Desert Financial takes pride in its mission to share success with its members, employees and the Valley community. In 2018, the credit union introduced cash-back bonuses for members; added new employee benefits such as paid parental leave; and supported our community through fundraisers, grants, scholarships and volunteer projects. The total of these efforts has exceeded $7 million for the year.
In the past year, two of the most significant challenges we needed to address were brand confusion and an uncertain financial services landscape.
The name Desert Schools created an identity issue that made it difficult to compete in the financial market. From our research, we knew that more than just an educational campaign was needed to overcome this challenge, which led us to the decision to rebrand. Throughout the rebranding process, we used feedback and insights from our members and employees to guide our name selection process. We found that both groups understood the need to rebrand, but that both already had strong, positive feelings toward the brand. Because of this, we wanted to ensure that certain elements (like the color blue and the word “desert”) were retained in order to keep brand affinity with our already established constituents. With the help of our community, we decided to become Desert Financial. Members and employees alike said the new name made sense for us and clarified what we do as an organization. Coming up on one year under the new brand, we are already seeing fantastic results and are excited to see what the future holds.
The other challenge was the changing financial services industry. We believe the business model that made us successful for the last 79 years will not be the same one that leads to success in the future. While none of us knows exactly what this will look like in the end, we can’t sit still and wait until it’s clear or we’ll end up like Blockbuster Video or Kodak.
Like most businesses today, we are focusing on digital transformation in order to provide a great experience for our members across all mediums. However, we’re also identifying new sources of business for the credit union. We’ve created two new subsidiary companies to provide services to other credit unions that may not have certain resources or expertise in-house. The first is SwitchThink Solutions, an IT company, and the second is Define Mortgage Solutions, offering mortgages and mortgage servicing to other credit unions. We believe that forming these companies can be key for Desert Financial’s future success, and can help other credit unions compete in today’s environment.
In addition to addressing these challenges, we also took the opportunity in 2018 to focus on our culture, to refine our mission, vision and values, and to get all of our employees involved. Our mission is sharing success with our members, employees and our community. Our vision is to make lives better through the work we do. Our values are personal drive, passion to help, big thinking, team mindset and people smarts. Our employees have whole-heartedly embraced our mission, vision and values and this has resulted in a renewed cohesiveness and excitement across our organization. Working on culture may sound like fluffy stuff to some people, but this is actually the hard work that can help take an organization from good to great.
It’s such an exciting time to be a part of Desert Financial Credit Union and I’m honored to be able to lead a talented and passionate team.
About Desert Financial Credit Union
Celebrating its 79th year in Arizona, Desert Financial Credit Union is Arizona’s largest credit union, with $4 billion in assets, more than 330,000 members and 48 locations across the Valley.
Originally named “AEA #1 Federal Credit Union,” Desert Financial was chartered in 1939 by 15 school teachers who pulled together $78.75 to start a credit union to serve the financial needs of area teachers. In 1972, the credit union rebranded to Desert Schools Credit Union to better convey which market they served.
In 2004, Desert Schools expanded its charter to serve three Arizona counties (Maricopa, Gila and Pinal) in order to serve the entirety of the Phoenix metropolitan market.
To address misconceptions that the credit union served only members of the education community, in 2018, Desert Schools Credit Union rebranded to become Desert Financial Credit Union. The rebranding efforts were promoted through a locally aired commercial during Super Bowl LII, featuring Phoenix native Alice Cooper singing his hit song “School’s Out.”
Year founded in the Valley: 1939
Top local executive/position: Jeff Meshey, President & CEO
Number of years with company: 24 years
Number of Valley employees: 1,100+
Company website: www.desertfinancial.com
Top 5 services/products:
- Savings and checking accounts
- Home equity loans
- Mortgage (and first mortgage) loans
- Business loans
- Vehicle loans
Greatest 2018 milestone for the company: Giving back more than $7 million to members, employees and the community