TUCSON, Ariz. (1/26/16)--The remarkable life and work of Robert Ramirez, president/CEO of Vantage West CU, Tucson, Ariz., recently earned his organization and the credit union movement as a whole a big nod in the press.
Last week, BizTucson featured Ramirez and his unconventional rise to the top of the largest credit union in southern Arizona, describing the man as someone who has “spent his life building things:” from model airplanes at the age of 5, to bicycles for his first job.
But with no shade thrown at his ability to build, his best work may have occurred when he was charged with rebuilding the credit union he now leads.
Better if he explains.
“My first day at the credit union, I’m waiting for my boss, the CFO,” Ramirez told BizTucson. “He comes in 30 minutes late, drops a set of keys on the table and says, ‘I just resigned, good luck to you,’ and walks out. Within a half hour of starting my job, I became acting CFO.”
In six months, federal regulators gave Vantage West a poor performance rating, and the credit union still hadn’t found a permanent chief financial officer.
“The former CEO was upset,” Ramirez said. “He wanted to let everybody go. I said, ‘Give me three months and I’ll get back your superior rating.’ He responded that if I did that, he would double my salary and make me CFO permanently.”
In not more than 90 days, the regulators had scrubbed away the blemish and had reinstated Vantage West’s sterling rating.
The credit union’s president/CEO made good on his promise, and 30 years later Ramirez continues to carry out the credit union mission, now as president/CEO himself.
“My mother used to say, ‘You have to give before you can get.’ I believe that,” Ramirez said. “If we help people find work and get people back on their feet, what do they need? Checking accounts, debit and credit cards, car loans. … (And) helping people reach their full financial goals helps us. It’s part of my job, it’s in my DNA.”