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SeaComm named Federal Credit Union of the Year

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MASSENA - SeaComm Federal Credit Union has been named a top credit union in the country, as well as one of the best companies to work for in New York state.

The National Association of Federal Credit Unions named SeaComm the Federal Credit Union of the Year for institutions with $150 million or more in assets. Pioneer West Virginia Federal Credit Union won for credit unions with less than $150 million in assets.

SeaComm, which is based in Massena and has branches in Potsdam, Canton, Ogdensburg and Malone, serves more than 39,000 members with assets of $452 million

“To be named Credit Union of the Year by NAFCU is a pretty big honor,” CEO and President Scott A. Wilson said, noting there are 7,292 credit unions in the United States.

Nominees are judged based on how well they meet a number of selection criteria, including unusual growth, success, innovative member service or a credit union that has successfully handled an adverse situation; impact of the action cited in the nomination on the credit union, its members of the credit union community; and adherence to principles of sound financial management.

The credit union must also show a commitment to consumer education, the community and/or service to low- and moderate-income individuals.

“We have to respond with how have we done in 2011,” Mr. Wilson said. “We’ve been through an adverse situation with the economic downturn.”

Winners will be individually recognized before their peers in a special ceremony during NAFCU’s 45th annual conference & exhibition, July 24-28 in Nashville, Tenn.

Mr. Wilson said that, on top of that piece of good news, they also learned they were named one of the best companies to work for in New York by the New York State Society for Human Relations Management.

SeaComm Federal Credit Union was named number nine for small/medium employers of 15 to 249 employees.

“It’s the second year in a row we’ve been named one of the best companies to work for in New York,” he said.

SeaComm was among 50 New York companies that were recognized for their outstanding achievements in employee engagement. The fifth annual program identifies the best places of employment in the state.

To be considered for the program, companies had to have at least one facility and 15 employees in New York; be a for-profit or not-for-profit business or government entity; be a publicly- or privately-held business; be in business for a minimum of one year; and register to participate.

What makes the selection process unique, Mr. Wilson said, is that employees must nominate the company.

“You have to participate, but the employees do the survey,” which include 72 questions on areas such as leadership, pay and benefits, he said.

The survey was conducted by Best Companies Group, an independent firm that manages Best Places to Work programs on state, regional and national levels around the world. They evaluated and ranked the best places of employment in the state based on employee satisfaction, as well as workplace practices and policies.

“The only way you can get selected is by the employees ranking you,” Mr. Wilson said. “We believe our designation has reflected how our employees feel.”

He said they also regularly survey their members, who can provide feedback on how good of a job they think SeaComm has been doing, and those numbers have likewise been positive. Members are asked to score on a scale of one to seven, and SeaComm has scored an average of 6.64.

We want to make sure we’re gauging what our members want. They want to feel valued. As a cooperative, they’re owners and they have the right to expect that,” Mr. Wilson said.

He holds quarterly meet and greet sessions at the credit union’s branches to talk with members.

“We put a lot of time in focusing on taking care of our members. On top of that, we’re here to take care of our employees,” he said, noting he meets with all new staff members during a CEO breakfast and also holds a quarterly meeting with all the staff to discuss the credit union’s strategy, where they’re heading and how each person fits in - “to make sure they have a good understanding of how they fit.”

“I’m not the most important person in the company. They are. They’re the ones taking care of the members. These are the folks that are going to know you and take care of you. Taking care of members is doing what we expect,” Mr. Wilson said.

It’s all about getting better, he said. And, right now, they’re doing pretty good when stacked against other companies, according to Mr. Wilson.

For instance, Weiss Ratings issues Financial Strength Ratings on more than 19,000 financial institutions including banks, credit unions, life and annuity insurers, health insurers, and property and casualty insurers. A ranking of A is considered excellent, meaning the institution offers excellent financial security.

SeaComm scored an A- in the ratings, something only 4.8 percent of the 7,500 rated credit unions in the country have been able to achieve.

In addition, Bancography, a company based in Birmingham, Ala., ranks institutions based on Brand Value Index, and SeaComm is listed at number 22 in the country for small credit unions with assets of less than $1 billion. Mr. Wilson said they’ve been on the top 25 list since 2009.

“We have to be financially strong in order to serve our members,” he said, “but we don’t put profit before people.

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