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The Official Baldrige Blog

Where Baldrige Makes Financial Services Better

two ECU employees share a laugh in a candid photo

Photo used with permission.

Credit: Elevations Credit Union

Last year, two financial services organizations earned national recognition as Baldrige Award winners: Elevations Credit Union (ECU), headquartered in Boulder, Colorado; and PricewaterhouseCoopers Public Sector Practice (PwC PSP), based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. No other organization in the same industry had received the prestigious national award for high performance since New Mexico-based Los Alamos National Bank did so in 2000.

We recently highlighted PwC PSP’s accomplishments, so today’s post will focus on ECU. The member-owned, nonprofit credit union serves more than 106,000 people and employs 332 in four Colorado counties. It offers checking and savings accounts, auto loans, student loans, mortgages, home-equity lines of credit, business loans, credit cards, and financial planning services. And it counted assets of over $1.4 billion, gross revenue of $66 million, and net revenue of $9.5 million in 2013, shortly before applying for the Baldrige Award.

In a recent interview with a news provider within the credit union industry, ECU Vice President of Business and Community Development Dennis Paul credited his organization’s use of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence with helping it “compete more effectively in the face of stiff competition.” Following is an excerpt from the article that describes the dramatic results ECU achieved after it adopted the Baldrige framework in 2008:

Prior to [ECU’s] employing the Baldrige framework, membership growth was 1%. From 2009-2013, that number soared to 6%. In those same time periods, credit unions in Elevations’ peer group went from 3% membership growth to 1%. More importantly, the credit union became more profitable, seeing capital growth skyrocket from 1% from 2004-2008, to 13% from 2009-13. In those same periods, peer group capital remained flat at 7% growth. “For us, it’s about excellence, about developing the best possible products and services to improve the lives of our member-owners,” said Paul.

Here are examples of other gains ECU has made in various performance areas. (More great results are conveyed in the organization’s profile on the Baldrige Program's website.)

  • ECU’s wealth management rate (assets under management divided by total credit union assets) rose from just over 14 percent in 2011 to 21 percent in 2014.
  • ECU’s mortgage market production volume increased from 1,123 loans in 2011 to 2,307 in 2014 (annualized).


  • ECU’s survey results have recorded favorable trends in employee engagement and satisfaction. The rate of respondents indicating that ECU “has a winning team” increased from 68 percent in 2011 to 85 percent in 2014; the rate who agreed ECU “builds careers” increased from 58 percent to 70 percent; the proportion who agreed ECU “makes me proud to be part of this organization” increased from 82 percent to 90 percent; and the proportion who agreed that ECU “gives me the responsibility and freedom to do my job” increased from 77 percent to 88 percent in the same period.
  • As a result of ECU’s Business Process Management (BPM) methodology to foster improvement and innovation throughout the credit union, BPM has developed innovations such as Branch 2.0, a nontraditional branch concept that “utilizes a consultative approach emphasizing quality member engagement, provides financial solutions in a user friendly environment through a one-on-one advice-giving exchange, and enhances access to mobile, online and advanced-function ATM services.”
  • BPM also has enabled ECU to improve its performance on measures of process efficiency. For example, mortgage lending cycle time (days from locked to funded) decreased from 49 days in 2012 to 37 days in 2014, and consumer lending cycle time (receipt of application to time of funding) by product improved since 2013 for second mortgage, personal, auto, and Visa loans and products—even with increasing volumes. In addition, the monthly rate of mortgage loans per closer increased from 90 in 2012 to 100 in 2014, compared to a national benchmark of 72.


About the author

Christine Schaefer

Christine Schaefer is a longtime staff member of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP). Her work has focused on producing BPEP publications and communications. She also has been highly involved in the Baldrige Award process, Baldrige examiner training, and other offerings of the program.

She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Virginia, where she was an Echols Scholar and a double major, receiving highest distinction for her thesis in the interdisciplinary Political & Social Thought Program. She also has a master's degree from Georgetown University, where her studies and thesis focused on social and public policy issues. 

When not working, she sits in traffic in one of the most congested regions of the country, receives consolation from her rescued beagles, writes poetry, practices hot yoga, and tries to cultivate a foundation for three kids to direct their own lifelong learning (and to PLEASE STOP YELLING at each other—after all, we'll never end wars if we can't even make peace at home!).

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