By W.B. King
In what is a recurring feature, Finopotamus spotlights innovative women who are positively impacting technology applications in the credit union industry, and beyond.
While she hasn’t had formal technology training, First Eagle Federal Credit Union’s CEO Lois Profili understands that innovation drives the member experience. After serving 39 years at the Owings Mills, Md.-based credit union, she said this forward-leaning approach has resulted in the organization growing from approximately $2 million in assets to over $100 million.
“When I first started, our small staff handled everything across the board, giving us lots of experience and interaction with members. We had just begun offering checking accounts,” said Profili who added that the credit union currently employs 24 people with one dedicated to technology.
“I’ve worked in nearly every department – from marketing to lending to IT. It’s been so rewarding to watch our institution grow and offer new, relevant products to members,” she added. “In our credit union, we look for strengths in each employee and strive to help them reach their potential.”
The tech training she gained over the years resulted from various interactions with vendors. And while there were few women in these advisory roles some 40 years ago, she said that has changed.
“We have to outsource most of our tech and [today] there are plenty of women who are there to help,” said Profili, who assumed her current position as CEO in 2001.
As an example of a positive vendor relationship, Profili pointed to the Farmington Hills, Mich. –based Member Driven Technologies (MDT), which she has called a “trusted technology partner” for over 10 years.
In addition to hosting the credit union’s core platform, MDT, she noted, collaborates with First Eagle FCU on “all things IT, sharing trends and letting us know about new vendors and capabilities we should consider.” She added that MDT’s “robust security controls help protect our organization and members.”
Learn to Play Golf
Initially, Profili, who holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in finance from Notre Dame of Maryland University, worked in retail and bookkeeping before entering the credit union industry in 1982. She noted that it didn’t take long for her to understand that credit unions have something special to offer.
“I found a passion for it,” said Profili who has served as the Baltimore Chapter Association Director at the MD | DC Credit Union Association since 2011and is a former member of the Supervisory Committee for Mid-Atlantic Corporate FCU.
When reflecting on inspirational people from her past, Profili’s former boss, Pat O’Haire, stands out as her mentor. At the time, Profili was serving as the credit union’s chief financial officer. And while at times they would clash over expenses, O’Haire instilled the importance of investing in technology. Before retiring and passing the baton, O’Haire offered two pieces of advice.
“She said, ‘One: Spend the money. We won’t last if we don’t stay current, and Two: Learn to play golf – it’s where things happen,’” Profili reflected. “I took her advice.”
The proactive approach to tech that O’Haire instilled in Profili resulted in First Eagle FCU becoming an early adopter of online banking.
“We recognized from the onset that digital had the potential to add convenience and ease to our members’ experiences,” explained Profili. The credit union has five branches in four states. The approximate 8,000 members are primarily employees of Zurich American and American General insurance companies.
“Over half of our members did not have access to our branches, so our strategy was to adopt all new technology that would increase our members’ access,” she said. “Home banking, shared branches, ATMs, mobile and remote deposit services are all vital services for our remote membership.”
More recently, the credit union has added mobile lending to its offerings. “We are working on instant approval so our members can go to Home Depot and pick out an appliance, apply for the loan, and have the funds deposited so they can use their debit card to finish the purchase,” said Profili. “We are also in the final stages of offering contactless cards and digital wallets.”
A Careful Eye
Since the credit union had long been using remote banking services, Profili said that while many lessons were learned, the pandemic only underscored the importance of having these technologies in place.
“We were grateful at how far we had come when fewer members came to our branches. We had already introduced working at home, so we were ready when the pandemic hit,” she said. “Our local members have learned to go online instead of coming to the branch (or shared branch).”
As has been the case for nearly 40 years, Profili, a graduate of CUNA Management School, said she is always on the lookout for emerging technologies that can positively impact membership.
“We’ve been keeping a careful eye on digital cards and chat features within digital banking. Digital cards will be very well received by our members as mailing a replacement card takes way too long,” said Profili. “We’re excited about technology that can enhance the member experience, while also improving processes and efficiencies.”
If you enjoyed this article, you might like reading these Finopotamus articles as well: