“Love and Impact”, that’s how First United Bank in Oklahoma describes its values. Unusual for a financial services organization, wouldn’t you say? First United Bank’s CEO Greg Massey shared the bank’s story with us at our chapter event last month, hosted at Loyola’s Baumhart Center for Social Enterprise.
As a younger man, Greg reluctantly joined his father in leading the bank in Durant, OK. Together, they grew the bank, and Greg took the lead in creating a more conscious culture. They articulated a purpose beyond making profits – “to inspire and empower others to Spend Life Wisely” – and began to align business practices around that purpose. First United hosts financial management seminars for its customers and makes business decisions based on customers’ financial welfare. Greg shared an anecdote about an opportunity to provide a customer with large mortgage; after consideration, the loan officer discouraged the customer, explaining how it would burden his personal budget. This was an excellent example of living out the purpose – helping the customer “spend life wisely”, even though it meant reducing short-term revenue.
And yet, the purpose has not inhibited the business results. In fact, since 2013 First United’s assets have tripled from $2.4 billion to over $7 billion. Over the same period, the bank’s earnings have also tripled from $40 million to over $120 million. This is a powerful example of how purpose and profit need not be mutually exclusive; focus on purpose can dramatically increase profit.
During its journey, First United strengthened its culture by clarifying its stakeholders and articulating its values. It identified five core stakeholders in its business: customers, employees, shareholders, partners and the communities it serves. It strives to live out its purpose for each of these stakeholders, balancing their needs so that no one wins at the expense of another.
The bank also engaged its employees in formalizing its values and culture – the beliefs and behaviors that guide how it does business. The process surfaced seven core values, perhaps too many to remember and actively demonstrate. Upon further discernment, it was clear that the values aligned around two primary themes - love and impact:
- Love – including faith, family, integrity and lifelong learning
- Impact – including high performing team, relationships and communities
These two themes energize the organization. Loving themselves, their families and their customers and making a positive impact on the lives in their communities. And, the values within the themes help to guide behavior and decision-making on a day-to-day basis.
Greg shared an unusual example of these values at work. A bank teller was working the drive-through window when a customer pulled up, crying and obviously upset. The teller inquired if she was OK, and the customer replied that she had just been diagnosed with cancer and was trying to deal with the news. Now, most of us would have expressed our concern and wished the best for her, but the First United teller asked, “May I come out there and pray with you?” The customer gratefully accepted her offer, and the teller exited the bank, came to the driver’s window and spent a few minutes praying with the customer. This example may seem over-the-top in our urban, secular life, but it was the perfect expression of First United’s values in Durant, OK. It impacted the customer through an expression of love, and it allowed the employee to be authentically connected to her faith and integrity (Greg also shared that the teller was a cancer survivor). While the example may challenge our norms or sensibilities, it’s a vivid example of how purpose and values need to resonate for the stakeholders and communities a business serves.Great lessons from a very conscious leader. Thank you, Greg Massey!