Lam: Tell me more about how relating to your members makes you successful at your job.
Dixon: I think the main reason I'm able to relate is because, although I'm younger, I've gone through a lot of hardships in life. I'm able to relate on a personal level with our members and their needs: from being brought up not having your parents teach you financial information—such as how to balance the checkbook, how important credit is, to filing for a bankruptcy, credit issues, and struggles with payments.
I've been there, so I'm able to relate to them. It gives them good insight that they're not the only ones going through these difficult situations. It really gives them a sense of security in knowing that not only Navy Federal is here to help them, but I am as well.
Lam: Does that aspect, of you being able to relate to your members, help you in tough situations? What happens when they can't pay their loans, for example?
Dixon: The first thing I always do is I talk to our members about maybe what's going on in their life. Do they have medical issues? Is one of them currently unemployed? Are they going through the transition of becoming a civilian [after] always being military? You're not going to be able to make it this month, but what has led up to you being here? I look to find different ways in, and not just, “Hey, you're going to be delinquent on this payment.”
Then, what can be done in order to get them on a better track? Maybe they don't end up having to make a late loan payment: We can submit a request for a modification on an auto loan, so that it extends the term out. Just little things like that, where you just find any way you possibly can to eliminate a lot of the stresses for them.
When it comes to an actual delinquent loan, we don't deal with those types of loans in-branch. What we would do is we would send those requests up to either the personal-finance-management department or our actual collections department.
Lam: So you took a break from banking, but you've been working in the industry since you were 17 years old. Can you speak to whether the way people borrow money has changed? Particularly in Florida, which was hit so hard by the mortgage crisis?
Dixon: In general, the way people borrow money—I don't think it's affected them. I think that the crash was mainly based off mortgages. A lot of our members that were affected by that, back in 2008 or 2009, they're right at that time frame now where they're able to obtain a mortgage again. So there's a lot of excitement right now, when it comes to lending in all different ways. When you go through a situation like the mortgage crisis … for example, if you had to foreclose or you had to short sale on a home, that affects you long-term.
If you think about how long it's been, we're probably at right about the eight-year mark. Creditors are able now give those credits to our members who went through those struggles, whereas for the first two to four years after, they couldn't even get a car loan. We're seeing a huge increase in members—those who went through those struggles—being able to feel accomplished again by being able buy that car that they've been wanting or buy that home that they didn't think was going to be a possibility.