With member-owners topping 2 million and assets of more than $19 billion, the world’s largest credit union – Vienna, VA-based Navy Federal Credit Union– draws its strength from a union of resources and its “people helping people” philosophy. According to the year-end 2002 Report from the Chairman [John A. Lockard] and the President [Brian L. McDonnell], “We not only achieved solid financial results, but also took steps to expand our reach to additional members and improve our service efficiency. … Our strategy of combining fiscal responsibility with prudent care in knowing and serving our members remained our primary focus in 2002, as it has over our 70-year history. … The business outlook for financial services is, as always, characterized by uncertainty. But given the soundness of our credit union and the capabilities of our 4,000-plus employees serving members worldwide, we approach the year  with confidence. … We will accomplish [our goals] by staying true to our shared core values and striving to achieve the highest levels of member satisfaction.”
Such satisfaction is delivered through a number of financial products, services, and enhancements, including the facilities in which members manage their dollars and fund their futures. It’s also evident in the environment in which the individuals who serve the members – those 4,000-plus employees – work. Two separate, yet complementary, facilities units report through one of two Navy Federal facility management channels (part of a current and ongoing company-wide organizational realignment): Headquarters Facility Management (HQFM), which is accountable to the support channel for the internal (employee) customer, and Field Office Facility Management (FOFM), which reports to the operations channel for the external (member) customer.
In Touch and in Control
Twenty-four/seven operations, 1 million-plus square feet of space, and approximately 2,700 employees may be some of the stats of Navy Federal’s Vienna, VA, headquarters site, but nothing there is ever stat-ic. A staff of approximately 65 facilities professionals (HQFM) is charged with creating and maintaining a physical environment that maximizes worker comfort and productivity. The bonus? “It’s also a place they take pride in,” says Jim Eckloff, vice president, HQFM, citing the attractive layout and finishes, amenities such as a fitness center and full-service cafeteria, and the beautifully landscaped 42-acre site featuring a one-mile walking trail.
Here, the facilities activities are divided into respective “shops,” in which the talents of individual staff can be employed to greatest advantage. Stacey Purinton, facility manager, Headquarters, explains:
“Shop 2 – that’s the Facility Operations Center (FOC); they are the eyes and ears [of the organization] 24/7. If anything goes wrong with the building, they will take the necessary emergency actions. They run the work order system as well. Whenever anybody has a complaint, it is directed to the FOC where a work order is created and dispatched. The same holds true for our preventive maintenance schedules.
“Shop 3 is Telelift operation and maintenance. This system runs on about two miles of track throughout the building, and is used to deliver and send both internal and external mail.
“Shop 4 is Building Services – mainly carpenters who maintain the structure and interiors, do remodeling work, and move people as needed. They also facilitate corporate functions and training activities by performing various room setups and reconfiguring meeting space.
“Shop 5 is Electrical Services, which runs all of the electrical, UPS, and standby power stems in our 480-volt facility.
“Shop 6 is Grounds Maintenance which cares for 42 acres of grounds landscaping, and provides snow removal in the winter.
“The last shop, Shop 8, is Mechanical Services, comprised of HVAC technicians and plumbers who support the air-conditioning and ventilation, food service equipment, plumbing, and fire protection systems.
“All in all, each group does a fantastic job. It’s a bit of a juggling act to make sure our customers are happy, but we’ve found the right fit [of people] and we try to give them the right resources to help them do their jobs really well.”
Both strategically and tactically, Eckloff and Purinton have found a balance between saving money without sacrificing services. A recent “tweaking” of the mechanical systems, for instance, has resulted in an annual savings of 700,000 kilowatt-hours of power. Lighting schedules, where appropriate, continue to directly impact the bottom line. “With respect to ongoing changes and the major organizational realignment – which will require significant changes in office layouts and locations over the next year – the in-house space management team coordinates, designs, and communicates with customers on their requirements,” adds Eckloff. The physical coordination of security and life-safety are priority No. 1, while the reliability of mission-critical functions and business continuity has been enhanced through the HQ renovation and expansion in the late 1990s (see “An HQ of Substance,” below) and is tested and monitored daily through the FOC.
It’s also a balance of in-house support and contracted services, where appropriate. Eckloff credits former Navy Federal Facilities Manager Maury Keiser (now retired) with laying the substantial groundwork necessary to achieve facilities-related goals. Notes Eckloff, “It’s about looking for the root cause of problems and eliminating them, not just treating the symptoms.” Purinton concurs with this assessment, adding, “It’s comes down to people. I have a great, experienced staff. They’re the ones who really make it happen day in and day out.”
Taking Stock and Making it Happen
From sea to shining sea, the 100 field office locations – 98 of which are Member Service Centers (MSC “branches”) – and an online network of 268 automatic teller machines (ATMs) are developed, managed, and maintained by the seven-person Field Office Facility Management (FOFM) staff in their offices in Vienna, VA. Key to their smooth (and fiscally responsible) operation is communication, says Sandy Oliver, associate vice president, FOFM.
“Our on-site managers are spread all over the world, and we have to rely on them to help us identify facilities-related situations and problems, since the expertise is centralized here in Vienna. As a result, it’s so important to have very established, standardized ways in which to interact and communicate with them,” she explains.
Communication takes the form of e-mails, faxes, and the telephone, as well as on-site visits (which follow a very distinct checklist and are often bundled with several other area visits to maximize budgetary dollars). Digital cameras document an issue, allowing photographs in Guam, for instance, to be easily uploaded by e-mail to the Vienna staff for timely review and remedial response. Preventive maintenance contracts are a necessary – and proactive – staple in keeping field operations equipment online all the time.
So, how hard can it be? Isn’t everything the same?
No, say Oliver and FOFM Assistant Manager Chris Colgan – and that’s the beauty of Navy Federal. Although ATMs follow a similar format, whether prefab kiosk, standalone surround, or storefront locations, the group at FOFM prides itself on creating a special “experience” for each of its Member Service Centers directly tied to its geography through colors, finishes, and artwork. “In fact,” adds Oliver, “we can’t do a cookie-cutter look on the inside because we don’t have the luxury of cookie-cutter buildings.” Some locations are created through available space on a military base, while others might be standalone, inline, or in an office building.
Conversely, bundling operational services makes sense, notes Colgan, especially with respect to cleaning and preventive/predictive maintenance. “We have a standard format, and we send it to every office yearly and make sure [the on-site managers] follow a specific program,” he says. “We also handle all the contracts as far as pest control, janitorial services, etc., and we work with our managers to find local companies who provide services such as HVAC maintenance, and give them our specs for recurring monthly and yearly service while managing the contracts back in Vienna.”
FOFM is working diligently on getting positioned for an eventual remote work order system – an important communication tool that will ultimately afford greater economies of time and distribution of resources. Currently, the group – with the assistance of college interns and high-school seasonals – is converting all floorplans to electronic formats and organizing them to set standards. At the same time, project binders for every location are being created, which include hard copies of leases; a particular MSC’s furniture inventory, finish schedules, and renovation documentation; and other pertinent data. “It’s a time-intensive process,” says Oliver, “but will ultimately pay big dividends during upgrades or replacement of building systems or damaged materials.”
However, FOFM follows a particular life-cycle philosophy – an extension of the added-value approach of former Navy Federal Facilities Manager Maury Keiser. “When we design buildings now, it’s much more holistic [and focuses on] the life of the building,” says Oliver, citing her expectation of products that will last over a 10- to 15-year building cycle. “We’re looking at new ways to save money over the long term,” she says, “not just building something cheap in the short term.
“Every dollar we spend is a member’s dollar – because they own the credit union and its assets. If I waste money or make a mistake, there’s a Sailor, Marine, or officer that has just lost value. So we’re very concerned. Everything we do really goes back to member service – and we can’t reiterate that enough.”
For the facilities operations at Navy Federal Credit Union – both at headquarters and throughout the field – the payoff is entirely about maximizing return on investment. The smart money, therefore, is on the resources and resourcefulness of the savvy Navy Federal facilities professionals – each of whom is tasked to enrich the lives of member-owners and employees alike.
Linda K. Monroe (email@example.com) is editorial director at Buildings magazine.
An HQ of Substance
Built in three phases over a 20-year period, the headquarters complex of Navy Federal Credit Union, Vienna, VA, tells its own tale of architectural prowess, as well as company philosophy. An impressive $60 million expansion and renovation completed in 1997 has brought the building full circle to its modern-day persona – one that complements the clean, bold look of the centrally located Phase I (circa 1977) with the more graceful elegance of the barrel-vaulted Phase II. The East Addition, a smaller-scaled expansion located behind Phase II, was created to house continuing education and training classes.
According to the Fall 1997 issue of Navy Federal’s employee magazine From the Bridge, Phase III, the North Addition, makes up approximately one-half the building’s mass and encompasses more than 500,000 square feet of space. “Round brick columns, pink granite details, and bronzed aluminum window trim and roofs cohesively blend with the earlier structures. Oversized windows lend an airy look and feel and, combined with the multi-level façade, lessen the overall bulk of the structure. The entrance canopy incorporates a bay-windowed break room upstairs while simultaneously using large windows to reinforce the massiveness of the entrance.
“Inside Phase III, hidden behind this gracious façade, are open spaces that are both efficiently organized and expansive. … Curved ceilings along walkways that run along windows … are cupped toward the windows to best capture and reflect the natural light. … Tucked in along the massive windows of the façade, the [front] concourse is built to efficiently move large numbers of people laterally through all phases of the structure.
“Perhaps the crowning glory of the entire structure is the cafeteria, an architectural celebration that provides a perfect complement to the commodious work areas while extending the nautical feeling found in the Phase II atrium. The centerpiece is a three-and-one-half-story atrium with a wall of windows that spans its full height, bringing the outside in and flooding the core seating area with natural illumination.”