Phillip Kopischke, President and Chief Executive Officer of SharePoint Credit Union, sat down with me via a ZOOM call one sunny, brisk day early this 2021. We were both meeting from our home offices in an atmosphere of familiarity that has become commonplace during these pandemic times. I was pleasantly surprised at how easily we fell into conversation, how comfortable Phil made me feel despite his busy schedule and level of responsibilities.
Phil’s career began at SharePoint in 2009 after serving 25 years at Wells Fargo. “It’s been meaningful to work in the Credit Union industry and to be able to make an impact with so many people, both consumers and small business owners,” Phil described the change. “I’ve been able to meet and connect with people on a different level.” SharePoint has continued to grow and expand under Phil’s leadership, most recently on April 1, 2018 when it merged with West Financial Credit Union, continuing operations under the SharePoint name. When asked about the change, Phil responded, “The transition has been very exciting. Medina brings a whole new opportunity to us with a new membership base. The area is growing” (as compared to some of their other locations).
SharePoint was founded for the grocery store industry in 1933. “We were part of the Red Owl group, which then expanded to the SuperValu group. Our main branch serves the Hopkins and St. Louis Park areas which are more developed and established. When we came to Medina we found many young families and with it an opportunity for growth. We have 2,500 members in the Medina area – we were excited to serve them and also welcome the opportunity to serve more of the community. We are here to help them reach their financial goals.”
SharePoint’s members consist of a wide range of people. “A large portion of our members are in the grocery industry; Lunds & Byerlys, Cub Foods, Kowalski’s Markets, and Jerry’s Foods,” Phil explains. “We have manufacturers too, like Daikin Applied; we actually have a small branch in their Plymouth office that was created while still being West Financial Credit Union and an in-house SEG (Select Employer Group), prior to expanding to serve the community. “Today, SharePoint continues to serve many Select Employer Groups in the area. However, our focus is now more community based. If you are a resident of Medina, you don’t have to work in the grocery industry to bank with us. If you live, work, worship, volunteer, go to school or do business in any of the Twin Cities’ eight counties, we can help you.”
Similar to traditional banks, SharePoint Credit Union offers a full suite of financial products and services for consumers and small businesses; everything from savings and checking accounts to auto loans and mortgages. During the past year SharePoint has made a concerted effort to help however they could. “We can’t always do everything, but we always want to be peoples’ first choice. Give us a call, give us an opportunity. As far as a car loan or a Share Certificate of Deposit, we’ve always prided ourselves on being a little bit lower on the lending side and a little bit higher on the deposit side.” SharePoint is continuously creating ways to help their members, especially during challenging times such as the pandemic. “In January we did 129 loans, 70 of them were car loans, due to a special promotion.”
Students Point of View
When asked if there is a segment of the population that SharePoint would like to see more of, Phil sat back and thoughtfully reflected before answering. “Everybody has smartphones today, it’s amazing how this is now how we communicate. Especially the younger generation – which we’d like to attract more of – it’s all phone based. Last spring, we did a project with five seniors from Wayzata High School to help us think about our business a little differently.” Phil said, referring to the COMPASS program, a course that enables Wayzata High School seniors to work with community businesses while earning high school credit.
“They did research, then talked with us about how they look at online mobile and what interests youth. It was very interesting. We met initially at the start of spring semester in February, then COVID hit right when we kicked this off. Initially they planned to meet and work together in our boardroom, but once COVID hit they couldn’t gather, and had to hold class from home. These team members had to change course, so they decided to each take a piece of it and work from home individually. Despite the challenges, they did surveys with students from school and asked questions like, ‘What do you look for in a student debit or credit card? How do you use online banking or mobile banking?’ They gathered the information, brought it back and presented it to us in summary.” When asked if the students gave any insights, Phil replied, “I was surprised at how rewards and points earned on their credit cards are important to them, more so than we thought. Checking accounts don’t resonate with this age group, it’s more about how to make a payment or how to make a purchase. Because they don’t use checks, they don’t consider it as a checking account as much as their spending account.” This concept isn’t new, but a new way of thinking about the definition of payment. “No cash, no checks, it’s all on a card or on their phone. Cash didn’t mean all that much to them. They gave their presentation to us at the end of the semester online. This group was very engaging, they did a great job. So many financial institutions want to convert to a digitalized wallet, we’re in the queue now for this upcoming fall or spring to make the transition.”
Phil sat back and reflected a moment. “I have two daughters, 20 and 22. They have accounts at the Credit Union, but they don’t write checks. Maybe one or two,” he pauses, then laughs. “If they need a check they go to dad!”
“Another point we received from the COMPASS group was contrary to popular belief, kids say they do listen to their mom and dad. They do take advice from their parents, if mom and dad recommend a certain financial institution, they will go there. We have youth and minor accounts, and now are working on creating more youth/minor options. In SharePoint’s mobile application I’m a signer on my kids’ accounts so I can see their activity, and I can move money to them in a heartbeat.” He laughs. “Maybe almost too easy!”
One idea we discussed on the call was a credit card for students. “I like the idea of a smaller dollar amount reward credit card. When you go to school you need to have access to plastic to buy things, whether it’s a book at the bookstore or a Target purchase for your dorm. After mom and dad leave you still need to buy things. Smaller dollar limit, it won’t work for large purchases. Something to establish their social security number with credit.” Phil’s eyes twinkle. “Something with rewards.”
“We’re in a real people business, many of our members like the interaction, to walk into our branch, they like to sit down with our bankers and talk about their issues and solutions. That’s the value of what SharePoint is. It is being able to see that person, get to know them, we want a lifelong relationship with these members. We have a great benefit in our ability to do mortgages in our business, with the pandemic rates that have been driven down to the lowest they’ve been in years. Last year we originated 390 first mortgages – prior to that the most was about 200; 50% came in through realtors and referrals in the area, 50% were members who took advantage of the refinancing opportunity.”
Business during Covid-19
Has SharePoint seen a change in 2021? “Yes people are getting vaccinated, but we don’t know how long it will take,” Phil answers. “We’re being cautious, we have a lot of capital and money to lend, but we’re taking it one step at a time. It won’t be a light switch. One thing we’ve found is now that many people are working from home, they are holding onto their cars longer. We have members that buy a different car every three years and rotate them out. Since they aren’t driving as much they aren’t making that ‘seasonal’ purchase.”
“We’re open to new business,” Phil continues. “This pandemic has attracted new customers that have been happy getting our quick attention. We’re seeing consumers, small business owners and potential partner companies who are looking to help their employees. We provide competitive rates, whether someone has awesome credit or if it’s been a rough year, we’re here to help.”
The Zoom call ended as it had started, with a note of friendliness and kinship. “We still answer our phones with live people who listen to your story,” Phil says in summary. “Taking the extra step to getting to know people, that is how we differentiate ourselves from other financial service companies.”