FHLBank Atlanta is a Trailblazer

Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta is a Trailblazer, Empowering Employees to Empower Communities

 

“We don’t have an inventory of products, like credit cards, that we have to sell,” said Scott Brennan, Director of Sales at the FHLBank Atlanta. “We are strategic partners who find it really rewarding to build communities. Our work is tied to people’s livelihood.”

The Federal Home Loan Bank System (FHLBanks) is a cooperative structured enterprise that lends to commercial banks, credit unions, insurance companies, and various other financial institutions, helping ensure that they can serve as reliable sources of liquidity for communities nationwide.*

 

A nation of local lenders.

There are 11 FHLBank districts nationwide, including FHLBank Atlanta that covers Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Each FHLBank focuses on lending to institutions that build and strengthen the local community, yet each manages that mission independently.

“Because we are a cooperative, we’re owned by our customers. And in Atlanta, that mix includes everything from name brand commercial banks to a single-office credit union that supports a local church,” said Brennan. “We take our role as their trusted advisors very seriously; the guidance we give and the decisions we make will have long term implications not necessarily for the Bank, but more so for our members.”

This model creates a unique dynamic between FHLBank Atlanta and its members. Brennan and the rest of the FHLBank Atlanta team are solely focused on meeting members’ business and funding needs and on making smart investments that ultimately create more value for members.

 

However, Brennan and team have to compete against other entities if they are going to be successful in meeting the funding needs of the Bank's members. “Just because they own us doesn’t mean they have to work with us,” said Brennan. “As customers, our members are looking for the best option. And there are a lot of options for sourcing funding, so it’s really important that we understand who they are and what they need so that we can build lasting relationships.”  

And this mindset proved to be especially important coming out of the financial crisis in 2008.

Data becomes the key differentiator.

“After the recession, we knew we wanted to intensify our focus on the customer as a way to rebuild trust in the financial services industry,” said Brennan. And at a time when smartphones were emerging as the next household staple, social media platforms were redefining what it meant to be connected to one another, and services were starting to be delivered at the speed of an app “data was the way to do that. [Members] expect as much information as possible throughout whatever service we are providing them, and so we had to demonstrate our subject matter expertise across multiple disciplines.”

The team started going down the path of business intelligence, capturing the kind of data they needed to better serve members. This effort included pulling together its own information—such as historical tranactions with a given member that happened to be stored in various systems across the Bank—along with more colorful information about the changing market, FDIC or regulatory data, information found on members' websites, news stories, and so on.

Next, the Bank had to determine how to best manage all this data, asking questions like what’s the best way to make any customer-facing employee aware of all details, at all times and what do we need to learn or leverage to make us faster, better, more efficient?

“We set out looking for the best CRM for FHLBank Atlanta, and it happened to sit on the cloud.”

FHLBank Atlanta builds a strategic platform on the cloud.

Brennan and team partnered up with the Bank’s IT organization to build a relationship management platform on Salesforce Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and Marketing Cloud. It stores all information about a given member in a profile-like setting, addressing the Bank’s data management needs while also fostering collaboration among customer-facing employees and opening up mobile access – a mission-critical capability for teams like Brennan’s that spend an ample amount of time away from their desks.

  • Data management: the new CRM runs in parallel with the Bank’s legacy systems and maps to its data warehouse, giving Brennan and team a way to pull historical information into a single view. Marketing teams use this to gather insights about zeitgeists in the market, and fuel outreach efforts accordingly. Sales teams use this to establish not only their expertise with the customer at hand, but also their understanding of the market, strengthening the Bank’s relationship with its members. “If our reps are able to talk about what’s going on across our entire footprint, not just one community, it adds a whole lot to our credibility,” said Brennan. Together, customer facing teams demonstrate alignment, speaking with a stronger, more unified voice.
 

5 Best Practices from FHLBank Atlanta

The line-of-business and IT organizations partnered up to build FHLBank Atlanta’s relationship management platform. This is one of many best practices demonstrated in the work.
  • Collaboration: “We meet frequently – we have sales meetings once a week with two different groups. And in those meetings, we go around the room and find out what’s happening in, say, Virginia that might translate to North Carolina. Those meetings were effective before, but not everyone was able to meet every time because they were on the road, and sometimes it’s hard to remember every conversation you’ve had with a member over the past week,” said Brennan. “Now, we’re continuing to have those meetings, but they’re based on data we’re inputting into the CRM real-time, so nothing is slipping through the cracks.”
  • Mobile access: “A few months ago, one of our sales reps was in Alabama for a few days for a customer meeting, which ended up getting cancelled. So, all of a sudden he found himself with a window of time and nothing to do with it. And he was out of the office, so wouldn’t have had access to pull the information he’d need to make a meaningful sales call,” said Brennan. “But with the new CRM in place, he was able to pull all the information he needed, contact the member, and set up a really productive sales call from his iPad on the fly. That never would have happened before. He may have been able to set up a handshake or update meeting, but not something that would have provided the kind of value he was able to provide.” 

Real results deliver meaningful impact. Fast.

Prior to the Bank’s move to the cloud, letters of credit used to take an average of six months to initiate, process, and issue. “That same process now takes only three to four weeks because it’s really clear who is owning each particular step in the process. It’s all captured in a tab in the record,” said Brennan. As a result, loans are confirmed faster, building starts sooner, and communities grow stronger, bringing to life the pride FHLBank Atlanta employees take in their mission.
 

See how this work directly impacts the mission

Scott Brennan and the FHLBank Atlanta team join us to share more perspective, impacts, and takeaways this work has brought to its members, its community, and its mission. 

There were also noticeable benefits, internally speaking. All of the data the teams pull in preparation for a sales call—the aforementioned FDIC data, news stories, etc.—used to produce a stack of paper that was an inch thick. “The platform has cut all of that out, because it’s all pulled into our new CRM. Now, that prep doesn’t need to happen in office time – it can happen on a plane, at home, en route to a call,” freeing up more time and energy for the Bank to focus its efforts on the members and communities it serves, as opposed to the clerical work surrounding the mission.

“This all changed the conversation from being just about ‘how do we take member information to make sales and marketing better’ to ‘how do we take member information and make everything we do at the Bank better?’”

 

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