Quips & AI: They hit the mark, every time

Zest AI team
November 30, 2022

Q&A with TruMark Financial® Credit Union’s Kelly Botti, President and CEO and Steven Olson, SVP and Chief Lending Officer

We’re extending a warm welcome to the team at TruMark Financial® Credit Union today — we’re excited to be working with you! Sitting at the sixth largest credit union in the state and serving the communities across southeastern Pennsylvania since the late 1930s, you could say they’ve left their mark.

We had the pleasure of chatting with President and CEO, Kelly Botti, and Chief Lending Officer, Steve Olson, and thought it would only be fair to share insights from the conversation with all of you.

Q: You might notice that we’re exceptionally into puns here at Zest. So, I love that there’s potential wordplay around the name TruMark. Is there a story behind the origin of the name?

Kelly: Well, the story predates both Steve and I since the name change happened about twenty years ago, but there is a deeper meaning here.

The credit union was renamed because our board wanted our name to reflect the values that define the credit union. We value excellence and integrity, and in that regard we gain the trust of people who come to TruMark Financial for their banking needs.

The board wanted to deliver to our members, many of whom are long-tenured, a commitment to that, so the name, “TruMark”, stands for “trust in the mark of excellence.” 

Q: Let's move more into your members. Who are they? You also mentioned that you have a long tenure with many of them. What makes you different?

Kelly: We represent the greater Philadelphia area, which is a very vibrant community. It's very edgy and fun. And the Philadelphia marketplace is one where, if you have their back, they have your back. There's a lot of loyalty here that some other markets don't have. 

Many of our members are especially loyal because of our original employee group. TruMark Financial originally served Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania and, then later, Verizon Company employees. Though we made the transition to community membership because we felt we could have a broader impact on the community, many of our members began their journey with us through Bell Telephone origins and brought the opportunity for membership to their friends and family. Referrals remain our largest source of new membership. 

Our members come to us and remain with us because of our service. Always. Our employees are second to none, they truly know how to serve. When I visit with our members in our branches, they always say, “I come in here to see your staff. I could do business online, but I come to see the staff.”

It can feel like Cheers at our branches. So, our challenge now is making that same feeling digitally accessible. We want that familiarity to exist however our members choose to interact with us. And that’s a big reason as to why we chose Zest AI.

To piggyback on that, a lot of our long-tenured members have accomplished financial landmarks with TruMark Financial. I’ve been here a little over six years, but when colleagues in the banking world heard I was coming here, I was told really good and positive stories about their experience, detailing how the credit union gave them their first loan 30 years ago when they needed $2,000 to move or something similar. So, there’s a lot of trust ingrained in our community.

Q: How do you think AI-powered credit underwriting will change the way your loan officers and tellers can serve members?

Steve: We’re going through a process now — which includes companies like Zest — where we’re trying to make it easier for members to do business with us, online, in the branch, wherever. It’s a long and imperfect journey to achieve this goal, and we talk about that in the lending units that I’m responsible for. But if we’re stuck on something, we ask ourselves, “Well, how can we make this as easy as possible for the member to get from point A to point B?”

I think it’s really important to us from a strategic and an institutional cultural expectation of excellence to look at how our business runs and how applications flow through our organization. When we have an efficient process, it downstreams to a better member experience, which means we grow our membership, our loans, and our revenue.

Q: What does expanding credit accessibility look like for your members?  

Steve: Well, we want to say yes more often, more quickly, and as consistently as possible. There wasn’t a singular driver in what interested us in Zest AI — it was a combination of things. Improved efficiencies, automated approvals, the potential of 24/7 loan decisioning. We’re in indirect lending as well, which requires additional coverage and resources to make quicker and consistent decisions.

Winning for us looks like a recipient of a loan decision, whether it’s a credit union team-member, or an individual member, who doesn’t know or get a sense for who’s really made the decision on their loan. We can have processes where it should be as consistent as possible.

I would add that Philadelphia is very unique from a marketplace standpoint, but, also, our poverty rate is the third highest in the nation. The city ranks extremely high for financial strain, which includes poverty, household debt, and similar stressors. This requires us to ensure we leverage tools and resources to help and support the entirety of our community.

Part of the value of being a credit union is that we’re not beholden to shareholders. We are beholden to our members and our community. So we have to solve those problems — otherwise what do we exist for? We don't exist just to exist. We exist to serve and support our community. 

Our community is telling us loud and clear that they want to be seen for more than just their national credit score. That's what brought us to Zest AI. With Zest AI-automated underwriting, our members have identities beyond their past and TruMark Financial is allowed to bet on their future.

I’ve had a lot of people bet on my potential in my life, and I want to give that feeling back to our members. I want to bet on their potential. I want to bet on their future. I want to bet on them and what they can do for the world.

Q: What are some other things beyond delivering a great banking experience that TruMark has invested in? 

Kelly: Historically, TruMark Financial isa huge champion of financial education and other types of advocacy. One of the challenges that I took to our leadership team and to our team-member community is the need for us to serve in a very meaningful way. What service means to me is beyond packing lunches at a soup kitchen. It means we understand the service organizations in our community that we partner with and the needs of their constituents. We're excited to be rolling out an ambitious employee service challenge next year.

The one thing that I'm hoping that everybody gains through service is perspective. If we're in an ivory tower looking down at a community without knowledge or context, we won’t help solve their problems. Everybody comes from different walks of life and we cannot help people if we don't understand their stories.

The biggest challenge we’re facing as we wrap up the year is getting into areas that have been ignored. We're deepening a partnership with a local hospital that will allow us to better serve and support some very disenfranchised and marginalized areas of Philadelphia. You better believe that I'm driving to these areas to find solutions for our community. That's where we have to be.

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