he’s had for 29 years at Veridian.
“I am always amazed to see (Monte) walk into various departments and greet everyone by name,” said Brett Engstrom. “He clearly values everyone here and understands what makes our credit union great.”
It’s not a trick, though Veridian recently surpassed 900 employees in Iowa and southeast Nebraska. Berg puts learning — and remembering — all the names down to hard work.
He has no plans to stop; connecting with people is the core of the business.
“If we treat our members and each other with kindness and compassion, and we’re helping them meet their financial objectives, it helps everyone feel accepted and valued,” Berg explained. “Treating each other with dignity and respect can help everybody succeed together. That’s what Veridian tries to improve and perpetuate.”
For some employees, that comes in the form of financial security during difficult times.
“I went through breast cancer treatment in 2016-17,” said Sarah Corkery. “This can bankrupt people, but it only cost us the minimum, annual out-of-pocket expenses.”
During her treatment, Corkery lived at Iowa City Hope Lodge for six weeks. While she stayed at the patient lodging facility, the credit union offered her the option of telecommuting or working at a local branch.
“(Veridian) was completely supportive.”
In addition, employees regularly receive reminders that hard work is noticed and appreciated.
“Employees receive support from all levels of management,” said Sarah McGovern. “My team had been working long hours on a big project, and our chief officers took the time to deliver a handwritten thank-you note to each one of them. The employees who received these notes were touched beyond belief.”
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Such care and attention results in a culture that values empowerment and leadership, said Jenny Lidtke.
“Employees are encouraged to make decisions, take on leadership opportunities, and be themselves at work,” she explained.
It’s all part of a generous “total package” Veridian offers its employees, said Kim Fettkether. The package includes competitive compensation, cross-training and education, high levels of community involvement, and much more.
“Veridian understands that engaged employees lead to engaged and happy members,” she said.
Engagement is key, said Berg. It starts with telling the story when new employees join the credit union team.
Before task-oriented training, new staff members go through the Veridian Experience program. These two-day sessions focus on learning about Veridian’s mission, vision, and values, as well as the difference between credit unions and banks.
Sessions take place in Cedar Falls and Ankeny. During sessions, chief officers have lunch with new employees to get to know them and share information about their backgrounds.
Betsy Meehan developed the Veridian Experience to provide new employees with shared experiences, institutional knowledge and connections to long-time staff.
“Employees also have opportunities to grow and develop as leaders and professionals through training and learning opportunities,” she said. “These trainings … allow staff to tailor their leadership development to specific needs, so they feel confident in their work and leadership abilities.”
Fun is a keyword for all employees, said nominators. At Veridian, it often includes a service component.
Each year, the credit union offers each employee up to 12 paid volunteer hours for an organization of their choosing. In work spaces, there are theme days, such as “Flip Flop Friday” and “Take a Selfie Day.”
On International Credit Union Day in October, each branch or department received a budget to fund random acts of kindness within their areas. Activities included donations to charitable organizations and food delivery to teachers and first responders.
“Service is a big part of what we do as a credit union, and that includes service to each other and to the communities in which we live and work,” said Berg. “The constant underlying piece focuses on how we work together — how we help each other and how we communicate with each other.”