Marketing Executive of the Year: Andrews Aims for the Billion-Dollar Club
Mark Andrews once dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player, but the winner of CU Times’ 2016 Trailblazer Award for Marketing Executive of the Year instead found joy tapping into his creative side. As a marketing professional, Andrews found he enjoyed the freedom that came with discovering new things as he helped organizations connect with their audiences.
An award-winning, professional photographer and videographer, Andrews founded and operated the design studio Andrews/Forsythe Advertising in Las Vegas, where, through his clients, he first learned about credit unions. He joined the Las Vegas-based Clark County Credit Union full-time in 1997 when then-president/CEO Wayne Tew made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
Since then, Andrews has been the driving force behind elevating the $580 million credit union's footprint in southern Nevada. He has held a number of senior positions within CCCU, including vice president of business development, vice president of sales and lending, and vice president of sales and marketing. In his current role as chief marketing officer, Andrews has shifted the marketing department's focus to building greater brand awareness, which he hopes will help the credit union reach its long-term strategic goal of becoming a $1 billion institution.
“Our board and management team came to the conclusion that the economies of scale kick in at the billion dollar mark,” he said. “The regulatory environment is just crushing small credit unions here in Nevada. It's very disturbing when even a $100 million credit union is not insulated from being merged off to out-of-state credit unions.”
Even though CCCU serves a core group of government and medical employees, the transient nature of the Las Vegas market results in the loss of 200 to 300 member accounts per month. So, to meet a one-year goal of 10% growth, CCCU had to open more than 5,000 accounts to net 2,000, for example.
“We changed our brand position in the market, and if we wanted to get to 55,000 members, we knew we needed to cast a wider net without changing our field of membership,” Andrews said. “We needed to do a better job of advertising in the community and letting our core members know we are here to help them.”
In addition to taking a deeper dive into its existing member pool, CCCU's brand differentiation strategy involved taking a few well-calculated risks to develop and deliver the solutions members need.
“We’re lucky here in that the culture is very open, so there are no sacred cows,” he said. “Everything is fair game to question.”
To foster innovation during regular strategic sessions, one person will often take on the role of devil's advocate. No matter what others say in the meeting, that person will come up with an objection.
“The whole goal there is to poke holes in the balloon and so that we can move forward with the best ideas,” he said. “If there isn't a rebuttal to the objections raised, then it wasn't a very good idea.”
Five years ago, the real estate crash that led to Las Vegas’ reputation as the foreclosure capital of America spurred the creation of CCCU's second chance mortgage product. With some 40,000 homes sitting empty and new developments being bulldozed, the crisis was a game changer for the credit union. Even members with solid jobs, such as government employees and health care professionals, were struggling and left with the inability to buy or sell new homes in the traditional mortgage market. The second chance mortgage program helped recovering homeowners get back into a home with equity without having to wait.
“It not only got the borrower back into a home, it gave them a three-year head start on the market,” Andrews said. “They come out of that period with repaired credit and a home. If the bankruptcy limit is seven years, why can't we as credit unions offer forgiveness, good underwriting and a way for them to redeem themselves?”
He said many people in the high-risk credit category have been grateful for the chance for a do-over. In that vein, CCCU also launched CheckAgain, a second chance checking account, and a first-time auto buyer loan.
“We love finding those pockets of opportunities to make a difference in members’ lives,” he said. “It's like the starfish thing; we couldn't save all 50,000 distressed homes in the sea of Las Vegas defaults, but we did rescue 300 of them. The nice thing is that these were families who were able to get back into home ownership, we had that many fewer empty properties in the community, and the interest income was healthy for the credit union.”
Since 2011, CCCU's second chance mortgage loans have totaled $50 million. The credit union carries an average of 100 loans on its books at all times for the first-time auto buyer loan program for a total of $1 million.
Through Andrews’ creative vision, CCCU has continued to rebrand its visual story and key messaging to ensure it shares unique member experiences to build tighter relationships. One of CCCU's key market differentiators has been its bonus dividend, which demonstrates the value of membership.
He's also begun to diversify the marketing department's imagery. Now, it's reflective of everyone in the medical field – not just doctors and nurses, but also first responders and support staff. The credit union has also been building its presence on Yelp.
“It's the new way to shop,” he said. “Many pull up Yelp while they are in the parking lot, checking reviews to decide if they’ll even step foot inside.”
Credit unions must continuously evolve when it comes to members as well as staff, he said. While discussions about how to appeal to a younger demographic often occur within the industry, he questioned how many credit unions actually give millennial employees opportunities to run with their ideas – whether they’re for a new ad, product or service – from conception to execution. Giving emerging leaders greater responsibility can only strengthen the credit union industry, he affirmed.
Recent aggressive marketing campaigns that included television commercials (a first for CCCU), digital campaigns and traditional direct mailings resulted in a net gain of 6.42% in member growth from June 2014 to June 2015, loan growth of 11.9%, and asset growth of 7.06% for the credit union.
“The world is changing,” he said. “It's a whole new game. We can't just worry about Walmart or Target. We have to be keeping an eye on the alternative methods people use to borrow money. It's an interesting question on relevance when your own staff says they turn to P2P for a $20,000 unsecured loan for 6%. How can we as an industry best prepare in dealing with that?”
Andrews enjoyed building choppers when he was younger; these days, in his spare time he just prefers to ride.