Strategic Planning Helps SkyPoint Soar

The DC-area credit union has changed its name, its charter, and more as it works from a regularly updated strategic plan.


Top-Level Takeaways

  • SkyPoint FCU is an old credit union with a new brand and new community charter, which it decided to pursue after an important planning session.
  • Millennials, digital services, Hispanics, and a CDFI grant are all part of the new identity SkyPoint is building.


SkyPoint FCU
Data as of 12.31.18

HQ: Germantown, MD
ASSETS: $146.7M
MEMBERS: 14,706
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 12.5%
ROA: 0.22%

Montgomery County Employees Federal Credit Union is now SkyPoint Federal Credit Union ($146.7M, Germantown, MD), a rebranding that’s the result of a strategic journey that has included a new branch, a new name, new charter, and a new direction.

A series of planning sessions beginning in 2013 has produced the guide for this organic growth-plus strategy, as described by president and CEO Jim Norris. Since then, the 51-year-old credit union has grown membership by 18%, assets by 53%, and loans by 116%, and there’s more to come.

Our five- to seven-year goal is to grow to a $500 million credit union, Norris says.

That would be more than triple SkyPoint’s current asset size and will require making significant headway within the 2.5 million potential membership the credit union gained when it received a federal community charter on Jan. 7, 2019.

SkyPoint’s new logo reflects its ambition to help members fly high without evoking an airline image.

That 2013 planning session yielded a 2014 strategic plan that addressed two immediate needs: digital banking and millennials. Improving the former helped engage the latter, and since then the credit union has grown its percentage of millennial members from what Norris says was below peer at 16% to its current 25%.

The credit union also opened its third branch in Silver Spring, MD in December 2017 and started participating in the Juntos Avanzamos program a kind of Good Housekeeping seal of approval for Hispanic member service to help serve that fast-growing demographic in and around the nation’s capital.

Jim Norris, President and CEO, SkyPoint Federal Credit Union

If that sounds like a lot, that’s not all. SkyPoint also has become a community development financial institution. A $600,000 grant it received in February just two months before changing names to SkyPoint will bolster its loan allowances for lending to higher-risk underserved populations in its new service area that now includes Montgomery and Frederick counties in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Arlington County and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church in Virginia.

The area has pockets of affluence as well as need, and it skews young, certainly in SkyPoint’s view. That’s why the credit union is continuing to focus on digital banking and millennials.

At almost 50% of our members, we’re now well above peer for active mobile bankers, Norris says. Growing millennial membership and improving our digital service remain objectives that are part of our culture as we change how we think about our credit union.

These steps are progress on a path on which the former MCEFCU set out after Norris and his board had what he calls a planning session come-to-Jesus moment.

8 Ways To Make Strategy Soar

Jim Norris, CEO of SkyPoint Federal Credit Union Norris offers tips and tricks to make the most of strategic planning at any credit union.

  • Stay true to the credit union’s strategic planning process.
  • Don’t let day-to-day operations push out the planning process.
  • Keep up the pressure.
  • Measure, measure, measure.
  • Involve the staff and let them know which objectives are the most important.
  • Get professional help from planning consultants.
  • Avoid wild swings in planning and keep momentum steady from year-to-year.
  • Celebrate the milestones.

We accepted the reality that credit unions our size need to grow or we’re not going to be here in the future, Norris says. The board took that to heart. We created and began executing on our strategic plan, and that’s laid the foundation for where we are now.

Every three years, the board of directors and management team at SkyPoint develop a three-to-five-year strategic plan, which they supplement with one-year plans. From the one-year plans, management creates the business plan. In every monthly managers meeting, the credit union reviews and updates the strategic plan. It updates the business plan every quarter and presents it to the board.

Good strategic planning creates habits that lead to good results, says Norris, who came aboard the credit union in 2010 with three decades of credit union experience under his belt. Each planning cycle builds on the one before it. Measurable goals are an important part of it, too.

He advises establishing an understood starting point and goal for each objective and then monitor the results regularly.

Depending on the results, you might have to adjust your activities to reach your goals, he says.

Getting buy-in across the organization has been critical to SkyPoint’s success. So has the outside expertise that has provided guidance along the way. This includes crucial meeting facilitation from Callahan Associates, a detailed plan from Coopera on reaching and serving the Latino market in the area, and branding assistance from Your Marketing Co., which helped the credit union filter through 80 different names before arriving at SkyPoint.

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So, what’s next?

You have to keep up the momentum, Norris says. We see credit unions say, OK, we checked that goal off, and that’s it. You can’t just check it off. You have to keep it going.

At SkyPoint, that will include continuing to focus on growing its millennial membership and advancing its digital offerings to help build new business in its expanded FOM as well as from within.

Our organic growth has been strong, and we’ve worked very hard to achieve this, Norris says. We believe fully in product, price, and promotion. And, we understand that the new players out there are very digital in nature.

Our members are presented with compelling offers every day, Norris continues. We need to make those offers and make sure our offers are easy to take advantage of. That’s our focus now making banking simple for our members.

May 13, 2019

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