Business Monday

At 66, Power Financial Credit Union powers into the future

A teller talks to a customer at a Power financial Credit Union branch in Pembroke Pines through the visual ATM earlier this month. The customer can also see the teller on the video screen.
A teller talks to a customer at a Power financial Credit Union branch in Pembroke Pines through the visual ATM earlier this month. The customer can also see the teller on the video screen. cmguerrero@elnuevoherald.com

At 66 years, Power Financial Credit Union is one of the oldest credit unions in Florida, originated to make loans to the employees and families of Florida Power & Light Co. It has grown into a multimillion-dollar institution, and along the way, it has acquired some of the storied names among South Florida’s credit unions: National Airlines, Pan Am Airlines, Homestead Air Force Base, North Shore Hospital and, most recently, Ryder System.

Fast-forward to today’s financial landscape, which has been transformed by mobile applications and websites on smartphones, laptops and other devices.

Now, Power Financial’s 35,000 members can bank from wherever they want. And there are also about 10 tellers in its five branches, although a decade ago, there were about 20 tellers in its eight branches. If CEO Allan Prindle has his way, the landscape will become even more high-tech and automated.

“I see us getting to the point where the lending process is like going through a McDonald’s drive-through,” Prindle said. “You say what you want, have a decision in minutes, and get a loan at the other end. It should be that simple.”

The credit union has made remote banking its top priority. Besides operating 15 ATMs at Ryder, FPL and elsewhere in Florida, it has two dozen tech-savvy representatives in its contact center at its headquarters in Pembroke Pines to answer customer questions and provide additional support.

And it offers a robust suite of remote banking services that can be accessed through various electronic devices. Most of the credit union members transfer funds, apply for loans and contribute to IRAs remotely.

“Our best decision was concurrently pulling back on branches but offering alternatives to brick and mortar,” Prindle said.

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Allan Prindle is CEO of Power Financial Credit Union, which has its headquarters in Pembroke Pines. C.M. GUERRERO cmguerrero@elnuevoherald.com

Unlike a bank, a credit union is a not-for-profit financial cooperative, whose earnings are paid back to members in the form of higher savings rates and lower loan rates. (Banks, in contrast, have declared earnings paid to stockholders only.)

While many members belong to credit unions that are linked to specific employers,anyone in the local South Florida area can become a member of Power Financial by making a deposit. Members become owners, gaining access to benefits that also include fewer service fees compared to other types of financial institutions; Power Financial even has an investment subsidiary with wealth management services. Prindle said the biggest benefit is the “know your name,” family-friendly, community-centric focus.

“We become our members’ trusted advisors,” he said.

As the credit union and its products have evolved, so have members’ expectations and satisfaction levels.

Power Financial’s net promoter score — an indicator of the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others — is high, usually in the mid-80th percentile. “That’s unheard of. ... Most banks score in the 30s and 40s,” Prindle said.

In addition, the S&P Global Market Intelligence Report of the highest-performing credit unions ranks Power Financial 39th in the country out of 508 credit unions and No. 1 in Florida. To be eligible for the ranking, a credit union had to report more than $500 million in total assets and have a net worth ratio of at least 7 percent.

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Member services at the Sheridan branch of Power Financial Credit Union in Pembroke Pines on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 C.M. GUERRERO. cmguerrero@elnuevoherald.com

Prindle says efforts are underway to use big data gleaned from customer behavior to predict its members’ financial needs and offer them the services they would most likely use in the tech format they want to access it. “The goal is to make the member’s journey as effortless and frictionless as possible,” he said.

Meanwhile, the regulatory demands and consolidation that turned Power Financial into a $650 million institution continue to take a toll on smaller credit unions, making mergers and acquisitions the norm in the industry. Banking analyst Ken Thomas said that only the stronger institutions will survive the national consolidation trend underway.

Of course, Prindle has every intention of continuing Power Financial’s survival.

Company Name: Power Financial Credit Union.

Company officers: Allan Prindle, CEO; Lesley Garcia-Suarez, chief lending officer; David Tuyo, CFO; Michelle Diaz, CIO.

Launched: South Florida based and founded in 1951.

Numerics: $625 million in assets, additional $170 million in assets under management (Wealth Management Program), $1.7 million net income in 2016 and $2 million net income in 2015.

The difference: A not-for-profit financial cooperative business model that invests all income back into the credit union for lower loan rates, higher deposit rates and increased services. Services include mortgages, home equity loans, credit cards, auto loans, boat loans, checking and savings accounts.

Clients: Anyone who works or lives in Broward, Hillsborough, Manatee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach, Pinellas or Sarasota counties and also employees, family or contractors of FPL Group and Ryder System Inc.

Competitors: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase

Number of employees: 140

Number of members: 35,000

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The Power Financial Credit Union in Pembroke Pines. C.M. GUERRERO. cmguerrero@elnuevoherald.com

Offices: Headquarters in Pembroke Pines; branch locations in Florida City, Juno Beach, North Miami, Miami, Kendall (and one in Ryder System corporate offices). Customers also have access to more than 5,500 shared services credit union branches nationwide.

Outside view: “Power Financial is a dominant player in the industry,” said banking analyst Ken Thomas, president of Community Fund Advisors in Miami. “I would not be surprised to see them grow further and acquire more credit unions. It is difficult to survive in an environment of heavy regulation without being a certain size, so I expect others will seek them out. They have the right management team and the ability to grow. Not all credit unions do.”

Best decision by Power Financial: To invest heavily in the electronic delivery of financial services a decade ago.

Strategy for growth: Organically growing and leveraging core competencies of real estate lending, consumer lending, credit card lending, and personal financial management through effortless and frictionless customer experiences.

Challenges: The need to continually invest and improve the technology and employee skills to ensure it meets or exceeds members’ expectations.

Cindy K. Goodman can be reached at cindykgoodman@gmail.com.

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