Credit to the Industry
Technology and a 24/7 contact center have made PSCU the nation's
largest credit union service organization.
years ago the nation's largest credit union service organization
(CUSO) was an idea ready to happen. At that time credit
unions had a limited playing field in the financial services
arena. To extend their services the chief executives of
five large credit unions GTE Federal Credit Union,
Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union, Pinellas County Teachers
Credit Union, Publix Employees Federal Credit Union and
Railroad and Industrial Federal Credit Union formed Payment
Systems for Credit Unions (PSCU) in St. Petersburg.
Serlo, president at St. Petersburg-based PSCU, has been
expanding the financial services arena for credit unions.
His latest initiative is electronic commerce.
Photo: Robin Donina Serne
are a credit card service company," explains Dave Serlo,
PSCU's president and first employee. "We were established
to help credit unions into the business of issuing cards
to compete with larger financial institutions."
as a not-for-profit company in Florida in 1977, PSCU functions
as a cooperative. "The credit unions we serve are owners
of this company," Serlo says. "They pay a nominal entrance
fee (ranging from $2,000 to $7,500) and we provide services
exclusively to the owners of this company."
extension of credit card services led to the offering of
debit cards to credit union members. For the first 10 years
PSCU outsourced the processing of transactions and customer
service. "Then we shifted gears in 1987," says Serlo. "We
saw a need to help the credit unions become more competitive."
led to the choice of Omaha-based First Data Resources Corp.,
"the largest credit and debit card processor in the world,"
Serlo says. "They have a very feature-rich system. This
gave us the opportunity to control our quality of service
the processing of transactions well placed, the next move
was to bring customer service in-house. In 1989 PSCU opened
a 60-person contact center in Novi, Mich., and set up additional
regional offices in Jacksonville, Honolulu and Herndon,
Va. "We immediately became a 24/7 operation," says Serlo.
"This has been a strategic means for us to attract and retain
adds that this customer service center was among the first
in the financial services industry to operate outside normal
business hours. "Our credit unions could compete better
against other financial institutions," he says. "They were
able to grow to their fullest potential and we attracted
other credit unions to participate."
years later that contact center relocated to St. Petersburg.
"We were implementing image processing and it was more cost
effective to do locally," Serlo says. "We also established
a back-up center in Jacksonville. We were very successful
at this point in our history with our credit and debit card
services. We established ourselves as a leader in call center
activity due to our technology."
at this time that PSCU occupied its current headquarters
at Carillon in the Gateway area of St. Petersburg. The cooperative
bought an 85,000-square-foot building that had formerly
been occupied by Florida Federal Savings & Loan. "It was
held by the Resolution Trust Corp.," says Serlo. "We were
able to acquire it when the real estate market was down.
Our offer included the building and land plus five or six
acres next door for future growth."
capital investment of $3.1 million plus another $2 million
for renovating the building created the current headquarters
for PSCU. And Serlo counts his good fortune for the company's
location in the Gateway area. "We probably couldn't afford
this real estate today," he says.
transaction would fit the growth needs of PSCU, "we thought
for 10 years," says Serlo. "But in four or five years it
became obvious that we would need another building. Our
additional acreage was a blessing."
came development of the $15-million, 100,000-square-foot
building that has been dedicated for use as the contact
center. When not handling the business of customer service,
PSCU employees have access to an entertainment center, fitness
center and a two-story Internet café. A second café at the
administrative building has been finished to resemble the
interior of a Chili's restaurant. All of this detail has
been built into the headquarters campus to help employees
lead a stress-free life, as much as possible, at work. "When
we hire an employee, we plan to keep them for their entire
career," says Serlo.
philosophy appears to be working. Call centers historically
have turnover rates of 50 to 60 percent but PSCU's turnover
is at about 28 percent.
company has grown to 820 employees and 500 credit unions
representing 6.4-million cardholders. "We expect 900 employees
by the end of this year," says Serlo.
revenue rose 18 percent to $265 million in 2000. The firm
hasn't released 2001 figures, which are currently being
audited, but its NewsLine publication reports that last
year's income is expected to be the best in the company's
history. "We had growth of 19 to 20 percent in 2001," Serlo
says. "We anticipate 22 percent in growth of revenue this
company is in the process of executing its next strategy
for growth. It is a twofold thrust. First, PSCU is expanding
the range of services offered to member credit unions. This
includes electronic commerce, collection services on credit
cards, lending and telemarketing services. "There's a growing
interest in electronic banking," says Serlo. "This is a
new market not yet tapped and it's a wise way for us to
meet our growth goals."
second initiative under way is the closing of regional offices
in Jacksonville, Michigan, Honolulu and Virginia. PSCU is
establishing a second contact center in Phoenix. "One of
the markets underdeveloped for us is the West Coast, California
specifically," Serlo says. "The Phoenix office gives us
employees losing their jobs due to the closing of regional
offices have been offered the opportunity to relocate to
either St. Petersburg or Phoenix, including a trip with
their spouse to either or both locations in order to make
an informed decision. "We've been able to retain 67 percent
of the employees adversely affected by this business decision,"
says Serlo. "Collectively this represents 400 years of institutional
knowledge. This is key not to disrupt the level of our service."
of service is the reason the credit unions established PSCU.
"PSCU exists to serve its credit unions because we exist
to serve our members," says Wendell "Bucky" Sebastian, president
and CEO at GTE Federal Credit Union in Tampa. "Its growth
is assured because its underlying institutions have the
brightest possible futures."
statistics show that 85 million people belong to 10,366
credit unions in this nation. "There will be 100-million
people in 10 years," says Serlo.
a consolidation is occurring among those credit unions.
"Industry experts think the consolidation process will bottom
at 7,500 to 8,500 credit unions," Serlo says. "This is good
for our owner profile of larger-sized credit unions."
edge does PSCU provide a credit union like GTE's? "We've
outsourced all of our plastic card business to PSCU," Sebastian
says. "They have an expertise that would be difficult if
not possible, if not affordable to have on our own. It would
be too expensive to do all the things they do for us and
we couldn't have the expertise of staff here that they can
have when the cost is spread over 500 credit unions."
volume continues to grow as credit unions increase their
membership. "We add probably 1,000 members a month," says
Sebastian. "As we grow PSCU grows."