HR Insider Dec 08 2009

Navy Federal's Louise Foreman: Hiring 1,000 in the Next Year

By kyle stock

Uncle Sam gives U.S. soldiers bullets and bombs. Navy Federal Credit Union, the largest credit union in the country, gives them bank accounts and mortgages.

Navy Federal is open to all military personnel, their dependents and even some private contractors. Its stability through the financial crisis has made it more attractive to both consumers and finance workers. Navy Federal added almost 142,000 new members in the first nine months of this year, a 4.4% increase, while its assets swelled by 10%. To handle that boost in business, the credit union is shopping for 1,000 workers.

Louise Foreman, Navy Federal's executive vice president of human resources, sat down with FINS to discuss how the organization is shaking its conservative stigma, its record of never laying off a worker and how patriotism can motivate as much as a paycheck.

Kyle Stock: Bring us up to date on recent hiring and what kind of growth you might see in the near future?
Louise Foreman: We have been in the very fortunate position in our 76 years of never having a layoff. I'm very hopeful that we'll be able to continue that trend. We have a strong management process that allows us to throttle up and throttle down based on our business.

In 2007, we opened 34 branches. Previously, we had opened between eight and 10 a year. We had record hiring that year -- several thousand employees.

This year, we're looking at hiring over 1,000 people. Probably 20% to 30% of that is for new positions.

KS: What roles are you hiring for?
LF: They are mostly customer interface -- basically in our contact centers and our branches. What we would consider our entry-level type jobs. As you move on up into the supervisory ranks and the management ranks, those typically come from internal promotions.

KS: Are you doing any senior-level hiring now?
LF: We continue to judiciously add more senior analytical jobs in the comptroller area that are more in tune with the investment area -- risk management. The technology area of course, is one where we continue to add higher-level skills. And one of our major initiatives that we are getting ready to roll out in the first half of 2010 is mobile access.

KS: Are there any particular parts of the country, the world, where you are adding talent?
LF: Most of the higher level jobs that we're talking about would be here at the Vienna, Va. Campus. Typically we look regionally for that -- East Coast.

We do have some areas abroad -- Bahrain, Naples, Italy and Japan. In those cases, what we really are looking for is military dependents.

It's an excellent opportunity for these military spouses who might not be able to find a job overseas to come to work for Navy Federal. And if their spouse is transferred, if we have a Navy Federal office there, we try as best we can to find them a spot in that branch.

KS: So patriotism is often a factor for applicants?
LF: I think so, by the very nature of what our mission is. Since 9/11 the feeling of patriotism has surged to a different level.

People recognize the sacrifice of the military and their families and people want to support them. It's their own little way of being able to give back. I think those values of commitment and service resonate with a lot of our applicants, particularly in current times when so many companies have had issues with those values.

Also, what has been very, very important has been the stability of Navy Federal. We have come through and weathered the storm very well and I think that reputation is out there. We have continued to stay the course with our compensation and benefits -- there have been no reduction in those areas.

KS: Do you hire much from traditional banks and brokerages?
LF: Absolutely.

KS: Have you seen an increased interest from those kinds of firms since the crisis?
LF: We certainly have. It has given us much broader applicant pools and allowed us to focus even more on hiring higher quality and really the right people for Navy Federal.

KS: What advice would you have for someone looking to work at Navy Federal?
LF: We would be looking for somebody who would be member-focused. That's sort of No. 1 for us. I'd want to see someone who has strong interpersonal skills and has the right attitude. You know the adage you hire for attitude and train for skills? We certainly hold to that.

KS: How do you go about finding talent?
LF: We have an internal recruiting staff. We do use external recruiting firms on occasion, primarily in the IT arena or some very specialized skill areas, perhaps the mortgage arena.

We have a number of partnerships with different colleges and universities. And we also do networking with different professional organizations and societies -- again, that's for the more specialty roles.

The big one these days is utilization of all the social networking tools. Getting into that has been a big learning curve, but it's incredibly important

We find that about 41% of our hires come through employee referrals, and 44% from online ads and our own Web site. The other 15% or so would be job fairs.

KS: What are you doing in recruiting with social media?
LF: LinkedIn is probably the No. 1 that we are using right now. And we also use our Web site tremendously. We are developing strategies to use Twitter and Facebook. I think in 2010, we will really be able to tap into the robustness of those particular channels of social networking. I'm sure there will be a new one that comes along by then as well.

KS: What's the best way for a Navy Federal worker to move up and get noticed?
LF: Certainly, you want to be a strong performer. I think also taking on different types of jobs. We've got a number of jobs here, while they are entry-level jobs you learn a tremendous amount about the credit union. So many of our managers today started at that level. Because they knew so much about the organization, they were in great demand. Also, moving outside your comfort-zone so to speak. We have a number of in-house educational programs and a two-year executive development program where we select 20 workers that we consider high-potential employees.

KS: Do you have to overcome the perception that Navy Federal, as a credit union, is not quite as sexy as a traditional bank or brokerage?
LF: I think that might have been in the past, but I don't think that's the case today. Not only does being on the Fortune 100 "Best Employers" list make us a little bit more "sexy" so to speak, but our reputation as a financial services provider has grown. We are really renowned in the credit card world. We are one of the largest partners with Visa. We are a tremendous mortgage provider and have a reputation in that arena. When you are a $40 billion financial services provider, you do begin to get some respect.

KS: Is your compensation comparable to for-profit institutions?
LF: We are very competitive. We offer both standard base salary and incentive programs. The key differentiator is that we do not have stock options. While we don't have that particular thing, we do have what I consider a robust and competitive overall total compensation package. And based on the fact that we do not have trouble attracting and retaining employees, I think that has been borne out.

KS: In terms of the culture of the firm, would you say it's more like Gen. George Patton or Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf?
LF: You'd like to say that you take the best of both of those types of leaders. Both had a commitment to a cause and certainly the integrity of their beliefs. I'd throw in a dash of Colin Powell in terms of someone with a commitment to a cause, integrity of beliefs, a voice of reason, calm in a crisis.

KS: How about an aircraft carrier or an F-18?
LF: I would probably lean more towards an aircraft carrier, because I think it's steady. You're fairly certain it's going to be there in stormy seas and it serves many purposes.

More HR Insider:

-- RSM McGladrey's Kimpa Moss: A Nonstop Talent Hunt

-- Lori Sabet: The Carlyle Group Looks Outside the Beltway

-- Maureen Kelleher: Ernst & Young Set to Hire Thousands


Write to Kyle Stock

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