CEO of the Year Tom Gryp: Don’t be afraid to fail

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Fearing failure and learning from the lessons of the past paved the way for success for Tom Gryp, 58, president and CEO of the $ 471 million Notre Dame Federal Credit Union in Notre Dame, Ind.

“Let’s just say I was fired from a job or two,” Gryp, the winner of CU time‘2016 Trailblazer Award for CEO of the Year, laughed. “In today’s world, I think people are too afraid to fail. And then when they fail, they rationalize it because they’ve been taught that they’re not meant to fail. But if you fail, you have to watch it for what it is. It can be a cathartic experience and you can come back stronger than ever. “

In September 2010, Gryp returned home to South Bend, Indiana, where he was born, raised and graduated from the University of Notre Dame.

After college he moved to western Arizona, where he worked from 1982 to 2010 as a commercial lender, head of business development for an oil refinery, founder and chairman of a company. payroll services and Bank of the Southwest, a Merrill Lynch company. financial advisor and managing director of the Northern Trust.

“When I tell people my career story, I feel like I’m 100 years old,” he said. “But I was fortunate to have a career that exposed me to a lot of different things, that allowed me to fail, bounce back, improve and start this whole process of growth. And when I got into the CEO role, it really gave me the opportunity to put all of these career experiences together for the good of my credit union and our community.

Historically, Notre Dame FCU was heavily involved in government guaranteed student loans which resulted in large variable rate assets with no credit risk. However, in 2010, the federal government nationalized the secured student loan industry, which significantly affected the main source of credit union loan generation.

Although the credit union was founded in the 1940s by a few professors from Notre Dame University and still serves the university, it has no formal affiliation. The credit union leases the land from the university for its head office. The cooperative operates nine branches and serves over 52,000 members.

To continue to grow after the nationalization of the secured student loan industry, Gryp knew it needed to expand the diversification of the credit union’s loan portfolio. He also had the idea to introduce a new initiative that would initiate and pilot the regional and national expansion of the credit union for future growth opportunities.

In 2011, he approached a large mortgage brokerage firm to join Notre Dame FCU, adding several well-respected local mortgage bankers to the team and increasing the cooperative’s ability to offer various types of mortgage products to members.

Mortgage volume increased from $ 31 million in 2010 to a high of $ 97 million in 2013, and the credit union ranked second in the region among all financial institutions in mortgage loan production.

He also started selling mortgages to Fannie Mae and the Federal Home Loan Bank, but protected member loyalty by retaining the rights to administer the mortgages.

Under this program, mortgages issued by Notre Dame FCU but sold to third party investors increased from $ 0 in December 2010 to $ 151 million in August 2015.

Drawing on its extensive wealth management experience, Gryp converted the credit union’s securities brokerage service into a private wealth management service. Private Member Group now helps members plan and invest for the long term. PMG’s assets under management increased from $ 37 million in December 2010 to $ 108 million in August 2015.

Under Gryp’s leadership, he created Shamrock Insurance, a CUSO wholly owned by Notre Dame FCU, which offers business, life, home and auto insurance products through Insuritas, a company that helps institutions financial institutions to manage their own insurance agencies.

In addition to all of these new ventures over the past five years, Gryp has led the credit union through a painstaking base conversion, introduced mobile banking and remote deposit capture, and joined the branch network. shared CO-OP.

These initiatives increased Notre Dame FCU’s loan growth and total assets under management from $ 472 million in December 2010 to $ 729 million in August 2015, an annual growth rate of 9.35%. However, Gryp also saw that the credit union had another opportunity to capitalize on its widely recognized brand – Notre Dame – to launch a national presence and future growth.

“We basically operated as a community bank with a geographic presence primarily in one county in Indiana, and that’s it. And as a result, we weren’t playing on our strengths at all because strength is our hallmark and we can do more with our alumni, who live in all 50 states, ”he explained, noting that alumni total approximately 130,000. “Now that said, no one will come to us because of our name, but it gives us the opportunity to be heard and to make a case for why people should consider doing business with Notre Dame. Federal Credit Union. “

The cooperative reached out to Notre Dame alumni clubs across the country that support scholarships and organize a variety of events to support the underprivileged.

“They love Notre Dame and they want to help the children in their community go to Notre Dame, and they also want to help people in their community,” he said. “We have participated and supported these events, which gives us the opportunity to meet club members. Now when you come back from these events, you don’t have a hundred people opening new accounts the next day, but at least they know who you are and that gives us the opportunity to earn their business.

All of these alumni groups are also closely linked to their Catholic churches and schools. This gave Notre Dame FCU another idea which led to the development of Elevate.

“Raising is pretty straightforward. Once your school, parish or diocese becomes a credit union SEG and you take out one of the qualifying loans – car, student, business, or credit card – we will donate approximately 1% on your behalf to the school. or church, ”Gryp explained. “We are not increasing the tariff to provide this. We take it out of our margin, or part of the spread, and give it to school or church. Our hope is that word of mouth spreads and the program continues to grow.

Since Elevate’s public announcement in March 2015, approximately 60 parishes and schools in the region and country have become SEGs. He noted that churches and schools like Elevate don’t compete with other fundraising efforts.

To continue to promote the credit union’s national presence, Notre Dame FCU, along with five other credit unions, has provided Green Bay, Wis.-based radio network Relevant with a $ 5.25 million facility. . The radio network includes approximately 40 AM and FM stations in 17 states. Gryp said the credit unions were taking part of the margin from that loan and reinvesting it in radio stations by buying commercials.

“We got to know several other credit unions that have some sort of Catholic affinity or affiliation,” he said. “This is not correct, but there are currently over 90 credit unions that have some sort of affiliation with the Catholic community. Most of them are very, very small. But they all have a mission to help their churches and schools. After meeting them, it became very clear to us that there is a wonderful opportunity to create synergies as we all come together to help each other and work as a group.

Details on how this new group, the Confederation of Catholic-oriented Credit Unions, will work together have not been finalized as it is in the formation phase.

“Our hope is that many of these Catholic credit unions who want to do a lot more, but are limited in size, work as part of this larger entity so that they can provide more services through participations in companies. loans, for example. , for their local communities, ”said Gryp. “So we think there are some wonderful synergies that can be developed from this group.”

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