David Brock’s career is the quintessential story of someone who started at the bottom and worked his way to the top. Along the way, Brock gained experience in nearly every facet of the credit union movement, equipping himself with the expertise and empathy that it takes to become an effective leader.
Recently celebrating his 40th year in CUs, Brock, CCUE, CCE, CIE, started as a file clerk at a Tennessee CU, advanced steadily and has served as president/CEO of Community Credit Union of Florida, Rockledge, Fla., since 1992.
“I’ve always thought it was helpful that I started at the lowest-level job at the credit union,” says Brock, a longtime CUES member. “At some point in my career, I’ve done nearly every job, and I think that’s given me a lot of workplace credibility. I think my staff probably has more appreciation for me because they know that at some point I’ve done what they’re doing now.”
During CEO/Executive Team Network last month in Savannah, Ga., Brock was recognized as CUES’ 2016 Outstanding Chief Executive, an award honoring CEOs who display professional achievement, support employee motivation and are dedicated to their communities. Betty Dunn, chair of Community CU’s board, which belongs to the Center for Credit Union Board Excellence, affirms that Brock excels.
“David is the consummate CU professional,” she says. “He’s committed to the credit union philosophy, and he attempts through his many credit union, community and political contacts to spread the credit union word and to emphasize our status as not-for-profit cooperatives owned by and operated for the benefit of our members.”
In fact, it is the not-for-profit, people-helping-people aspect of CUs that drew Brock.
“The financial cooperative has always been a fascinating model to me,” he says. “I grew up as a preacher’s kid, so I really like the dimension of helping other people. That’s what my dad spent his entire life doing, and even now at 97 years old, he still likes helping people. So, that’s inculcated in me. It’s what jazzes me up every day. You can practice the art of business to the highest level, but at the end of the day, you invest your entire heart in this business so that you can help people improve the quality of their lives.”
A Steady Climb
Brock graduated from the University of Tennessee with a business degree supported by his service in the Navy and the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (G.I. Bill). Then in 1976, he started in the file clerk job at Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union, Knoxville, Tenn., making slightly less than $7,000 a year.
“I had originally told myself I wasn’t going to accept a job offer for less than $24,000 a year,” Brock recalls. However, after a few months without a job offer, he concedes, “I had to recalibrate my expectations a bit.”
Fortunately, things began looking up quickly. Within a few months, he was promoted to teller and received a $1,000 raise. “I felt I was off to the races,” he says.
As it turns out, he was. His boss soon selected him to participate in a management training program. “Over the course of nine months to a year, I had the opportunity to work in every department.”
After completing the program, Brock was promoted to assistant manager of branches, which gave him operational responsibility for 10 offices. Along the way he earned CUNA’s Certified Credit Union Executive designation. In 1983, he became vice president at Knoxville Post Office Credit Union (now TNConnect Credit Union). At the time, the CU was small—less than $5 million in assets compared to the $100 million size of the CU he was leaving—but the opportunity for growth was too good to pass up.
“I probably learned more working at a small credit union than I had ever learned at a large one,” says Brock, whose duties included supervising an 11-member staff as well as developing and refining a full range of products and services. “You basically have your hand in everything. It was an exciting and interesting time.”
Brock was a founding member of the now defunct Institute of Certified Credit Union Executives. Networking with the group’s members led to an offer to be executive vice president of Space Coast Credit Union, Melbourne, Fla., then $200 million in assets and with 10 branches. He stayed four years, with the realization that his next step would be to become a CU CEO.
True to his “preacher’s kid” roots, Brock gives divine providence a nod for playing a role in his next career move. “I think the Lord works in mysterious ways, so when the president here [at what is now Community CU] retired, it was fortuitous that I was just 20 miles down the road.”
An important factor that helped Brock secure the CEO position was his pursuit of his MBA from Florida Tech University. He began working on the degree while at Space Coast CU, finishing it up after he joined Community CU.
“I think that was one of the best things I could have done because it helped me get the job I have today,” Brock says. “The fact that I was pursuing the degree was seen as a benefit and probably gave me a bit of an edge.”
Coming into a new organization as its CEO can be challenging, but Brock was well-prepared. “Fortunately, it wasn’t a huge mindset change for me,” he says. “I had already made the transition from rank and file to management. I told myself that I was going to do the very best I could. I was going to be fair with everyone and give everyone a chance to prove themselves.”
Brock says making a difference as a new CEO takes time. “You have to listen a lot and assess the current state of affairs—what is the culture, what do people in the organization believe, how much do they know about the business, that sort of thing—and then you just take things one step at a time.”
Building a Team Culture
Brock’s leadership style is conducive to building a team culture that helps his organization succeed. “I always try to be very clear and transparent. I don’t have any hidden agendas. Whatever I’m trying to accomplish, I broadcast it loudly and broadly because I want everybody to understand that ‘This is where we’re trying to get to, and here’s what I think it’s going to take to get there. If you have better ideas or other ideas, feel free to speak your mind. But at the end of the day, I’m going to be the final arbiter.’”
This approach has been beneficial to Community CU, which has grown from $67 million in assets when Brock arrived 25 years ago to $582 million today. The CU now serves more than 41,000 members with seven branches in six counties.
A factor that Brock believes has stoked Community CU’s growth is his emphasis on improving the knowledge and capability of his approximately 100 employees.
“I think it’s critical to get the best information into your organization that you possibly can by focusing on continual learning and making sure everyone has the opportunity to grow,” he says. “I give CUES a lot of credit for this. I have been to most of their substantial training classes and schools [including CEO Institute and Strategic Innovation Institute], but you can’t just limit continuing education to the CEO. You need to spread it as far as you can and as far as you can afford.”
In keeping with this philosophy, Brock has made the CEO Institute a centerpiece of the professional development of his senior staffers. Two have already earned the Certified Chief Executive (CCE) designation through CUES, two others are currently enrolled, and he intends to send others.
“I want to make sure everybody on the executive team has had that experience so that we all have a common focal point,” Brock says. “The things that you learn about scenario planning, about operations, about management styles and culture—those are the kinds of touchstones that we can all coalesce around.”
Continuing professional development is not reserved for the executive staff. “We spend a lot of money on training and education throughout the organization,” Brock says. “I think that’s been key to what we’ve been able to achieve.”
As chair, Dunn has seen firsthand how Brock’s focus on professional development has benefited the CU. Dunn points to Brock’s ability to communicate positively and effectively with his staff.
“David’s been able to develop a rapport through active development of professional relationships, and he maintains openness to the ideas of others,” Dunn says. “He’s a master at networking, and he encourages his staff to network.”
Dunn also applauds Brock’s innovation. “He’s consistently implementing new strategies for enhancing the well-being of our members. The ideas and the recommendations for changes have provided a direction which has improved our profitability.”
Dunn also gives Brock high marks for his emphasis on teamwork. “We worked hard with David under his leadership to come up with our shared vision,” Dunn says, “... to always improve the financial well-being of our members and to make a positive difference in the community. David is the embodiment of this vision.”
Four Decades of Achievement
Summarizing achievements of a 40-year career is an enormous task. In those four decades, Brock has witnessed a flurry of technological improvements as well as dramatic expansion of products.
“Being the geezer that I am, I’ve been around since share drafts were started,” he says. “I was working for Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union when we first computerized. We had just one terminal and a person who did the keypunch. It was considered very state-of-art at the time.”
Brock also remembers designing and building a home equity line of credit product during his days at Knoxville Post Office CU. Since heading up Community CU, he led his team into what was then the new arena of risk-based pricing.
“We found ourselves becoming the poster child in proving the concept, at least in our area,” he says. “We also got into indirect lending back in the ’90s, when that was relatively new, and moved into member business lending when that was relatively untried as well.”
Brock says CUES’ Strategic Innovation Institute is helpful to executives needing to respond to “the most pressing issues of this new age of digitization.”
“The institute provides tools, models and a forum to understand both the technical advances and the impact on the credit union work culture,” he says. “CUES has a long history of demystifying complexity.”
Brock is proud of recently launching a business intelligence unit, the result of a management planning session that took place about six years ago.
“We were doing some scenario forecasting and looking at the power of predictive analytics, and we began to realize that we needed to know with precision how our business was behaving by putting good measurement systems in place. As a result, we’re now able to see clearly how much activity we’re doing, what is the value of each activity, and what is the ROI, with a focus on good feedback and good dashboards.”
Putting emphasis on good information management has helped Community CU remain financially fit. As proof, Brock points to the CU’s ranking in the top 10 percent of high-performance credit unions as measured by Raddon Financial Group.
Brock’s community participation also has been both broad and deep. He has served on the boards and committees of such civic organizations as Boys & Girls Clubs of Brevard, Brevard Community College Foundation, Children’s Advocacy Center of Brevard, Community Services Council of Brevard, the Cocoa Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and the United Way. He’s won numerous awards and accolades, including Florida Today’s Citizen of the Year and the United Way’s Bridge Builder Award. He also was inducted into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame.
“If you go out there, invest yourself and try to do good things, those kinds of honors just tend to come along,” he says.
On a personal note, Brock is a devoted family man. He and his wife, Angela, have three adult children. Daughter Melissa is a schoolteacher and mother of two living in California. Older son Matthew is a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, training to be a pilot in Pensacola, Fla. Younger son Dylan is at home, contemplating whether to join the Navy or the Coast Guard.
Brock also likes to travel, ride his motorcycle and play drums. “I played in a rock-and-roll band here in the county until about 10 years ago,” Brock says. “The name of the band was ‘Don’t Quit Your Day Job,’ and I finally had to quit because I was so busy with my day job. But I still play drums in the church praise band every Sunday.”
While doing his day job, Brock will stay focused on helping members. To do that successfully, he keeps in mind a poignant comment made by another CU executive he met at a conference early in his career.
“What she said was, ‘We’re not special people doing ordinary things; we are ordinary people doing special things.’ I thought that was the coolest line, and it’s been the touchstone in my heart ever since. I don’t think of myself as being special, but I do think my work is special. I’m just happy to be doing my part in spreading the credit union gospel.”
Diane Franklin is a freelance writer based in Missouri.