Everybody's Job: Quality: Marketing and Just about Everything Else Got Easier at Los Alamos National Bank, New Mexico, after the Staff, from President to Teller, Jumped aboard a 'Quality Management' Bandwagon. the Preoccupation with Business Excellence Generated Both Bottom-Line Benefits and a National Award
Albro, Walt, ABA Bank Marketing
Fifteen years ago, Los Alamos National Bank (LANB) in New Mexico began utilizing "quality management" as part of its operations. The approach made it easier in a couple of ways for the bank to market itself. For one thing, it aided in differentiating the institution from its competition. It also boosted the bank's ability both to grow and to be profitable.
The stress on quality was so outstanding that five years ago the bank was awarded a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation's premier award for performance excellence and quality achievement. It was the first financial services institution ever to achieve that distinction.
"We spent the better part of 15 years putting in a day-in, day-out effort to get better every day--fixing and refixing, remonitoring, remeasuring, picking a better path...." says Steve W. Wells, president.
A prerequisite for a quality organization is the development of the appropriate corporate culture, Wells notes. "Quality is not a point that you reach, it is a continuous process." He continues: Quality is not something "extra" that employees learn to add on to their original jobs. "It's the way you do your business every day."
The bank currently has assets of $1.1 billion, four retail locations and 265 employees. It was founded in 1963 to serve the small mountain community of Los Alamos, which was created during World War II as a home for the scientists and technicians working on the Manhattan Project. Today, many of the town's 18,000 residents are employed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the community's largest employer.
Because of the sophisticated customer base (about 30 percent of the county workforce possesses at least a college degree), the bank has tried to position itself as a state-of-the-art financial institution that offers small-town accessibility. In other words, it provides a combination of innovative financial products and personalized customer service.
The bank's interest in quality stemmed from senior managers, who were disciples of W. Edwards Deming, an advocate of business quality programs. In 1988, some managers attended a series of briefings on quality offered by Motorola, another state employer. A few years later, the bank joined with other organizations to develop a program encouraging New Mexican businesses to develop quality management programs. The bank's chairman and CEO, William C. Enloe, was a founding organizer of what came to be called Quality New Mexico.
The state program began to give out awards modeled on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which the U.S. Congress had initiated in 1987.
As a result of its participation in this program, the bank established an internal quality council. This team was made up of senior and department management and employees from throughout the institution. Its purpose was to monitor and coordinate the bank's process-improvement efforts.
In the late 1990s, the bank began submitting applications to the state's Quality Awards, receiving feedback from examiners who judged the honors. The bank earned two runner-up awards before receiving, in 1999, the "Zia," the state's highest level of recognition.
As part of a commitment to continue the improvement process, the management in 2000 decided to submit an entry to the Baldrige award program. (The application consists of a detailed "self-assessment.") In May of that year, the bank was informed that it was one of four national winners.
The bank positions itself as a full-service financial services provider, but, at the same time it characterizes itself as a "low-service-charge bank." By this, it seeks to minimize charges relating to investment and generation of funds-that is, loans, credit cards, checking and savings accounts. Its profitability lies in mortgage loan servicing premiums, trust and brokerage fees--and by maintaining an efficient operation. …