Steve Ramey began his career with a company called Comchat on January 10, 1977. He was a green college graduate, 22 years old, with a BBA degree in Information Systems from the University of Georgia. Comchat was a subsidiary of Combustion Federal Credit Union and Chattanooga TVA Employees Federal Credit Union.
Comchat was a combination of the owners’ names: COMbustion Federal Credit Union and CHATtanooga TVA Employees Federal Credit Union. The board of directors was made up of some of the directors from each parent company’s board. It was formed to provide computerized data processing services to both organizations at a lower cost than they could find elsewhere. That’s how they ended up with a “used” Burroughs B500 system (manufactured sometime in the mid-1960s). To further defray costs, they sold services to several other smaller local credit unions. US Pipe, EPB, League Central and Memorial Hospital credit unions were all on the system when Steve went to work there, and later they converted Dixie Yarns and Progressive Teachers credit unions. All of these institutions were running an online real-time system on a 15-year-old processor with 19.2 K of main memory! Imagine that!!!
When Steve began his career, credit unions looked a lot different than they do today. Loans – cars, tractors, signature or whatever were priced at 12%. The savings rate was about 7%. TVA Credit Union offered CDs at a higher rate, but these instruments were maintained in a batch environment that ran monthly. Fees were non-existent, not even late fees. Both credit unions had just started a pilot program called “share drafts” (now called checking accounts), which were only offered to credit union employees. Today, checking accounts are an important offering.
The first big change came when ATMs were introduced. There was one at Combustion FCU and one at Chattanooga TVA Employees Federal Credit Union and a third at a jointly operated branch at Northgate that opened in 1979. At this time there was no ATM network. Members were issued ATM cards and could only use them at one of the three machines.
In addition to the ATM, the joint branch featured 3 teller stations, two for TVA members and one for Combustion members. All of the ATMS were driven by a central Diebold controller located at Comchat and documents were hand posted by the CU staff each day.
In 1982, it was finally time to retire the old Burroughs system. ComChat purchased an updated Burroughs B3800 system, initially with the idea of duplicating the old B500 package on it in-house, to avoid having to retrain anyone. It wasn’t long before they realized that the world was changing at a faster pace, and they couldn’t just keep doing things the same old way.
The next computer upgrade came in 1991 but shortly after, the two credit unions, who had grown to be the largest in the Chattanooga area realized that to continue to grow and offer new services, they both needed their own data processing center. So, on September 1, 1993 Steve moved to Chattanooga TVA Employees and in 1994 Chattanooga TVA Employees Federal Credit Union was renamed Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union (TVFCU) to better reflect their growing membership base.
Steve has been the backbone of TVFCU’s IT Department for many years. During his tenure with TVFCU, he went from a Burroughs B500 system with a custom-written online package to a Burroughs “Medium V Series” system with a package that was converted twice (first in 1982 and then again in 1991), followed by Spectrum MPE in 1994, Spectrum Unix in 2004 and most recently a Symitar conversion in 2022. Knowing Steve was going to retire after this project, it was lovingly named, “Project Ramey” for the man who had seen to TVFCU’s IT needs for over 45 years.
When asked about his time at TVFCU, Steve responded, “Over my time at TVFCU, I have seen our company grow from a small $60 million credit union to the largest institution of its kind in the area, and one of the largest in the state. In looking back, I’m thankful for the vision and leadership that brought us to where we are today. I credit Jeff Farver for pointing us in a more progressive direction and others like Linda Connelly who made us more efficient. I am also thankful for the time I got to spend with Blake Strickland, who was so much more than a “boss” as we grew up together. We went to the same high school and the same college. We shared a love for “The Dawgs”. It was under his tenure as CEO that we finally reached the magical $1 billion asset level that we seemed to chase all of my career. Now, I feel confident that under Todd Fortner’s leadership we will continue to grow and be the name on everyone’s lips in this area when it comes to financial institutions. It seems that under Todd’s direction the “snowball effect” has taken place with our growth and we’ve skyrocketed past the $2 billion mark and $3 billion is now firmly within our sites. I’m thankful to have been a small part of that journey, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to spend my whole career with a company the caliber of TVFCU.”