Originally from Schererville, Ind., Stephanie Veit attended Purdue University where she received her bachelor’s in dietetics, nutrition-fitness and health in 1999. She married her husband, Derek, shortly thereafter and moved to Milwaukee for a period of time and returned to Derek’s hometown of Fort Wayne in 2002. Within months, she saw a job post for a member sales representative at 3Rivers Federal Credit Union. Twelve years and several leadership positions later, Veit holds one of only three commercial lender positions for the institution.
She says that 3Rivers FCU has been a great employer, allowing her room to grow professionally, and giving her flexibility to develop her career, as well as expand her personal interests in the nonprofit arena, all while raising her family that includes two school-aged boys.
How did you get involved in the business of commercial lending?
When I first started at 3Rivers, I was on the consumer (or what we call the retail) side of things, helping individuals with their financial needs. Within eight years, I had moved from a member sales position to branch sales manager, regional manager and assistant vice president of Branch Sales. Moving to the commercial or business-to-business banking side in 2010 was a natural transition for continued growth in the organization. It’s a bit different, but the leadership at 3Rivers gives me the education, training and support I need to be successful.
Explain how commercial lending works.
3Rivers has a full-service, commercial lending practice that has been in business since about 2004, and we serve all areas of our seven county charter (Allen, Adams, DeKalb, Huntington, Noble, Wells and Whitley). We offer lending products such as real estate loans, equipment loans and lines of credit, while also offering savings and deposit solutions such as remote deposit capture (businesses scan in their daily check deposits on their own in-house equipment instead of going to the bank), online access, health savings accounts and employee direct deposit. Our business members love that they can have all the services of a large financial institution, while experiencing the benefits and great service of a credit union.
What is the current lending climate in Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana?
Like many other industries that were affected by the recession of 2008 and 2009, we are seeing a substantial upswing in business. Businesses need cash for expansion and growth. 3Rivers saw double digit growth in commercial lending last year. We now have over 68,000 members, with 17 locations in Indiana and one in St. Mary’s, Ohio, that makes us very accessible. And our location at The Harrison was a strategic move to get us more involved with the growth and activity taking place downtown. We’d never had a location here, but it makes sense now that many of our members are working and living downtown.
Are there significant differences between banks and credit unions?
I think there are two distinctive differences. First, every decision we make is based on the question, “Will this improve our member experience?” Whether that is developing our team members, simplifying solutions or integrating technology, we always seek to answer this question.
Second, credit unions are cooperatives based on the philosophy of people helping people. Rather than being a customer, you become a member or shareholder of the company. Since our members are the owners, if we have a successful year, they reap the rewards of that success in the form of reduced loan rates or higher savings rates. We are insured through the National Credit Union Association, and we are the largest credit union in Fort Wayne. For those who may not know it, 3Rivers actually began as the sole financial institution for International Harvester in 1935. It was originally housed in International Harvester’s corporate headquarters.
What do you enjoy most about living in Fort Wayne?
Even though I’m not originally from here, I have discovered that Fort Wayne is just the right size; it’s not too big, and not too small. There are so many things to do and so many ways to get involved, regardless of your age, family status or interests. My professional connections have included being an ambassador for the United Way, volunteering for the Women’s Bureau’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes campaign, being a board member of Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana (YLNI) and a member of the downtown Rotary Club.