member-service-center-west

Interview with ICCU CEO, Kent Oram

Idaho Central Credit Union has recently completed their new five-story, Member Service Center West building in Meridian, Idaho. To learn more about this exciting project and discuss the company’s growth, we interviewed ICCU’s CEO, Kent Oram. Below is the conversation between President of OEC, Scott Galloway, and Kent Oram.

Staying Open For Customers

Scott Galloway 

Thanks so much for carving out a little bit of time with us today. I wanted to start off just talking a little bit about ICCU in general and then talk a little bit about your new Member Service Center West. Tell me a little bit about what ICCU is up to today and maybe upcoming?

Kent Oram 

It has been an interesting year, 2020. During May and April, when branch lobbies were closed, that was a strange time for us. We’ve never done that before. Turns out though, our business has been really good all year long. Mortgage business is strong and auto lending is as strong as it can be with the restrictions on auto manufacturing. Then commercial lending is pretty good. So, a lot of deposit business and a lot of people that put money in their savings accounts. Maybe just kind of waiting a rainy day or something.

So our growth has been super strong during 2021. I thought it would be more of a down year, but it hasn’t been at all. We opened two branches this year and we plan to open four more during 2021. So we’re still betting on the branch model for a while to come in the future. One day maybe we’ll have to decide that we’re going to become a virtual credit union but I don’t see that in the next five to seven years for us. I think that we’ll continue to build branches for a while.

Scott Galloway

I know when other branches and banks were closed, you guys were open. I’ve noticed I can do tele-banking on the phone as well. Is that run out of the data center in Chubbuck?

Kent Oram

Yep. So all those transactions route through our data center in Chubbuck. Sometimes people say it’s better to be lucky than good. We built that data center during 2016-17-18 and kind of moved in, in 19. It has all sorts of electronic firepower. Then, just imagine how wonderful that was to have in March, April, and May when our transaction volume shifted dramatically to electronic. And there we were, with all that horsepower ready to go.

Scott Galloway 

It sure was nice as a customer to be able to have that as an option. And I was happy that the branch remained open. They were kind of the very beginning of the businesses masking up and it was really nice for them to be able to be in business. They [ the branches] just figured out how to do it safely so I know for me as a customer that made a pretty big difference.

Kent Oram 

Yeah, you know, a couple of things. On Tuesday of the 17th of March I said to my team “Over my dead body will we close any of our lobbies.” Then on March 18th at five o’clock it changed to, “Oh, wow, we’ve got to close our lobbies. We don’t know what’s coming.” So, things can change very quickly. With masks we were sort of at the forefront of that. If there are certain areas around cities or counties or health districts that are going to require masks, it’s just easier for us administratively to require masks everywhere in our system. We got some heartburn about that but we just explained to people it’s not for us; it’s not political at all. We’re just trying to stay open so we can help our you take care of your personal financial business.

The Member Service Center West

Scott Galloway 

Tell me a little bit about why you built the Member Service Center West. What important role does that building play within the strategic plan of the organization?

Kent Oram 

We have a big data center and a big corporate presence in Bannock County which is our home. It is our corporate center. We knew we had all sorts of people spread all over the place in different offices in the Treasure Valley and we thought that there’d be some synergies if we could bring those folks together. I had been looking for property to build something like that for quite some time and ran across the property that was owned by the Elks Lodge for a rehabilitation hospital that then did not come to fruition. So, I bought that property, and in cooperation with the BVA and Tommy Ahlquist, and his team, we were able to get our building built there.

It has been something on our horizon for probably five to seven years and I knew one day it would come together. It was probably a couple years quicker than I thought it might but that’s okay. Now we’ve been able to centralize our back office kinds of folks into that building in the Treasure Valley and for us it’s kind of just an outreach for what we do out of our Chubbuck campus. For example, we have 30 or so seats for call center in North Idaho. We have about 130 seats, we could fill here and Chubbuck. Then we have about 100-125 maybe at our new building in Meridian. As we continue to grow, we’ll stop hiring as many folks in Chubbuck and start hiring more folks in Treasure Valley, and kind of balance all that out.

So that’s one of the primary reasons that we built it, partially for a call center outreach. Then we brought together our mortgage teams and our private client teams, our investment teams, business, deposits, and commercial lending. A lot of people who were spread all over the place are now centralized in that building.

Scott Galloway 

Well, it sure is a beautiful building. And what I like about it is it’s visibility from the freeway. It has to be one of the most popular intersections in Idaho. That must be nice to have such a significant building right there.

Kent Oram 

Absolutely, and this is how it worked. Idaho Central is the entity that purchased that property and I’m the guy who found it. I was able to walk out there with a couple of stakes and drive them in the ground and say, “Here’s where I want my building,” and then say to Tommy Ahlquist, and his BVA team, “Okay, you can have everything else.” So, we did choose a very prominent location for our property.

Scott Galloway 

Are you going to have any other tenants in there or is ICCU going to take up the entire building?

Kent Oram 

We have a tenant comp unit being built out right now and a couple more that will be moving in. Our intent is to lease about half of it.

Scott Galloway 

Can you talk to me a little bit about some of the partners that you worked with? It sounds like BVA was key and kind of made everything happen once you turned it over to them. What was the importance of them in the relationship?

Kent Oram 

So, a person I should lead off with is someone on our Idaho Central Crediting Union building team that puts together our new project, Dustee Woolstenhulme. He does a tremendous job, and we really appreciate him. He was instrumental in this building. BVA, especially Tom Ahlquist senior who is their construction coordinator, and everybody behind the scenes to assist him did a great job of controlling and expediting this building for us. Okland Construction was the general contractor and Ryan Johnson was their lead. Then I don’t even know how many subcontractors would have been involved in that building, probably a couple hundred. Then there was OEC and Steelcase that helped us put all the interiors together. It was a nice project and a lot of partners.

Poised For Growth Again

Scott Galloway 

Yeah, great project. And it’s nice to have good partners to work with. Do you have any other buildings coming online that you’re excited about? Or any other news that’s happening at ICCU in the next year or so?

Kent Oram 

We just opened a branch in Moscow, Idaho. And that’s a fun one for us. It’s a new spot. So we’re excited about that one. We’re going to build a branch in Lewiston this summer, and we just broke ground on one at Ten Mile and Franklin there in Meridian. We will also replace a branch of ours here in Pocatello, Idaho. So yeah, we’ve got some things on tap.

Scott Galloway 

Very exciting. So four branches coming. Three brand new ones, then one completely refreshed one?

Kent Oram 

That’s right. The completely refreshed one is actually where we’re going to sell the property we are in right now and build across the street from it.

Scott Galloway 

For the ICCU Member Service Center West building about how long did it take from the moment you purchased the property to when the building was open.

Kent Oram 

I would say from purchase to open is probably 24-26 months. I had thought that it would be about an 18-to-24-month entitlement process to get the property ready to build. But through the work of BVA they were able to expedite all that. And then Okland Construction built the building in right about 12 months. So that’s why I say we’re at least a year quicker than I thought we would be, maybe even more.

Scott Galloway 

So that came together quickly.

Kent Oram 

Very quickly. As we were building our data center, we sent a team of ours to the Steelcase headquarters [in Michigan] and they were able to look at all sorts of innovative and exciting and fun things with different setups. We’ve incorporated a lot of that into not only our data center building [in Chubbuck], but also the Member Center West.

Scott Galloway 

I recall the ICCU data center has a wall system that is soundproof that they do their tele banking in. There are huge banks that are made of state of the art material that when you close the door, it seals and makes for a great environment where you can have a ton of these tele-bankers. Then you can move them if you needed to.

Kent Oram 

Yeah, I always like to go into those walls, they’re good. And, you know, interestingly, you bring those up, we had about 20, maybe 24 of those here on our campus, and we were going to build some in Meridian, and doubled what we were going to do. Then COVID came and our video banking started taking off like crazy because it’s easy to do but you can still see a face. So, we really pushed the video banking hard for the last two and a half years. It was stable, but not growing rapidly. Then all of a sudden, 2020 hit, and now we’re doing phenomenally well in those areas.

Scott Galloway 

Has that enabled new opportunities for ICCU going forward?

Kent Oram 

For sure, we can push out mortgage advice or business advice through them and reach people anywhere. In Idaho, I call them ‘banking deserts’ where people [banks] have left or have never even been there. So we’re able to reach out now to our more rural communities through technology. It’s going to be perfect.

Scott Galloway 

I like the idea of you being able to open up a virtual branch anywhere because they can connect, deposit checks, and take care of all of your banking needs. You can pretty much do everything with maybe the exception of depositing cash.

Kent Oram 

We have a commercial and billboard ad running right now that says, “Your nearest branch is in your pocket.” and we mean that. There’s a lot of people that just do that now. They don’t ever come and visit us.

Scott Galloway 

I know we talked about how business has been going well. Have your customers numbers gone up this year?

Kent Oram 

Yeah, we’re growing at about 11% membership growth. At our size 420,000 members, 11%, is another 40,000 people so that’s good. We’ve done really well this year.

Scott Galloway 

What type of growth do you have in the rural areas?

Kent Oram 

I would say that’s still slower. Most of the growth is happening in the markets where we’re established. I would have to say a lot of the growth is happening in the Treasure Valley with the end migration of folks that are coming to Idaho, and a lot of them are coming to the Boise area. That’s still the majority of our growth.

Scott Galloway 

Well, I’m excited to see the bigger ICCU presence here in Boise. I think there is a lot of growth happening here and it’s exciting to see the project. I love to drive down the freeway and see new building projects. Congratulations on the new building and all your new buildings.

Kent Oram  Thank you. We used to joke in the olden days, “Idaho Central is poised for growth.” Then we grew and we basically ran out of room. Now when we built the Member Service Center West and I walked through it, it’s like, “Ah, we’re poised for growth again.” We’re excited to have that facility and we are really grateful for everything you did for us and putting that together. It is a beautiful workspace and I can’t wait to get to see it in person now with our people in it.

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