Tuesday, October 9, 2007

What Makes FICCO Unique?

The growth of FICCO in terms of membership, assets and capital is phenomenal. As of end of May 2007, our coop boasts of almost 97,000 members, resources of P 2.1 billion, and share capital of P 830 million. With the opening of its Davao Branch last 21 May 2007, FICCO now has twenty five offices spread in Northern, Southern and Eastern Mindanao. And two more are coming up: Bayugan, Agusan Sur and Maranding, Lanao Norte branches.

Can we define the uniqueness of FICCO by the number of its members? Or maybe by the size of its capital and assets? We can, but it will not provide the deeper reasons 1,000 to 1,500 people join our coop every month. It will not also explain why total assets posted an average annual growth of 26% during the last five years; nor would it justify the fact that during the last five months, its capital grew, on the average, by P19 million per month.

Let us look at more closely the factors that drive FICCO’s continuing growth. The major reason more and more people join FICCO is its army of satisfied members who, in turn, convince others to join. The new members add their contributions to the capital pool. The existing members, because of their satisfaction, also continue to build up their deposits. These, together, push resources upward and the trend continues.

Why are the members satisfied with FICCO? To claim that it is due to fast and courteous service would probably elicit raised eyebrows. The increase in membership overstretches manpower and support facilities that forced some branches to give priority numbers. The coop still has no ATM machines.

Rather, members’ satisfaction emanates from FICCO’s diversified product lines, fast loan release (P 25,000 in 5 minutes or less), mutual aid services, competitive pricing, high returns, transparency, etc.. Some quarters may argue that these are easily emulated, so nothing is really unique. But those who jump to that conclusion miss important points. First is the interplay of all those factors at FICCO. Some coops may have three or four of those factors, but the others are still “works-in-progress”. Second, over the years, through trial and error, successes and failures, FICCO has developed its own unique way of doing things. Combined, we call this the FICCO culture.

Applied to institutions, culture is defined as the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution. This set of values has gradually seeped into almost all aspects of FICCO’s operations and has shaped its character which, in turn, defined its image and public perception. This culture is actually anchored on the following values or practices:

Total Member Care

  • Quality service – FICCO endeavors to continuously upgrade its services and makes them responsive to the needs of the members. Members feel that joining FICCO is a value-added undertaking.
  • Service with Personal Touch – The members feel the personal connection with the personnel of FICCO because the latter are willing to go out of their way to serve them with dignity and respect, and satisfy their needs.
  • Active Participation of Grateful Members – The members go out of their way to help FICCO: by spreading the virtues of the coop through word of mouth, by lighting the unlighted candles of opportunities, by lending their time, effort, and, at times, even their resources in FICCO activities without expecting anything in return.

Good Governance:

  • Stewardship and Ownership – The officers and management staff run FICCO like owners who are always looking for ways to improve the business. They are also aware of their role as prudent custodians of the resources entrusted to them by the members.
  • Transparency, Accountability and Democracy – The actions of the leaders and management are open to scrutiny by any member. The records of the coop are open to all. Even if the majority rules, the voice of the minority (including the few sour-grapes) is listened to.
  • Common good – All the members, big or small, are treated equally and policies are formulated with the good of the majority in mind. While the ugly head of vested interests do creep in from time to time, it is easily checked and put in its proper place.
  • Recognition of Rights and Responsibilities – The members are vigilant of their rights and privileges, but they also recognize their responsibilities as members in good standing.

Defining Values

  • Sacrifice – The people constituting FICCO are willing to go out of their comfort zones to pursue the greater good.
  • Discipline – Everyone at FICCO, without exception, diligently observes policies. As a measure of respect for everyone, meetings and other activities start on time.
  • Volunteerism, not opportunism – Officers contribute their time and skills without counting the cost, nor are they expecting commensurate rewards. In this era of heightened competition, volunteerism is FICCO’s competitive advantage. In turn, the staff renders service not just as 8 to 5 employees.
  • Lean organization – The hiring of staff is based on need. FICCO never had a bloated bureaucracy.
  • Control costs and expenses – “Spartan” and “minimalist” are words that best described the way FICCO operates. It avoids frills and ostentatious displays. Junket is taboo. It always seeks for the best deal.
  • High returns to members – FICCO’s dividend rates may not be at par with closed-type cooperatives that usually do not pay rent and other utility expenses but it is definitely higher than time deposit rates. And the patronage refund really reduces the cost of doing business with the coop. What made these feats even more remarkable is the fact that the price of its services is very competitive even compared with the big banks. No wonder its members deposit and patronize its services more.
  • Aggressive yet sure-footed – FICCO is the pioneer in branching out in Mindanao, yet it did not open branches based on whims. Rather, it brought its services to places where there are already FICCO members. Thus, FICCO branches break-even just a few months after the opening date.

The above (and many more) are the values, attitudes, goals and practices shared by the people running and constituting FICCO. It can be summed up in one word: COMMITMENT. The commitment of the leaders, personnel, and the members of FICCO brings out a synergetic environment that propels the growth and success of the coop. This is the culture that pervades at FICCO. And this culture is what makes FICCO unique! (IB Daba)

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