Stan Hollen, retired president/CEO of CO-OP Financial Services, received the National Credit Union Foundation’s 2017 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in recognition of his career as a credit union leader, one that was defined by generosity, calculated risk-taking, and adherence to the core values of the credit union movement.
He recently discussed his career with Credit Union Magazine.
CU Mag: What does receiving the Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement mean to you?
Hollen: Recognition by the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) and the credit union movement is nice to receive. This award is just as much a recognition of the people I worked with as it is of myself.
I was a Foundation board member for a number of years and certainly saw deserving recipients receive the recognition. Many others haven’t been recognized who are equally deserving of the award and I hope they’ll be recognized in the future.
CO-OP Financial Services also deserves recognition because I’m the first member of a credit union service organization (CUSO) to receive the Wegner Award.
CU Mag: What’s your CU story? How did you get involved in the movement?
Hollen: I began my career in credit unions at First Federal Savings of Peoria, Ill. I was hired to convert the credit union of Caterpillar Tractor Company’s credit union—CEFCU—to the S&L processing system.
I had two other programmers working for me and it didn’t take long to see that we needed to write a new system for the credit union. A year later I went to work for CEFCU and created the areas of share drafts, mortgages, VISA, and ATMs.
Our ATM system was called CU24. We then created the first shared ATM network, which included banks and savings institutions in central Illinois.
It was during my nine years at CEFCU that I saw the value of credit union membership and the cooperation that credit unions enjoyed.
From CEFCU, I went to Golden 1 Credit Union in Sacramento, Calif.
Golden 1 grew and became the largest credit union in California during my 17 years as CEO. We created CU Direct Lending (CUDL) and developed over 15 mergers and 65 branches up and down California.
I then became CEO of Liberty Enterprises, a diversified company that was the largest check printer for credit unions, as well as home banking, marketing services, card management, education software, and core systems.
Finally I returned to California as CEO of CO-OP Financial Services. CO-OP became the largest CUSO during my 11 years as CEO, serving over 3,500 credit unions.
CU Mag: As a 19-year-old, you were a member of your CU's board of directors. What was that like?
Hollen: I worked my way through college as a computer programmer. My father ran the railroad station in my hometown of Hoopeston, Ill.
The Joan of Arc Company was headquartered there and needed a part-time programmer for their new computer system. They asked my father if I would be interested.
Of course I was and became their programmer while I attended junior college. The company had a better computer than the junior college I was attending.
While I was at Joan of Arc I got to know the executives and managers. In 1969, I was asked to join the board of the $800,000 asset Joan of Arc Credit Union.
It was a great experience and I had no idea that I would spend my adult life working in the credit union movement.
CU Mag: What advice would you give to other young people who are considering taking on a similar role?
Hollen: Learn all you can from others. Be a good listener. Find someone who might provide guidance or mentoring to you. Stand out from the crowd.
I especially urge young people to get involved in activities outside of their credit union. This can be in the credit union industry or community.
And of course education is important. This can be enhanced with attendance at CUNA Management School or other schools.
Networking with peers from other credit union can expand an individual’s perspective and value to their credit union.
CU Mag: You’ve been dubbed the “ultimate CEO maker” by colleagues at the Cooperative CU Association. Why was taking the time to mentor other up and coming leaders a priority for you during your career?
Hollen: I’ve had the honor of having more than 16 former employees go on to become CEOs. The latest example is Caroline Willard, who will soon become the CEO of the Cornerstone Credit Union League.
Over half of the CEOs were women and it’s interesting to note that the two largest state leagues (California and Texas) are now headed by women who previously worked with me.
While working with me, I tried to get these individuals to expand their horizons, network with other credit union professionals, get involved in the movement. I also encouraged them to rotate responsibilities and take on more responsibility.
I guess it worked.
CU Mag: What do you consider some of your greatest successes during your time at CO-OP?
Hollen: CO-OP Financial Services consolidated the shared branching system under one parent company and built the largest ATM network for credit unions, especially with the access through 7-Elevens around the nation.
CO-OP also became a leader in innovation in payments. We partnered with nearly every state league and CUNA. We developed a great team of people.
We also entered into full service credit card processing with TMG and acquired the Canadian Credit Union EFT switch Everlink.
CUNA Mutual Group also choose CO-OP to acquire the Loan Link Call Center in Fort Worth Texas, which became the CO-OP Member Center and provided lending and call center support to over 300 credit unions. We also made a number of strategic investments that resulted in expanded service offerings.
But probably the most important two things I achieved at CO-OP were the development of a great team of people and the Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals Miracle Match Program. CO-OP also was consider a key system partner, a unique status among CUSOs.
CU Mag: One of the philanthropic efforts you’re best known for is your work with Credit Unions for Kids and the Miracle Match. Why was CU4Kids a passion for you?
Hollen: Each of us knows a family who has been treated by a CMN Hospital. One of my daughters received experimental growth hormone treatment at UC Davis Medical Center, a CMN affiliate in Sacramento, Calif.
Credit unions have adopted CMN as their cause. When I became CEO of CO-OP, we were sponsors of the Champions Across America Program with CMN.
While a good program, it was once a year and we didn’t receive appropriate recognition for the dollars we contributed. I created the CO-OP Miracle Match when our commitment with the Champions Across America Program was up.
CO-OP is able to help hundreds of credit unions each year with matching dollars to CMN hospitals. The $1 million CO-OP contributes annually through these credit unions grows to an additional $3 million raised by these credit unions.
I also had the honor of serving as the chair of the Credit Unions for Kids advisory board for several years and served on CMN's Board of Governors. CO-OP also funded a position at CUNA to coordinate credit union giving through state leagues.