AUSTIN, Texas – There are no silver bullets, culture is king, and it’s critical to stick with the long-term plan, according to one CEO who is retiring after overseeing a seven-fold increase in assets during his career.
Paul Trylko has announced plans to retire at year-end as CEO of Amplify Credit Union. Trylko joined the credit union in 1989 as EVP after having served as VP at another Austin-area credit union for 10 years prior.
At the time Trylko took over as CEO, the credit union was known as IBM Texas Employees FCU and had $154 million in assets and 44 employees. During his career Trylko oversaw growth to nearly $1 billion in assets and $1.3 billion in assets under management, as well as growth to 200 employees, a rebranding, and expansion to a statewide FOM.
Below, Mr. Trylko shares his thoughts and lessons learned as part of this CUToday.info Exit Interview:
CUToday.info: How did you come to be involved in credit unions?
Trylko:I needed a part-time job to help put myself through college at the University of Texas. I was a business major and grew up having credit union accounts, so I applied for a job and started as a teller at what is now known as Velocity Credit Union. That part-time job turned into a full-time job when I graduated and that path would bring me to Amplify Credit Union 10 years later. That “teller job” turned out to be what would ignite my career and the credit union movement and noble cause is something I’m still passionate about to this day.
CUToday.info: What have you learned about driving and sustaining growth during your career, and has that changed?
Trylko:There are no silver bullets, just steady progress toward a goal. Everything starts with a clear vision of where the organization is going and the strategic roadmap that will get you there. To do this, you also need synergy and buy in from the board, management, and staff. From there, all you have to do is execute! Easy, right? It’s a long journey, so you need to have high expectations and check in on milestones along the way. There is still no replacement for hard work, perseverance, and commitment. Finally, executing on strategy is a long-term play, so you must stick with it and resist the temptation to turn back or stop. The key is having the right team in place and aligning the people, processes, and systems to accomplish the plan.
CUToday.info: What have you learned about managing people during your career, and has that (or the people) changed for evolved?
Trylko: Culture is king! Over a long career – and lots of personal evolution along the way - this is what I’ve come to believe above all. Everything that happens in the organization is due to the efforts of the people on the team. They deliver the service, systems, and processes that make the credit union go and provide service to the members. As a CEO, it’s critical to create and maintain a culture that focuses the team on who we are as an organization and how we treat people. Your job is to create the environment that allows people to succeed. Our very first day of new employee training is known as “culture day.” I personally kick that day off to talk about our mission, vision, purpose, and values - the parameters of our culture and what it looks like in action.
As an individual, be approachable, set clear expectations, constantly connect those individual expectations to the plan for the credit union, and treat people with respect. I think that folks generally want to be part of something bigger than themselves and I need to paint that picture. If we have engaged and satisfied employees, they will deliver exceptional service, creating satisfied members. Good financial results will be a by-product of that effort. It’s a simple formula that has worked well over my career.
CUToday.info: What advice/lessons learned might you have for a new CEO who is starting at a credit union?
Trylko:Be careful what you wish for, because there is no safety net. Seriously, you are responsible for all employees and all members. In our case right now that’s 230 employees and 60,000 members. Wow! While I know you share responsibility with a team, I would encourage you to view the role through this lens.
Assess the landscape of your credit union. Don’t make any sudden moves. Remember, this is a long-play. You don’t have to be a hero. Your job is the sustainability of the organization for the long-term. Your board, your team, and you need to know where the credit union is going and how you plan to get there.
Get to know your team, the culture of the organization, the strategic plan, and the current year business plan. Learn how success in these areas is measured and how we’re doing against those metrics. Get lots of input and perspectives. You’ll be able to determine the efficacy of the plan and if the organization is aligned around the plan. You may be able to build and continue the current plan or have develop a new plan with your leadership team. Regardless, establishing a clear direction is key. At that same time, double down on creating or reinforcing a culture that establishes the environment for each employee to succeed.
CUToday.info: What is your view on the future of credit unions, if there is to be one?
Trylko:I believe the future is bright for credit unions. I see the next generation of credit union leaders at Amplify and in the broader industry and, frankly, I’m impressed. It’s in good hands. It’s incumbent on today’s credit union leaders to develop the next generation in their own shops. If we all do that, then the industry will be fine.
I do think there are headwinds that today’s credit union leaders need to navigate in order to arrive at that bright future. I think that consolidation will continue in credit unions, but overall the movement will get stronger. I think we need to reassess the many parts of the credit union system and retool for the future. ]Lastly, we need to draw on our credit union roots and double down on the cooperative principles that make us stronger together. All of this requires candid, crucial conversations to envision the picture of the credit union movement of tomorrow and chart the course to get there.