VyStar Credit Union  is the 13th-largest credit union in the United States and the second-largest credit union in Florida. One primary reason for reaching that level of success is its commitment to member satisfaction. Joel Swanson  is the financial institution’s chief member experience officer.  Creating a better customer experience is the core of his very job description. He’s responsible for company-to-customer communication and strives to ensure positive customer interactions with the credit union.

He takes his job seriously and is vehement about driving positive change in the credit union space. He’s received a lot of business advice throughout his career. And he learned long ago that it’s better to be a leader and proactively approach challenges and changes. “The moment you say you’re a fast follower, what you’re really saying is you plan to be behind,” Joel Swanson said on the “Banking on Digital Growth ” podcast.

He’s learned that taking chances can bring a big reward at home and at work. “Living life is a risk,” said Swanson. “However, a lot of people kind of close down and don’t change because they’re worried about the risk. That’s just human nature. But, by doing that, you are actually accepting the risk of becoming obsolete. That’s how I look at it.”

Swanson and the entire VyStar team believe in building improved, stronger communities everyone can enjoy. Therefore, the financial institution supports many initiatives and offers members many perks . Credit union members are also welcome to enjoy great deals on events at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, which hosts concerts, sporting events, and other assorted forms of entertainment.

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“One thing I love about being at VyStar is that our board of directors and our CEO already bought into the need to change and the need to be aggressive in [the field of financial technology]. So I’m very fortunate to have that,” Swanson said, adding that the goal is “to make it so that when members come into our branches, or they call us, it is because they want to and need that consultation, not because they have to.”

Additionally, members get access to special discounts, free services, and tools to help them achieve their financial goals. The credit union supplies various financial products that meet members’ needs. It offers financial education to members and nonmembers and is focused on being a force for change to improve the lives of its members and their communities. It supports nonprofits in the region and like-minded organizations while providing financial products and services that assist members on their journey to reach their economic goals.

Joel Swanson Brings Over 20 Years of Experience to VyStar

Joel Swanson recognizes the importance of a solid educational foundation. He attended Western CUNA Management School from 2013 to 2015, the University of Alaska Anchorage from 2005 to 2008, and the Seattle Pacific University School of Business, Government, and Economics from 1999 to 2005.

He learned a lot about the industry during his 14 years in the credit union space at two of the top 20 credit unions in the United States and has exhibited successful performances in multiple C-suite roles. Prior to his role as VyStar’s chief member experience officer, he served as the credit union’s chief digital officer.

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Before joining the Jacksonville, Florida-based credit union, he worked diligently over the course of 11 years with Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, based in Anchorage. During his time there, he served as the senior vice president of branch administration from 2017 to 2018, the vice president of electronic services from 2012 to 2017, the applications development supervisor from 2011 to 2012, and the senior business systems analyst from 2007 to 2011.

Joel Swanson also worked as a business systems analyst at Schroeder Consulting Services from 2006 to 2007. And he’s a founding board member and associate of the investment committee of the Curql Fund.

Bettering the Member Experience for Everyone

The financial institution was founded by 12 members in 1952 as the Jax Navy Federal Credit Union at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. Since then, it’s been committed to bettering the lives of past and present military members, their families, and the communities members call home. In 2002, it changed its name to VyStar.

Throughout its history, the credit union has embraced changes in the banking industry. For example, it debuted its first computerized accounting system in 1966 and opened its first ATM in 1982. Today, it boasts a network of over 20,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide.

The credit union currently serves over 900,000 members nationwide with over $13.5 billion in assets. Membership is available to anyone who lives or works in the 49 contiguous counties of north and central Florida and 29 Georgia counties. It also welcomes all military members, past and present, and their families worldwide. The financial institution is a significant employer in the area, with over 2,000 employees across the communities it serves.

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The credit union is a dependable community leader and a solid financial institution. Members can bank on Joel Swanson’s support as the credit union strives to improve the lives of its members and the community. VyStar’s purpose is to do good and lead by example.

Those beliefs guide the credit union. Swanson embraces that mission, and his desire to keep VyStar as an industry leader, not a follower, helps propel the financial institution to new heights.

Joel Swanson spearheaded the investment of $2.5 million during two separate rounds into Payveris. This digital money movement corporation maneuvered a successful exit and supplied over 200% return on investment to the credit union.

Under Swanson’s tenure, the credit union has grown to 70 full-service branches, the newest located in Savannah, Georgia, and 18 high school branches. The student branch program was created to teach valuable financial skills, including saving, budgeting, and responsible borrowing. Young people involved in the program obtain hands-on experience with essential financial services such as loans, budgets, investments, and credit cards.

“Our members are our community,” says Swanson. “And if we do right by the communities, that helps them.”