October 17, 2019

Finance

Jax Federal's new CEO Joe Nowland talks expansion strategy

Amy Martinez | 9/25/2019

This month, Jax Federal Credit Union will open its ninth location in Northeast Florida after acquiring and renovating a vacant bank-branch building in Jacksonville’s Southside.

Founded in 1935, Jax has about $404 million in assets and 37,000 members. Membership — originally limited to federal employees — is open to anyone in five counties in Northeast Florida: Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns.

Jax President and CEO Joe Nowland, who recently succeeded the credit union’s retired longtime leader, Gerri Sexsion, says he hopes to acquire several more branch locations in the next year. Nowland, previously chief business services officer at VyStar Credit Union in Jacksonville, spoke to FLORIDA TREND about Jax’s growth plans:

  • Strategy: We have to grow to continue to become more efficient, and that efficiency allows us to do more things. We’re continuing to build or acquire brick-and-mortar branches, and we’re looking to expand our ATMs. There’s no question Jax Federal is in an expansion and acquisition mode.
  • Challenges: It’s hard for smaller credit unions and banks. Regulatory requirements are extremely expensive. Technology is very expensive, and you’re continuing to chase the larger organizations. It’s tough to hire talent. I’ll give you a great example. When you have three or four branches, you may not be able to hire an executive to manage the branch network efficiently. When you get to our size, you’re able to hire a seasoned banking executive to help you lead your branch network the best way possible. In smaller organizations, you’ll see one person doing three or four things that have nothing to do with each other.
  • Credit Union-Bank Deals: The regulatory and compliance requirements on banks are getting harder to meet. If you’re going to sell a small bank, now is the time to do it, particularly if the economy slows down. On the flip side, this gives credit unions a platform to quicken their pace of expansion. Compliance is tough no matter what, but regulators in the credit union world are much more collaborative in helping us meet our members’ needs.
  • Background: I come from a low-income family. I’m fifth-generation military. My father was drafted in Vietnam. We didn’t have anything. My mom made my clothes until junior high. I get excited about helping people. Our focus is not on competing; it’s on how can we help our members. We want to provide services to our members how, when and where they want them.
  • Technology: We’re in the middle of developing and implementing a new system that will allow our members to apply for loans in a digital environment and speed up the process for them. Next year, we’ll kick off implementation of a system to allow our members to digitally open checking, money market or savings accounts in a very fluid and quick process.
  • Outlook: Florida from an economic standpoint is doing wonderfully. Unemployment is extremely low. Businesses are coming to Jacksonville, and businesses are opening in Northeast Florida. The environment is ripe for us, and we’re trying to take advantage of it.

 

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