In 2013, ESL Federal Credit Union found itself in a position of considerable strength and opportunity. Its core operations in consumer and business banking were performing well, and its longstanding commitment to serving the community of Greater Rochester had yielded encouraging results. Consumers and employees expressed a strong sense of loyalty to the organization, and consistent investment in the community had translated into gains in hiring and retention. However, the decline of the region’s three major employers was affecting Rochester’s economy, and small business growth, while still a boon for the region, had been hampered by a lack of access to appropriate support and financing options.
ESL leaders saw an opportunity to significantly address community needs while advancing the competitiveness of their business—to create shared value. While ESL had great strengths to draw on, its leaders wanted to build a strategy that was based on a comprehensive understanding of how ESL’s business interests intersected with the community’s needs. ESL’s senior leadership partnered with FSG to identify and define ESL’s shared value opportunity.
The project began with an assessment of the needs of the Greater Rochester community and ESL. This involved secondary research around relevant trends in the region as well as interviews with ESL’s staff and leaders from Rochester’s government, business, and non-profit sectors.
Together, FSG and ESL identified several opportunities and refined the list to focus on the following.
- Consumer prosperity: Pairing financial capability supports with ESL’s product set for the underserved to improve the social mobility of unbanked customers in Rochester.
- Small business growth: Providing business acumen support and access to capital to support small business growth in Rochester.
FSG worked with ESL to develop these opportunities, identifying the activities and anticipated social impact of each and building the necessary financial models. The project concluded with the launch of both shared value opportunities.
Today, ESL has made significant progress in executing its shared valued strategy. ESL built a cross-functional team that has since launched several new products (e.g., credit building, small dollar loan products) for Rochester’s underbanked and unbanked population. These products generated more than $2 million in revenue in their first year of operations alone. Internally, ESL has initiated projects to improve its service offerings to this customer segment, integrated the shared value strategy with its corporate structure, and identified process and success metrics for the work. Externally, ESL has strengthened its partnerships with local non-profits focused on financial empowerment to improve its access to underbanked consumers.
About ESL Federal Credit Union
ESL Federal Credit Union is among the largest credit unions in the United States. Founded close to a century ago, it has approximately $5 billion in assets, 325,000 members, and 680 employees. ESL has been voted Rochester’s favorite place to bank since 2002, and it consistently ranks as one of the best medium-sized places to work by the Great Place to Work Institute.