In part two of the special guest episode of the Believe in Banking podcast, Sean and Gina welcome back Dan Rousseve, Chief Information Officer, and Angie Dvorak, Chief Marketing & Growth Officer, of Everwise Credit Union, formerly Teachers Credit Union. They continue the discussion on the credit union’s rebranding journey, including challenges they faced from Covid to change in leadership, both of which had the potential to stall their progress. But they persevered, knowing what a refreshed brand could do for their organization. When it was unveiled, the new brand Everwise was widely embraced by employees and members alike, and represented a way to re-found the credit union with renewed purpose.
Intro: This is Believe in Banking, a podcast series for decision-makers, influencers and leaders, featuring experts taking on the financial industry’s most pressing issues with insight and empathy. The podcast features information and conversations designed to enlighten and empower. Here are your Believe in Banking hosts, Sean Keathley and Gina Bleedorn.
Sean Keathley: Welcome to our Believe in Banking podcast. I am Sean Keathley, CEO of Adrenaline. In part one of our special guest podcasts, we welcomed on Dan Rousseve, chief information officer, and Angie Dvorak, who is the chief marketing and growth officer, both of Everwise Credit Union, formerly known as Teachers Credit Union. In our lively conversation, they discussed the credit union’s rich culture in legacy in Indiana, but they also described how operating with a name like teachers was actually limiting their growth potential, especially as they focus on expanding beyond their educator roots. They addressed the essential role of data in making a case for change and how they successfully built consensus among their c-suite.
In part two of our discussion, Dan and Angie go into deeper detail about their rebrand journey, that includes a pandemic pause and leadership change that might have otherwise derailed their plans. Instead, the leadership team remained resolute as they worked toward a rebrand that would provide an opportunity to refound the credit union as Everwise and confidently rally their employees and members around a new common cause. For any institution looking at how to successfully navigate change, this is a podcast you must hear.
Gina Bleedorn: I think one of the more compelling pieces of a different kind of data that you brought to the table was about your growth rate and you did an ROI model about… Even if you could just increase it by a point or two, the difference in the business that it would make. So talk about that because I recall with the board especially, it was hard to argue with that.
Dan Rousseve: Yeah, so we were looking at our growth numbers and realizing that there was definitely opportunity, and when you’re looking through what are the various different levers that we could potentially pull to try to help our membership growth, it was hard to ignore the reality that when the data comes back and it shows that more than two thirds of consumers didn’t think they could join Teacher’s Credit Union, that we had an obvious barrier to growth in that place. But to your specific questions, Gina, showing the board that even if we got to average from a growth perspective, we were going to be able to take the credit union so much further with a brand that would help us take the brakes off of growth.
We were spending so much time and energy communicating to people that they didn’t have to be a teacher to join. And that was definitely one of the compelling arguments for our board was them understanding that we wanted to be able to level the playing field from a competition perspective and have people understand and come join and see the benefits of being with now Everwise, but not self excluding themselves from being able to join the credit union because they just thought they weren’t a teacher, they weren’t eligible.
Angie Dvorak: Well, and we had tried other things as well. I mean, we shortened to TCU, that was the solution at the time, but it really didn’t solve anything because there is a college, Texas Christian University who also goes by TCU. And again, from the marketing perspective, we have a lot of challenges, anytime that we would be doing things in TCU, you’d come across that in social media when you’re doing things online and you’re having to compete with this big university who’s in sports. And as Gina, I know we’ve talked, you never want to compete with sports. We think we all agree with that.
Gina Bleedorn: And not only was Google a challenge because if you Googled TCU, you were, I think, 27th, something like that in the ranks because everything else was sports.
Dan Rousseve: There was some confusion around being able to even find a URL or a website that people could remember or know. So TCU, great school, great athletic program, competing in that namespace was just going to be an unproductive long-term solution for us. So while we tried it for a period of time, it wasn’t going to be the answer.
Sean Keathley: The other thing I know that’s hard to do is not owning something. And I think that’s especially important for your organization, given the unique culture, the commitment of people and to know all that is being lost either because they don’t think they can be a part of it or confusion. You can’t have something out there that’s ownable. So the idea of using strategy to come up with a name that is inclusive, Angie, right, but also yours, and that’s what you’ve ended up with, which is always the special sauce and rebranding.
Gina Bleedorn: So we finally get consensus. We’re going to need a new name. We’re going to change. We think we know what that name is, everybody is on board, the CEO, the CFO, the board. And then what happens?
Angie Dvorak: Well, the day that we finally got everyone internally on board was that last day when everyone was in the office right before the pandemic shut everything down. So it was quite the day, we were so excited to finally get the support, but then had this huge thing going on across the entire globe. And that really made us pause because our members are our priority and we needed to spend the next several months and really digging in and making sure that we had all of the right programs and services available to help our members.
Dan Rousseve: Yeah. And for sure, we did the right thing. We temporarily paused to make sure that we could serve our members, make sure everybody was safe and sound. We did what we had to do. But this journey had a lot of peaks and valleys, and that was definitely a valley from our perspective. Like imagine you’re about to make the best sandwich of your life. You got the ingredients out, you got the mayo out, you got your turkey out, you’re all ready to make a sandwich. And then people are like, “Hey, no, we’re not eating now.” Right? You’re just left a little disappointed. And that’s what happened with the first hurdle with COVID, it was like, “Okay, well what are we doing here? Are we going to eventually get back to this? How long is COVID going to go? Is this something we want to…” Now that we were three or four months into COVID, it was a, “Okay, is it okay to kind of resume picking things back up?” Nobody really knew what was going on in the world and adding more change to what was already significant change for everybody was scary.
Gina Bleedorn: I think we didn’t pick it back up until maybe… We paused at COVID and it took, I don’t know, six months or so.
Angie Dvorak: Yeah, six months. And then we just got everything going again and moving down the road, the board was on board. And then we had a leadership change within the organization. So that just kind of slowed things slightly. But we had a new CEO come on board who has been a huge supporter. And even before we started at the credit union, we shared word with him of what we were doing. And I think it made him even more excited to come to the organization knowing that this rebrand was underway. And so we really just, from that point on, kind of ran with it. Made up for lost time and got to where we are today.
Gina Bleedorn: Credit to your CEO, Jason, he… We didn’t know how he was going to react. We had been working on this thing for years at this point, and he, instead of saying, “Oh, I’m going to do my own thing, take the credit union a different way,” He loved what we did. He said, “Let’s double down on it. Let’s use this as an opportunity to refound the credit union and that will truly get our flywheel going.” And he did and he embraced it. And so that was a big potential hurdle that we got through. So kudos to Jason.
Angie Dvorak: Yeah, definitely. He’s been our biggest supporter through this rebrand, the biggest advocate for Everwise and what it’s all about and continues to be now and really letting us continue to evolve and move the brand forward.
Sean Keathley: So Dan and Angie, you think about what you just said, headwinds due to the heritage and the deep roots, and then you had a pandemic, and then the leadership you convinced changed out, and a lot of times with new leadership is new thinking. You’ve persevered all that, this brand has launched, you’ve seen the successes. What advice would you give for our listeners that are facing headwinds, that… Whatever their challenges are. People inside the organization, boards, CEOs, what would you tell them now that you’re on the other side of this thing?
Angie Dvorak: I would really say start with the data. Once you get that data and you can really show the need for change, I think anyone who’s really leading an organization and wanting to see it succeed, you can’t really turn back from what numbers are showing you if you really are wanting to succeed and have some change in the future.
Dan Rousseve: Yeah, I’m a firm believer in the saying that what’s right is not always easy, and what’s easy is rarely right. And so yeah, we had a plethora of challenges. We had things that were going to come up and if somebody else goes on this journey, they’re going to have challenges. There’ll be different challenges, but there’s going to be challenges. But when the data paints you a picture and you’ve made a decision and you feel in your gut that it’s the right thing, you got to stay the course because it would’ve been easy to just give up and say, “You know what? We faced enough challenges. This isn’t meant to be.” But the perseverance, having a great partner, working through this is really what allowed us to get everything done and across the finish line. And to be honest, I’m staring at an Everwise sticker on Angie’s laptop actually as we do this, and just thinking about… Man, the brand is so cool. It’s just so exciting what we have made and what we’ve done. So this is one of those things where I’m a firm believer that the destination was worth it.
Angie Dvorak: Well, and I also think Dan and I, we can certainly look at something and say, “Yes, we like that. No, we don’t like it,” but we know we’re not designers, we’re not brand experts, at least at creating a brand. And so we knew… We were lucky to partner with Adrenaline and all of your team, and really… We listened to what they said and took their advice. Of course, we would challenge and engage in conversation, but I think we both knew when to kind of back off and let the ideas come forward and sometimes step out of our comfort zone and try new things. And I think that’s how we got to the strong brand that we have today, because we were willing to do that and to trust the team.
Dan Rousseve: I love that point, Angie. And even last night we were talking at dinner about how there were so many times through the process where Adrenaline showed us something. And to be honest with you, it was a little outside our comfort zone. Like Angie and I would… Oh, I don’t know. That’s scary.
Angie Dvorak: Dan, do you remember looking at taglines? They were like 10 good taglines. I mean, we really liked all of them. And we’re like, “Well, this side over here, these four or five feel really safe. That would be probably a really smart way to go. But the one…” There was one that seemed like it could really… It was kind of edgier, and we just… The next day, you kind of sleep on, it’s what I always say too. We would come back and just… That’s where we got to… Confidence changes everything. And we just feel like there is so much behind that confidence. And now that we have that as our tagline, I can’t tell you how many different things I see out in the world about confidence and the importance of it, and with our employees, confidence in how we serve our members. It’s been a really great part of our brand.
Dan Rousseve: And honestly, with… The confidence changes everything, it’s become something, it took us out of our comfort zone, but it’s really kind of coalesced internally as something that we’re building, like a rallying cry around. Like we’ve engaged that flywheel effect. It’s become just part of our vernacular. And like I was saying, to be honest with you, when we first saw it, we’re like, “I don’t know. Can we go there?” And I’m glad that we did because honestly, I couldn’t be happier. And I guess the one other thing that I would say as a piece of advice for somebody going on the journey is just don’t compromise. If you do this right, you’re never going to do it again. You’re never going to get a second chance. And so don’t cut the corners, take the time, spend the money, do the research, do whatever you’ve got to do because even if it ends up taking five years like ours did-
Angie Dvorak: It was well worth the wait.
Dan Rousseve: It was well worth the wait. And I think back about some of the times where we could have been like, “Well, that’s fine. Let’s just go with that.” And when we chose not to and we chose to spend a little more time or dig a little deeper.
Angie Dvorak: Dan, we knew we did it right when we were at our brand launch. And can you remember when all of a sudden Everwise… So our employees knew we were going to be changing the name, and then Everwise comes up on the screen. I mean, there were screams, there were tears in eyes, everyone was so excited. That was when we knew we got it right.
Dan Rousseve: Absolutely. And it was one of those scary moments in your career where you don’t know what reaction you’re going to get. And Angie and I are standing on stage in a room full of a thousand people and we’re revealing the brand. And there’s part of you who… I mean, I was incredibly proud of the work, but part of me is like, “What if we show the brand and it’s just like crickets?’ But to be on that stage and see the room and everybody stand up and cheer, and the applause, was just this validation of the fact that what we had done was being well received, that the energy in the room just took off like a rocket ship.
Angie Dvorak: Yeah, And our employees have really been the champions of this brand. And we knew then with them being out there as the face talking with members and sharing the story of why Everwise, they’ve really done a great job at exciting others in the community as well.
Dan Rousseve: And I think a really other cool way that the employees have just embraced this change is it’s been with the swag, like the shirts and the water bottles and everything else. They literally can’t get enough and they constantly want more, “Can I get other things with logos on it?” And there’s just so much energy and drive for having more and more of the brand in their hands and out in the branches and everything. The excitement’s just… It’s awesome.
Gina Bleedorn: The moment where the logo revealed, people… You’ve said it, but it was like… They went up on their feet in a way, almost like a unanimous, everybody up screaming, cheering, the second the name and identity was revealed. And I had never been in a brand launch that happened like that to that extent. And so to… It was such validation. Everything you’ve just said, it was harder, it took longer, and we had incredible hurdles to get through. But because of really your resilience and your perseverance, we got to the other side with something incredibly special, incredibly real, and hopefully a story in a way that’s just beginning. And even in its beginning, has so much promise and resonance. So again, from where we sit, your fortitude made this happen. And hopefully for others they don’t have to go through everything you went through. But in a way, it all made it that much sweeter and that much better, and it’s still new, but I know over time you will see the rewards of this in spades financially with the growth of the credit union.
Sean Keathley: Well, let me go back. One of my first questions, Dan, you talked about your business lunch research strategy, asking waiters and waitresses. We’ve heard about the process, the brilliant way you went about it, the way you got people to buy in, and Angie’s work as well, going up to the rebrand, kind of the moment you probably felt excited and relieved when the employees went bonkers. Fast-forward now a hundred days. What’s happened to membership? What’s happened to the attrition that the board was worried about? Just give us a snapshot at what Everwise us up to in its new glory.
Dan Rousseve: I can tell you just anecdotally that seeing the brand come to life and out in our markets and the logo up on the side of the building and everything, it’s just generating so much energy. It’s exciting.
Angie Dvorak: Our employees have been so excited about the brand and they love having that opportunity to talk about Everwise and what it’s all about. So we’ve had a great experience since our launch and just really keeping the engagement high and helping our members really understand though what Everwise is all about, how that confidence that we are offering and what that can do for them and just how we can be their financial partner for the future. So it’s going very well with our membership.
Sean Keathley: I love how we invited you to be on the podcast at 4.9 billion and we had to change that number when we taped. So clearly things are going up.
Angie Dvorak: They are.
Sean Keathley: Dan and Angie, we have one more question and we ask this of all of our podcast guests. Tell us why you two believe in banking?
Angie Dvorak: Well, for me, I mean it really connects right in with what Everwise is all about. It’s helping people grow into their dreams. And banking can help the average person get their first car loan, get the home of their dreams, and it just plays such an important role in our everyday lives.
Dan Rousseve: Yeah. And I would say that I think banking is so important because when done well, it gives people confidence because as we said earlier, confidence changes everything. So the confidence that you can retire, the confidence that your kids are going to be able to go to school, confidence that you’re going to be able to pay for the wedding, or heck, the confidence that you’re going to be able to pay for groceries next week. Confidence comes in a lot of different forms. But I believe that banking is important to everyone because it provides access to credit. It provides access to money, which is ultimately something everybody needs in order to live their lives and achieve their dreams.
Angie Dvorak: And who knew how much fun it could be to work in banking, right, Dan?
Dan Rousseve: Absolutely.
Gina Bleedorn: Well, Dan and Angie, I hope that you are proud of yourselves because as your partner for oh so long now, we are proud of you, honored to know you and work with you. And we can’t wait to see how each of you in your positions as executives at Everwise and everything that you will do with Everwise and that brand continues to grow. Congratulations on all you’ve accomplished.
Dan Rousseve: Appreciate it. It’s been only possible because of the great partnership.
Sean Keathley: Well, thank you both. We know you’re an inspiration to many out there that are dealing with the same challenges, and we think this brand is full of energy. It’s got life. Your team is living it. It’s not just some value system in a book somewhere. So congratulations, it’s a beautiful story.
Outro: You’ve been listening to Believe in Banking, a podcast series created to empower decision-makers, influencers, and industry leaders in financial services. Be sure to also join us on our flagship site, believeinbanking.com.