The business model of Allegacy Federal Credit Union (Allegacy FCU) can be summed up by two slogans: “Be your best you” and “people helping people.” At first glance, these phrases seem at odds with one another, with the first focused on the self and the second focused on assisting others. So how does Allegacy go about honoring both sentiments?
President and CEO Cathy Pace has the answer. As opposed to only focusing on financial products, she understands that helping members extends beyond their financial well-being. Her vision has inspired her team to develop new and holistic banking products to serve the company’s members. “It is not merely lip service that we pay to wellness,” Pace says. “We live it.”
For example, Allegacy was recognized by Healthiest Employers as one of the 2016 Healthiest 100 Workplaces in America as a result of that focus. Much of that has to do with Allegacy’s first general counsel Timothy Moore, who has been an essential advisor in helping Allegacy innovate. Even though Moore is still relatively new to his position (he started in August 2016), his legal and compliance teams have already transformed the lawyer within him into an attentive and accommodating decision-maker, as well as a signature member of North Carolina’s 2017 Legal Elite.
“It’s important to realize that we are an innovative organization with a visionary CEO determined to do new things and be impactful in our members’ lives,” Moore says. “Some of these things have never been done before, but I am not here to just say no. I want and need to be flexible to find solutions that work.”
This collaborative decision-making process was new to Moore, who came to Allegacy FCU from being a member at regional law firm Spilman, Thomas & Battle.
“Essentially, one needs to account for every minute of one’s day,” Moore says. “In this environment, one needs to be direct and be decisive. I said everything to the point and did not mind making decisions. Unfortunately, I might have been a little too strong in my comments or stepped on some shoes back then, but sometimes that happens in that type of environment.”
Moore says that Allegacy has a different culture, so he has needed to evolve. “If I want to succeed, then I need to learn to work within this collaborative culture,” he explains. “I cannot rightfully expect a strong, fifty-year-old organization to change to meet my needs. The onus is squarely on me. It is not easy, and I still stumble, but it is definitely worth the effort.”
At Allegacy, Moore views himself as a strategic counselor who helps the organization stay out of trouble, find solutions to problems, and fosters innovation while coloring inside of the legal lines.
“We don’t need to be aggressive because we’re not profit-driven,” he says. “We’re looking at how we can best help our members, and sometimes, a bigger loan isn’t the best option. They may be in a position where they need a smaller loan and car, so our very knowledgeable and educated staff can help them realize that.”
Moore oversees the legal and compliance departments at Allegacy. Among many other sectors, these departments encompass business ventures, contract reviews, vendor management, litigation management, policy revisions, and governance. And it goes without saying that time is in short supply.
“Like most of my fellow legal departments, we are a lean operation, but we believe in what we are doing, our company’s mission, and the credit union movement. It works,” Moore says.
It’s a tall order, but Moore says he is blessed to have an intelligent and driven legal and compliance team surrounding him.
“We don’t take saying no lightly,” he says. “We believe a solution will be found if we can all be flexible and open-minded. This usually happens because everyone in this organization is rowing in the same direction to help our members. Our Allegacy team has found ways to be creative and push the envelope while remaining within the boundaries set by our regulators. Success is all about being relevant and different. If you sit back and don’t do those things, then you won’t be around in five years.”
Another contributor to Allegacy being different and challenging the status quo is due to Pace’s leadership. “I see her as a visionary in the financial industry,” Moore says about Pace. “When she lays out her vision and personal philosophy, it is infectious. She sees helping our members within a different paradigm. It’s about putting the member first and looking at well-being in different paradigms.”
For example, Allegacy’s AllHealth Wellness account awards customers with higher interest rates on their saving accounts if they frequently exercise at the local YMCA. Moore jokes that this initiative may cause some customers to become fitness addicts, but it also stimulates many members to be more active than they would be otherwise.
“Allegacy is very proud of this account and the difference it makes in our members’ lives,” Moore says.
“Our team is finding some great innovations to continue relevancy and push the market. If you sit back and don’t do those things, you won’t be around in five years.”
Innovation will continue at Allegacy, and while Moore is excited about what the future holds, he admits it will entail long hours and include some difficult conversations.
“Anytime one wants to do something new, especially in a regulated industry like we are in, the general counsel needs to be cautious and ask difficult questions,” Moore explains. “Sometimes, this caution may be misconstrued as being a roadblock, but this is not our goal. We are always looking for the how. We want to be partners with our lines of business, but we cannot be rubber stamps.”
Moore elaborates on this further with a famous quote from General George S. Patton that, though military in origin, is often cited by many lawyers: “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”
As Moore puts it, “I am proud that we are thinking differently.”
Moore departed from a successful private practice after almost twenty years. He explains that the decision was not easy because he enjoyed his practice and the people with whom he worked, but coming to Allegacy was an opportunity he was excited to accept.
“Cathy gave me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for which I am very grateful,” Moore says. “I am the first general counsel at a billion-dollar-plus financial institution committed to innovating and helping the lives of our members and the communities where they live. For many years, I’ve looked for the right vehicle to help improve the financial strength of local communities, especially those that are disadvantaged. Being a part of Allegacy will enable me to help make that meaningful impact. This position is a dream come true. I could not be happier.”