Then a 12-year veteran of commercial banking, Mark Cochran joined the credit union world in 1993. A colleague mentioned that Synergy, a New Jersey credit union, sought a chief financial officer. Two years later, Cochran and the CEO left to join Affinity, the largest credit union in New Jersey, where Cochran then served as COO and CFO for 12 years. He was recruited to his present position at Lowell-based Jeanne D’Arc in 2007 – just in time for the Great Recession.
As the mortgage market dove into a national crisis, Jeanne D’Arc, always a traditional mortgage lender, paid closer attention to its local constituency. New England was not as much affected as other parts of the country, but some cities and towns bore a larger brunt than others, Lowell among them. Jeanne D’Arc’s approach was to reach out to members in a proactive way, to let them know the institution would be there for them if they ran into credit problems.
“We could either pull back during the recession, or push forward,” Cochran said. “The board and I agreed that the best choice was to push forward.”
Between 2011 and 2012, Jeanne D’Arc built a new headquarters and aggressively sought new members while other financial institutions held back. It didn’t change membership criteria or take on added risk, but used what capital it had for expansion, resulting in increased visibility and presence – and, as the recession waned, more resources to do more things.
Jeanne D’Arc doesn’t measure success by sales, nor does it impose sales incentives or goals, he said. It develops products to address member issues and requests.
“During the recession, damaged credit was a real issue, so we created products to help members with damaged credit or no credit,” he said. The credit union’s MoneyStrong Build/Rebuild product includes a savings account that pays 7 percent on the first $500 in deposits. On the loan side, it offers loan products to help people build or rebuild credit. Jeanne D’Arc is also active in local schools, establishing branches onsite and teaching classes.
Cochran’s community involvement includes the following nonprofit organizations: Lowell Plan, D’Youville Life and Wellness Community, Lowell General Hospital, Lawrence Partnership, Eastern Corporate Federal Credit Union, Octant Business Services, CUFSLP and the We Share A Common Thread foundation. He is also part of the Circle Health governance committee, Working Cities Challenge, UMass at Lowell Area Riverfront Committee and the Massachusetts Credit Union League legislative committee.
He notes the legacy of a long-serving, well-known and respected Jeanne D’Arc Vice President of Community Relations Steve Jones, who died unexpectedly in September 2016 while representing Jeanne D’Arc at a graduation ceremony for young entrepreneurs. Cochran said Jones’ mantra was “Go forth and serve.” Jeanne-D’Arc encourages all of its staff team members to choose a capacity in which they want to serve the community, and “we will come alongside them with resources. To me, that’s carrying on what he valued,” Cochran said.