Victoria Selfridge has been instrumental in Ent Credit Union’s growth into the largest financial institution in the Pikes Peak region and sixth-largest in Colorado.
Selfridge recently was named Ent’s vice president of new markets and strategy. In that role, she is building a business development team to drive new member engagement and foster further growth.
Selfridge grew up in Dunwoody, Ga., a suburb north of Atlanta. She developed interests in science and technology at an early age: Her father was a chemical engineer and her mother had majored in math and physics.
Selfridge graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1996 with high honors, earning a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering.
She has never worked as an engineer, however. Instead, she pursued her interests in technology — a hobby that developed into a part-time job while she was in school. In an era when the internet was relatively new, she created a website for Georgia Tech’s Alumni Association.
After graduation, Selfridge worked as a consultant for Ernst & Young, which she joined in 1997 in Atlanta. She continued to work for Ernst & Young after moving to Colorado with her then-fiancé, doing website development for Fortune 500 companies, then decided to look for other opportunities that involved less travel.
Hired at Ent in 1999, she has held positions ranging from director of e-commerce and marketing to vice president of corporate communications. She was promoted to her current position in December 2018.
By the time she started at Ent, the credit union had expanded its membership field from Air Force members and their families to the general population. Today, Ent has more than 330,000 members and $5.4 billion in assets.
Selfridge spoke with the Business Journal about Ent’s phenomenal growth, her journey to her current position and why she thinks it’s important for business leaders to be involved with the community.
How did your career at Ent evolve over the years?
I was hired by our current chief technology officer, Chris Marshall, when they were building an electronic commerce area — online banking and all the online tools members can use. I had a real strong interest in technology and still do. But over time, I found this affinity for marketing and communication. And so there was a nice crossover between technical skill, understanding how things work, how things can get done, and then using that to communicate with our members and with each other. And I will say that Ent has been a fantastic supporter of letting me identify my areas of interest and then supporting me as I made the shift from a more technical career to something more communications-oriented.
Give us a little snapshot of what Ent was like in 1999, compared with today.
I have a very vivid recollection of working at our headquarters, which was down off of Murray Boulevard, by The Citadel mall. Back then we could all fit in that building. We had a limited number of locations, primarily in El Paso County. And then you spring forward to today where we have 36 locations and counting up and down the Front Range. … Continuing to see us financially strong, same culture, same heart, it feels like a winning team.
What does your current job entail?
Ent is continuing to experience a season of growth. … My focus now is creating a business development area, which we haven’t had in the past, focusing on market and member research, and then assisting with strategic planning for the organization. Those are all things that were certainly being done in some way before, but were just part of a larger role. … For business development, it’s been thinking about how we can support marketing, in more direct business-to-business and business-to-consumer relationship development. So as we enter new communities, we have to tell the story. Being part of that brand ambassador group and forming this team is part of what I’ve been charged with. … [The team will do] a lot of outreach to individual businesses, educating them on what we can do for them and their employees, but also community events and community relations.
What’s been the key to Ent’s success?
I think that there are a lot of secrets. One of them has to be the people and the culture that Ent develops. I think that there’s a strong belief that everything we do starts with the members and the members’ best interest, and doing the right thing. And then the spirit of service, really wanting to help each other, help our members and help the community.
… We had a big event [recently] at UCCS called Fuel Your Finances. It was our first big financial wellness event where we were trying to engage students in learning more about money, because we know that it’s going to help them later in life. We probably had 75 employees who were out at UCCS supporting this event — this great spirit of, ‘We’re here to help you, we want you to not make some of the same mistakes we’ve made, because we want you to succeed.’ That’s just a great thing to be connected with. I like to think that that’s an example of the culture that we create here and why I think we’re ultimately so successful.
I think that consumers are understanding that there are different options in financial services — maybe they’re more aware of that than they were before. And I think that there’s an increased desire to do things that are local and community-connected, and that’s been part of the growth.
As a strategist, where do you see Ent going in the next several years?
I have to give a shout-out to our CEO Chad Graves, who has been very good at not only conceiving of but communicating a clear vision for the organization. The short-term vision over the next couple of years is to really build up our presence in these communities that we’ve been allowed to serve — building new locations, putting in new technology. We have some locations we call Ent express locations: interactive teller machines, placing those in the communities that we serve, in addition to branches, to really provide added convenience to the membership and the community. This fall, we’re planning to open four locations between October and January — Cañon City, Highlands Ranch, Brighton and Ken Caryl, back up in the Highlands Ranch area. That’s an example of the investment in infrastructure that our CEO sees as being key to our continued success.
Let’s look out five years and factor into that what everybody is saying is going to happen — another recession.
I think we have always been fiscally conservative, and that’s held us in good stead in times good and bad. … Diversifying the communities that we serve is part of our growth strategy. A couple of years ago, we were really concerned about military cuts. Part of our challenge with being so popular and successful in Colorado Springs is if there were military cuts, it would hurt us disproportionately more, because we’re so densely supported here. But if we had more diverse communities that we supported in the event of something negative happening in one sector of the economy, it’s healthier for the credit union. …
How is technology changing the way we do our financial business, and what direction do you see banking technology heading in the future?
One of the things I see with technology is just the improvements in speed and convenience. I think that’s matching up well with consumer expectations. We want to be able to do things quickly and, hopefully, right where we are. So I think that a lot of the innovation we’ll continue to see is on moving money more quickly, getting responses in near time, asking questions and getting rapid response. But by the same token, as much as I love technology, I still think that there’s a human component. We sometimes get asked, ‘Are branches going to go away? We never need a branch anymore.’ And I think that because finances are so personal and can be complex, people really like that person-to-person interaction — the ability to talk to someone. And in fact, our interactive teller machines, one of the features I like is you touch the screen, and you can talk live with somebody.
Let’s talk about volunteerism. I know that’s a big thing for Ent, and obviously, it is for you, too.
Yeah, I love it. I recently rolled off the board at Habitat for Humanity. It’s still a cause that I love and support; I’m just no longer a board member. Over at Care and Share, I’m the board chair this year. I found a few places in the community where they connected with things that I believe are valuable and important. I know everyone does that in their own way. I’m just fortunate that I have a little bit of time to dedicate to giving back, and I enjoy it.
Why do you think it’s important for business leaders to volunteer in the community?
I think it’s a great thing for people with any expertise, whether it’s in business, whether it’s in logistics or planning, to think about ways that they can share some of their knowledge and expertise with others. And I think volunteer groups and supporting the community are great places to share that knowledge and just make the place we all live a better place.
What else would you like us to know about you and Ent?
I’m just incredibly proud and lucky to have found, almost 20 years ago, a company with such a strong foundation and deep roots. And I think that the future for me looks incredibly bright. It just makes me proud to be associated with them.