Lessons in Leadership, Teamwork
Amy Ivey's credit union roots date back to birth – literally. Her grandmother opened a credit union account for her when she was born, and when she turned 16, she used the money for a down payment on her first car. Just two years later, Ivey landed her first job at a credit union – the beginning of a path that would eventually lead her to become the vice president of marketing and development at the $787 million Bay Federal Credit Union in Capitola, Calif.
As vice president of marketing and development, Ivey is responsible for the credit union's marketing, internal training, financial education and community development.
The most recent Trailblazers 40 Below honoree said she learned early on in her career that it's essential for marketing to be closely integrated with member service.
“We could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the splashiest, fanciest marketing campaign that anybody has ever seen, but it will fall short if our team members aren't able to provide the level of service that's promised in the advertising,” Ivey said.
To ensure everyone is operating in concert, the credit union has service level agreements between departments for things such as marketing campaigns or internal projects. This allows expectations, timelines and production goals to be set. So if the credit union is marketing a new product, all departments involved have an agreement in place and are prepared to deliver the product to members.
“It can be hard for marketers to know that there are really great opportunities out there, but maybe the credit union isn't prepared yet to provide that service, so moving ahead on that campaign would be a mistake,” she said.
Ivey said she is fortunate to be closely aligned with both member services and the education department, which helps her bridge any gaps between the two.
Ivey noted the greatest form of marketing is still word of mouth.
“If someone has a poor experience or the service promise that we’ve made isn't upheld, that person can have a pretty significant impact on the credit union's reputation by telling friends and family members or posting it on social media,” she emphasized.
Being successful at anything boils down to good communication, Ivey said.
“It goes back to understanding and practicing emotional intelligence with the people you’re working with,” she said. “Knowing how to interact with people to move things forward is important. And really when it comes down to it, whenever there is an issue, it often boils down to communication.”
She said some people really want to just focus on the work, and in those cases you need to be very well prepared for your meetings with them. But for others who like to personally connect, talking about things like kids or vacations for a few minutes before a meeting is an important way to establish a relationship.
Taking a moment to take a time out and have an in-person conversation can go along way too, she emphasized. Ivey's rule of thumb with her team is that if an issue isn't resolved in three back and forth emails, one person needs to pick up the phone or go visit the other person to resolve the issue instead of getting stuck in an email swirl.
Ivey strives for great communication with her team, but communication and interaction with her community is just as important. She oversees Bay Federal's community development department, which is an essential component of the credit union's culture. This past year, her committee of volunteers produced more than 35 unique activities that allowed employees and their family members to give back to their community.
Volunteerism is rooted deep in the credit union's culture. Since 2002, 100% of Bay Federal's employees have volunteered in their local community. In 2015, the credit union raised more than $68,000 to benefit local non-profits, Ivey said.
“Volunteering in the community demonstrates the organization's commitment to serving its neighbor. It also helps us be better aligned with the needs of the community so we can identify how we can provide better products, services and programs to help our community members achieve their financial goals,” she said.
Throughout Ivey's career, one of the most important lessons she's learned is to trust the process. She said when you’re young and highly motivated, it's really easy to become frustrated when things aren't moving along as quickly as you may think they should.
“Learning to trust that there is a process and education in the process is important,” Ivey said.
She learned this lesson early in her career when she was hired as a marketing specialist at Bay Federal. A year into the job, she applied for the vice president of marketing position. Rather than lament the fact she may not get the job, she wanted executive leadership to know she had a passion for the industry and wanted to serve at a higher level. She interviewed with the recruiter and realized she still had a lot to learn. The experience solidified the areas where she felt confident and helped her identify areas where she needed to grow.
“I put it out there to the universe and said, ‘Look at me, these are my wishes.’ Even though it didn't come to pass at that time, the person they hired in that role has ended up being probably the most impactful mentor I’ve had in my career,” Ivey said.
As the current vice president of marketing and development, Ivey encourages and supports other credit union team members who are on a similar path to a leadership role.
“Just as I have been fortunate to have excellent partners and mentors along the way, I strive to be available to support others on that path as well,” Ivey said. “It's incredibly exciting to watch others find success in this industry, moving from a controller position to the CFO, from a training assistant to the training manager, or growing their marketing team.”