Anderson University College of Business
Amber Crisp: Calming fears, achieving dreams
For Amber Crisp, working in a financial services role is about more than just money—it’s about building relationships in her community and helping others reach their financial goals.
Amber leads Spero Financial’s remote member service delivery, including enhancements in the Member Solutions Center, TellerLink, and the NEST technologies. She has a total of 15 years in the financial industry in various roles. Growing up in rural Anderson County, Amber was drawn to Anderson University. Looking back, she’s grateful for the spiritual and professional foundations that have helped her as she helps Spero Financial’s growing number of members.
Where are you from?
I’m from Starr. I’ve been there all my life. I still live here in Anderson County.
Growing up in the area, how did Anderson University become your choice?
I graduated from Crescent (High School) and did the program my senior year to take some classes from AU. My grandmother attended Anderson University, so I knew all about it. I grew up in the Henderson Auditorium doing dance recitals. The University has always served as a cornerstone of the Anderson community, so certainly it was a big part of my life growing up.
I applied to a lot of different places my senior year. I had already taken some courses at Anderson and they were very generous with scholarship opportunities. As a result, I was able to secure almost a full ride academically to Anderson.
Anderson was certainly close to home, but I loved that it was also Christ-centered. As a kid, I never vocalized wanting to attend Anderson for college, but it just felt like I belonged there. I was certainly drawn to Anderson and had a wonderful experience I had there as a student. I was an on-campus student for most years and stayed in Denmark (Residence Hall). I will always cherish the friendships and relationships I found there and still enjoy those today.
What are some ways your AU education benefits you professionally? Personally? In other ways?
In the beginning, following graduation, my education was all I had. I didn’t have life experiences in a professional work setting. However, I’d worked my way through both high school and college, usually as a server or in retail. So I was equipped with a strong work ethic and now the education I received from Anderson.
One of the classes that really impacted me was organizational leadership, taught by Danny Rhodes. That whole class was centered around culture and leadership in a variety of different organizations. When I look at what I’m doing now, I’ve drawn so much from that course. In fact, the book for that class was the only textbook I kept. He taught a lot about professionalism, building teams, leading teams, being relative to them, and creating an engaged culture and how to have your team buy into the overall vision of an organization.
In turn, Mr. Rhodes was very invested in us as students and developing us into future leaders. He was living and breathing that with us, providing each of us with one-on-one support. Mr. Rhodes was certainly an inspiration to me and the teachings he shared with our class is a huge part of what I’m doing now.
How did you become interested in financial services?
I remember being little and going into a store and I would just be amazed by the cashier counting money and serving customers. As a kid people would ask me what I wanted to do. There was a little convenience store called Redi Mart and I would say, “I want to work at Redi Mart” because I can count the cash, push the buttons, and help the customers. As simple as that sounds from a child’s perspective, those are likely some foundational reasons that I’m on this current path.
Obviously, that was a very not lofty goal! However, as I grew older and worked part-time jobs, I began to understand the importance of managing money. In the financial services industry, I started as a teller for six months. Quickly I was given the opportunity to begin opening accounts and serving customers from a deeper perspective. Here is where I really began to enjoy serving others and helping them to achieve financial success. I could see and realize the difference it was making in my customers, and I spent time developing relationships with them and establishing trust. Being able to improve their financial well-being, and know they were leaving in a better situation, sparked something in me. I began to feel really passionate and driven to continue the pursuit of this field.
I started out in community banking. I enjoyed the local feel and the personal connections made through the community. After five years of banking, I was approached by one of my bank customers who happened to work for a local credit union. She told me, “You seem like a credit union person.” After exploring the opportunity, I took the leap into credit unions and I’ve not looked back. With Anderson Federal Credit Union, which is now Spero Financial, the industry philosophy runs true: “People Helping People.” I’ve been afforded many opportunities from member service, lending, branch network management, leadership, strategic vision planning, and a seat at the table to execute South Carolina’s largest credit union partnership to date.
At Spero Financial, I now serve as vice president of remote member service. In this role, I am responsible for our network of ITMs and the teams that serve those machines, our call center team and operations, as well our video banking services department. This is an area that we want to expand to meet the needs of our members strategically. The overall goal of our department is to pair the digital/remote service experience with personalized service. We are growing our service offerings in many ways, and I look forward to seeing these ‘wins’ for our member-owners.
Could you give an elevator speech about what you do?
At Spero Financial, our ultimate mission is to improve the financial lives of our members. At the end of the day, we exist because of our members. Aa a financial cooperative, they are owners of our credit union. As a not-for-profit financial institution, we work to ensure our profit goes back into enhancing the products and services for the membership. This comes in many different forms, such as providing better technology, offering more competitive rates on deposit accounts, or lower rates on loans. We offer the members a voice. We still have an annual meeting every year and all members are invited to attend and learn about what we’re working on, our financials, as well as provide opportunities for feedback.
Another large component to our member value proposition is to create community impact. Not only do we want to serve those members, but we want to serve the communities in which our members work and play. Ways that we’ve done that include our donation to Anderson University for the Spero Financial Field at Melvin and Dollie Younts Stadium. It is extra special to have Spero supporting my alma mater and the impact that Anderson University is making in the Upstate. I’m thankful we get to be a part of that.
What does it mean as an alumna to give back to Anderson University?
As a student, our focus tends to be more on developing self and preparing for the real world. Now, it’s a blessing to be able to come back, get involved and to give back. I enjoy giving back to the University that gave me so much.
Seeing the growth and development for current and future students is very exciting. I hope the one day my girls may come here and get to have their own experience with all the new enhancements.
What sort of career advice would you give to a young man or woman entering a financial services career?
If you enjoy creating a positive impact and changing the financial trajectory of a person’s life, this is an industry to consider.
Over the years, I’ve shared many times with our teams this idea. Each person that you serve in the financial services industry has either a fear or a dream. The fear may be fraud on their account, not having enough money to pay bills, being in too much debt, learning how to pay for unexpected repairs, and facing the financial burden of health scares. The dream can be saving for a wedding, buying a new home, building a business, becoming debt-free, or planning for retirement. Each person we serve comes in with a fear or a dream.
My advice is to never lose sight of the fact that our job is to calm that fear or help them to achieve the dream. If you keep that top of mind, you will find great fulfillment in the difference you’re able to make.
What gives you the biggest sense of accomplishment?
Developing people both professionally and personally.
Professionally, I enjoy investing in our team and seeing them have success. Challenging them to explore new ways of doing things or creating engagement and buy-in for our vision. And certainly celebrating! I enjoy pausing and celebrating our wins as a team.
Personally, it's developing my daughters as they grow and experience life. They are both very different with their own unique set of strengths. I love seeing them excel, as well as try new things, even if they fail. Supporting them and encouraging them gives me great joy.