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Friday, March 27, 2009

Are You Really Their First Priority?


We decided to take a short break from the blog during which we conducted research and read the emails we receive from what are apparently current and former employees of Priority one Credit Union. 

The accounts provided by current and former staff describe disappointment over the harm caused by President Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. to what was once a thriving and growing credit union and one often referred to as "home" by many employees of the United States Postal Service. 

What we noticed was that many of the accounts reference the same complaints. President Wiggington has often labeled employees who dislike his mode of administration, as disgruntled but the number of similar complaints lend credence to the accusations leveled against the undisciplined CEO. 

We've learned that the President has become very moody as of late. We empathize. He must be in an uncomfortable position knowing that what he fought to keep secret is now in the open. We've learned that he has grown paranoid and sarcastic and is often seen skulking about the South Pasadena branch visiting Credit Resolutions where he spends hours and talks incessantly about his life to the department's new manager, Yvonne Boutte. 
He has also openly berated his staff, blaming them for the information which is published on this blog. 

Since his appointment, President has appointed managers, who like himself, are unqualified to carryout their assigned responsibilities. In 2006, he announced he would be installing a sector of Assistant Vice Presidents ("AVP") on January 1, 2007, to help manage the credit union's vast territory which extends from the Santa Clarita Valley to the Riverside/San Diego County border. He also divulged to some staff that the AVP's would be responsible to bring in new business while he could just sit back in his office and in his words, "watch the business come in." His plan derailed as time proved the AVP's were quite incapable of managing their assigned regions. What's more, one was terminated for kiting and a second was terminated following deterioration of his former friendship with the President.  

On January 1, 2007, he promoted the Burbank Branch Manager, Liz Campos, to the position of AVP. She lacked the education and experience to manage the responsibilities of AVP but according to the President, he promoted her because she was his "buddy." Three months prior to the date of her promotion, Mrs. Campos incurred more than 25 individual NSF incidents on her credit union checking account and President Wiggington approved the reversal of each NSF fee. The abuse should have been sufficient grounds why not to promote her and would have justified her termination, but the President allowed his friendship with the Branch Manager to influence his decision.

In 2007, he also promoted the Director of Lending, Aaron Cavazos, to the post of AVP of Operations though Mr.Cavazos had absolutely no experience in operations. He also assigned all marketing to Mr. Cavazos though Mr. Cavazos had no experience or education in anything related to marketing. 

In 2007, he also appointed the Van Nuys Branch Manager, Sylvia Perez, to the post of AVP despite the fact Mrs. Perez had no education or experience needed to fulfill the
responsibilities of the post. Mrs. Perez also had a well earned reputation for being rude to employees and for speaking to them in the most condescending manner. She was also known to be a micromanager with a penchant for being chronically impatient.

On January 4, 2007, he announced that he would be revamping how Priority One does business including installing a retention program to reduce account closures and providing employees with tools that would empower them. However, his so-called improvements were never realized and instead many good and knowledgeable employees were harassed, driven out of the credit union or terminated. And though the President was suspended while an investigation was conducted to determine if he sexually harassed a former employee, the President was eventually reinstated by the Board and since his return, the credit union has continued to hemorrhage losses. 

The President has also brought an end to staff development, choosing instead to retain staff who are ignorant of many procedures and who are ill-equipped to cross-sell the credit union's aging financial products and services.

His $600,000 phone system has proven a technical disaster, forcing the credit union to spend hundreds of additional dollars each month on technicians whose repairs are temporary at best. 

At about 1:30 pm, earlier today, we called the South Pasadena branch and a recorded message informed us that no one was available to answer our call. We pressed "0" and the same recorded message came on. We continued to press 0 at on the 9th attempt, a woman answer the phone. At our request, she transferred us to the Loan Department but a recorded message answered and asked that we leave a message. 

Hanging up, we called the company again and after 5 attempts, the same woman we spoke to earlier, answered the phone. She transferred our call to Member Service and after several rings, our call was again answered by a recorder. I invite anyone to call 626.441.1999 and see if they too aren't frustrated by the credit union's subpar service standards. 

We received the following message from "Frustrated":

I called the South Pasadena branch earlier today to ask questions about their 2.99% auto rate.A representative explained that to qualify I need to put 10% down payment, have direct deposit, and open a checking PLUS have a credit score of 680or more. No problem as the auto dealer I visited ran my credit which showed I have a 750 credit score.

Everything seemed fine until I asked what my monthly payment would be. The amount I was given was a lot higher than what I calculated. When I asked why, I was told that the though I qualify for the 2.99% rate, my payments are calculated at 3.99%! I was told that the credit union deducts .50% if you pay the loan through automatic payments or payroll deduction and that they deduct another .50% if you have a checking account. That gives you the lower rate but the payment they calculate is at 3.99% and not at 2.99%.

I was told that this reduces the amount of your financing over whatever term you agree to. I was also told that by calculating the payments at 3.99%, I would pay off the loan faster than if they calculate the payments at 2.99%. Maybe, but isn't the credit union advertising a 2.99% rate and shouldn't the monthly payments be calculated this rate and not at 3.99%?

I visited Priority One's website to see if I could find what I was told, written somewhere on their site. I looked and looked but I did not find anything which said that monthly payments are calculated at 3.99% even though you qualify for the 2.99% rate and I did not read anything which said that by agreeing to calculate your payments at 3.99%, you will pay off the loan sooner.

Believing the person I spoke to did not understand what I had asked, I called another branch. This time a representative explained to me that I do qualify for the 2.99% rate but they calculate payments at 3.99% just in case I cancel direct deposit or automatic payroll payment of the loan. This, by the way, is also not stated on the credit union's website.

I decided to call yet another branch and this time was told by a rep that she did not know why the credit union calculated my loan at 3.99% even though I qualify for the 2.99% rate and I was told to call the South Pasadena branch, instead. Since the loan was to refinance the balance due on my daughter's automobile, I called another credit union. They offered to match the rate advertised by Priority One. I have now visited them, obtained the loan and opened a checking account. And my monthly payments have been calculated at 2.99%!

Calling Priority One was frustrating. Three branches provided three different answers. The branches I called were Burbank, Van Nuys, and Valencia.

As I wrote previously, nowhere in their ad or on their website does it say they will calculate payments at 3.99% in case you cancel automatic payment of the loan or because you will pay the loan off quicker. From my experience it is obvious that the staff is poorly trained, ignorant about how loans are calculated, and unable to answer what should be simple questions.

The problems afflicting the credit union's telephone system are all attributable to President Wiggington. He is after all, the person who picked the system without consulting the CFO or IT Supervisor. He is also the person who ordered that ALL calls be diverted to the Los Angeles and South Pasadena branches. He is also responsible for staff development and evidently, based on the experiences being reported by members, development is non-existent. 

"He who tries to conceal the terrible things he does, will never prosper; but the person who confesses his wrongdoing and STOPS, will find compassion."

Proverbs 28:13

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Concerned said...

Are they in compliance if they omit these very specific requirements from their disclaimer?

Anonymous said...

Its true. Too often you can't get through to speak to a person and when you do, you are transferred to voice mail. Its so frustrating. And they don't return calls. This is the norm at Priority One. I have been at the South Pasadena office and they only have 1 operator. She also only has a regular phone. What kind of a setup is that?

Been there said...

I worked at Priority One back in 2004 and we always calculated the monthly payment at the higher rate. The lower rate was used to calculate the amount of financing but the pre-special rate was used to calculate the monthly payment.

It never made sense to me but it is their policy. I also once told the director of lending that I thought it should be stated somewhere in the promotions and even the docs signed by members, but he never did anything with my suggestion.

I guess nothing changes at Priority 1.

Lexington Steele said...

The tale Frustrated said is a subtle form of bait and switch. Something Sir Charles Wiggy is known for thoughout the entire Priority One offices. He pulls the same crap with employees all the time.

Looking for full and fair disclosure on the website is futile when dealing with Sir Charles Piggly Wiggly. The guy is deceptive as all get out.

I wish the members good luck in voting out the Board of Directors so a new Board slate could then release Mr. Charles Liar Wiggington. Let's give him the boot.

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