Lessons in a loss

Credit unions take note: The team with a deep bench of players won the NBA Finals.

by. Drew Grossman

The San Antonio Spurs won the 2014 NBA Finals on Sunday, beating the Miami Heat convincingly in five games in a best of seven series. The popular wisdom was the talent and athleticism of the Heat’s star trio — Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh — would be enough to win the day for the Heat. Not the case. The Spurs handled the trio by distributing the ball and using its entire bench of players.

What can credit unions learn from the Spurs’ victory? When the Heat’s big three weren’t playing up to par and the coach had to turn to reserve players, the team faltered. The Spurs, however, had a deep bench and a wealth of contributors and because of that they had the means to win the series.

In the upcoming issue of Credit Union Strategy & Performance, we profile the executive team at Pentagon Federal ($17.6B, Alexandria, VA), which also cultivates a deep bench of players at the top level. For more than a decade, the executive team has rotated positions every few years so that each executive has an opportunity to head different divisions and get “playing time” running other segments of the institution’s business. This rotation allows the eight executives to weigh in on issues in other departments and learn how each one operates. The chief lending officer, for instance, might help create a new marketing campaign because a few years earlier that lending officer was leading the marketing team.

Instead of relying on the big three of CEO, COO, and CFO, the credit union has many leaders ready in the wings. As a result, Pen Fed is more San Antonio Spurs than Miami Heat, which, after the 2014 NBA Finals, is a very good thing. When push comes to shove, Pen Fed has many leaders to turn to because like the Spurs the executive team has experience across the board, eight divisions deep.

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