By: Brian E. Wolfburg, President/CEO, VyStar Credit Union
It seems like just yesterday we were announcing the plans we had in store for 2019. Now, with the new year fast approaching, we are wrapping up many existing projects and planning new ones. Our 2020 goals are similar to the goals we made this year: to make VyStar the best place to work in Florida, provide more offerings to our members, contribute to the growing vibrancy in Downtown Jacksonville, bring more credit union services to more people by expanding our presence into new communities and so much more. After reflecting on all the growth and success we’ve experienced this year, we are ready to put a bow on 2019. I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on all the amazing things we have accomplished throughout the year.
In 2019, VyStar gave back to our community by welcoming new partnerships and solidifying existing ones, working with an extensive range of selfless organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Unbroken Horizons, March of Dimes, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the River City Pride Parade, the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive, JASMYN, the Clara White Mission, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville’s Museum of Science & History (MOSH) and many more. Aside from community service, we have also worked to contribute to Downtown Jacksonville’s growing vibrancy by collaborating with ArtRepublic to provide a stimulating environment for employees and visitors alike, and to help artists thrive within our community. We also announced that we will be working with Groundwork Jacksonville on a project called the “Emerald Trail,” which will transform Jacksonville’s urban core by adding trails, greenways, parks and more to our downtown.
In January 2019, we officially rolled out our new and improved benefits plan for employees to work toward our initiative of making VyStar the best place to work in Florida. These enhanced benefits included an increased minimum wage, parental/family care leave, child adoption assistance, student loan payoff assistance, extra paid time off, new/free medical insurance options, improved 401(k) benefits, tuition assistance and much more. On top of these benefits, we also recently implemented a new rewards and recognition program within VyStar to cultivate a more positive, productive and engaging work environment for our employees.
After announcing our purchase of the VyStar Tower at the end of 2018, we officially began moving employees into the tower in early 2019, and we are happy to report we have remained on schedule for each department’s move-in date. In total, we expect to have over 900 employees working in the tower and the 100 West Bay building. This year, we also completed the construction of our 23rd floor in the VyStar Tower, which was created to provide a collaborative space that fosters creativity and well-being for employees. Amid all the move-ins and construction, we officially affixed our name to Downtown Jacksonville’s skyline with the installation of our sign atop the tower in August, which was a perfect finishing touch to symbolize VyStar’s growing presence and influence in Downtown Jacksonville.
To further demonstrate our commitment to our veterans and military, VyStar announced a partnership with the Veterans Memorial Arena, which is now known as the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. This naming rights agreement has allowed us to support our local service members in new ways, such as through our concessions donation program, which allows patrons to make donations to an approved veteran program when making a purchase at the arena’s concession stands. These donations are matched by VyStar up to $50,000 annually. We also utilize the arena to sponsor and host a quarterly gathering held by Vets4Vets, which brings veterans together to spread knowledge of services and resources that are available to them in the Northeast Florida region.
Furthermore, VyStar was privileged to help celebrate local active duty and retired military personnel by sponsoring the military appreciation luncheons in Duval, Clay and Alachua counties, as well as the United States Navy Blue Angels’ Sea and Sky Air Show.
Being that this was our first M&A (aside from a small credit union merger several years ago), the completion of our merger with Citizens State Bank (CSB) has been one of our most notable achievements in 2019. The official announcement of our merger with CSB—previously a state-chartered bank headquartered in Perry, Florida—was made earlier this year. Thanks to the help of many dedicated employees, we crossed the finish line after successfully completing system conversion last month, which was the last phase of the merger. VyStar was proud to offer all CSB employees continued employment opportunities, and as a result of the merger, we are proud to offer our new and existing members the best of both organizations.
In 2019, we introduced quite a few new products and services in an effort to make everyday transactions and loan applications more easily accessible and convenient. These products and services include our adoption line of credit, next-generation ATMs, Courtesy Pay, VHA and FHA loans, Zelle® and many more. In recent months, we’ve also implemented innovative technology to provide a superior level of convenience and added protection for our members and their accounts. We even rolled out our new mobile branch, which will be launched in new markets, under-served areas, community events, etc., in Jacksonville and beyond to give VyStar the ability to provide our services anywhere they may be needed.
The positive feedback we receive each time we enter a new community gives us all the motivation we need to continue spreading our values throughout Florida and beyond. This year, we opened six branches that incorporated our new branch design concepts, and we introduced VyStar to many new counties, including Seminole, Marion, Sumter and more. Additionally, we opened two new high school branches at Clay High School and Fernandina Beach High School. Our next branch opening is scheduled for early 2020 and will be located in Sanford, Florida.
Looking back on VyStar’s many significant initiatives and achievements reminds me how grateful I am to the members we have the opportunity to serve each day. Thank you for standing alongside us and welcoming VyStar’s growth as we continue to bring our positive values and superior credit union services to more people throughout Florida and beyond. With your continued support, we will become the best we can be, while consistently maintaining our “people helping people” mindset.
Brian E. Wolfburg,
VyStar Credit Union