Credit Union Executives Society
When I was 19, I worked as a bank teller. There was a customer who came in just about every Friday to make deposits for a credit union; I thought he was a courier because he was always dressed in jeans.
He told me about a job opening for a teller at the credit union; Imagine my surprise when I went to the interview, and the man who I thought was the courier was one of the people I interviewed with; he was the chairman of the credit union board.
I got the job. A new CEO started a week later, and he became my mentor. As the credit union grew—it increased asset size by $8.5 million in six years—I learned all I could from him.
So when I was approached about taking a position as CEO at Licomto, a $4 million credit union, I was ready. Although it meant a benefit cut, I felt like I had to take advantage of the opportunity.
Licomoto had 2.5 employees when I started. By 2002, it had grown to $11 million with 4 employees. Then, a different $4 million credit union, whose CEO was ill, asked me to step in and help out. I ended up agreeing to manage that credit union part time, and I started managing both credit unions simultaneously.
In 2003, another credit union approached me. They were looking for a new CEO, and asked me to help run the credit union in the interim, and participate in the new CEO selection.
They eventually offered me the position as CEO; however, instead of leaving one position for another, I came up with a plan. I suggested I stay with the two credit unions I was already CEO of, and add this credit union as a third. I figured if I could act as CEO for two credit unions, I could do it for three.
Once I was managing multiple credit unions, I turned to CUES because I knew they had the highest level of education for leadership training.
I attended all three years of CUES’ CEO Institute.
At the Wharton School, I learned about scenario planning. It opened up my mind; if I thought I was a little gung ho before, this class helped me feel comfortable to go beyond the norm.
The segment at Johnson Graduate School of Management helped me with organization and leadership.
While at the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, I honed in on the team building aspects of leadership. It inspired me to hold team-building events for the employees of all three of the credit unions I’m CEO of. We did the ropes course—and mind you I have staff from ages 19 through 80. We’ve also done horseback riding, beach parties and fishing. This year, all my employees wanted to give back, so we volunteered at a local homeless shelter.
I like the fact that many CUES seminars and conferences are specifically created for a higher level credit union professional. Topics focus not only on what’s happening today, but also the future—in particular, strategizing and scenarios.
I tell other credit union leaders about CUES every chance I get, especially those who have gone to CUNA’s management schools. I highly encourage them to continue their training and attend CUES’ CEO Institute.
Going forward, I don’t want to work just to collect a paycheck—I never have. My ultimate vision is to build several branches where eight or multiple credit unions can work out of. CUES will help me accomplish that goal—the leadership skills I have gained from CUES gives me the confidence to make my vision a reality.
It gets lonely at the top—you have to be careful about who you share your concerns with. CUES has given me a strong network of colleagues to turn to.